by Don Heckman
Ashland, Oregon. Jazz is always at its best when the musicians play in a quiet improvisational setting. Which exactly describes Friday’s performance of the Hristo Vitchev Trio featuring guitarist Hristo, pianist Jasnam Daya Singh and tenor saxophonist Dann Zinn . The unadorned open space of the Southern University University band room had sufficient intimacy to support the rapport between musicians and students The student event followed the previous day’s sold out performance by the Trio at the exquisite venue known as the Old Siskiyou Barn.
Like most of the program, the first few pieces were originals written by band members. Simmering with mixed blends of straight ahead, fusion and blues elements, the compositions were stunning displays of contemporary jazz. At its best, the imaginative improvising reflected the complex ensemble passages.
Each of the soloists brought his own special skills to the music. Leader Hristo, from Venezuela and Bulgrian born, brought classical complexity, tinges of Eastern European rhythms and an impressive mastery of straight ahead jazz to his always engaging solos.
Pianist Singh also displayed some classical background, opening one of his originals with traces of Chopin. His occasional single lines often contrasted perfectly with chordal clusters. And his rich understanding of the piano as an orchestra in itself was reflected in the complexity of his arranging and composing skills
Tenor saxophonist Zinn provided the perfect counter to the other two thirds of the trio. In addition to his improvisational inventiveness, Zinn is also a master saxophonist. His stunning use of high harmonics allowed him to soar across the instrument’s complete range. Digging into low tones for blues inflections, he would then sail up three octaves into the squealing licks at the top of the horn. He is, as well as a vital member of the trio, also a teacher who offered a display of playing that was a marvelous model for any saxophone (or horn) player among the youthful listeners.
All told, the performance by the Hristo Vitchev Trio was yet another memorable presentation by the Siskiyou Music Project and Music Director Ed Dunsavage. There remain five more events for the Spring Program. For more information on what to expect from this extraordinary organization check HERE