I've had the pleasure working with Vladimir Karparov on numerous occasions. Vlado is an extremely gifted, versatile, and original musician, and a master saxophone virtuoso. In today's "Play It Safe" situation of the "music industry", daring artists are a rarity. Karparov is one of them. He searches and experiments fusing different folk idioms with sophisticated modal contemporary jazz very successfully. This is evident immediately from the opening Latino- Thracian groove, through the fantastic Dionysus-Bacchussian duo "Tangra" with Stoyan Yankoulov, the downhome gypsy mood of "Kreuzberg..." (notable solo gadulka by Peyo Peev), the thoughtful improvised monolog in front of the beautiful ballad "Song for N", the "Gipsy Smile's virtuosity of both Vlado and Martin Lubenov on accordion, the darkhumored "Take Five", and ending with a heart-warming duo (Alexey Wagner on guitar), dedication to his mother, Vladimir Karparov makes strong statements while entertaining. As Don Ellis used to say: "First experiment, then entertain" The ensemble work of the album is remarkable due to the fine and tasty rhythm section, Christian von der Goltz(p), Horst Nonnemacher (b), Dimitris Christides (dr)
Grego Applegate Edwards/ Cadence Magazine New York
A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Vladimir Karparov has played in various configurations and projects since his graduation from Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik in 1995. Thracian Dance is his first CD as leader. The influence of Bulgarian folk music is strong, yet incorporated skillfully into a contemporary mix.
Through the entire CD there is a high level of musical sense. Anyone who appreciates Milcho Leviev and his Bulgarian folk-inspired odd-metered music (for example as with Don Ellis and/or Billy Cobham) will find a new voice and extension of such ideas in the music here. Karparov’s tenor and soprano are formidable vehicles in the expression of that style- he is both technically adept and musically intelligent with fabulous tone on both axes. The rhythm section of von der Goltz, Nonnemacher, and Christides adds much to the disk and forms a sympathetic team for the expression of Karparov’s concepts. Finally, guest appearances of some very accomplished, very interesting traditional Bulgarian-roots musicians give additional sparkle to this set.
Turn to the opening “Thracian Dance” and its Latin-ish groove with an elaborate Folk music line on top for a good representation of what’s on the disk. Some nice kaval (an indigenous flute) by Nedyalkov blends with tenor for the melody. The kaval solo displays Nedyalkov’s very airy sound. He plays some interesting lines. Folk elements and contemporary improv join hands in a series of phrases that highlight rapid triplet figures. Then it’s Vlad on tenor with a bracing robustness, mixing a Folk approach with a modal- bluesy tonality. An energetic and musically skillful drum solo from Christides caps off the performance.
Listen to “Vine Leaves” for some good soprano from Karparov. He phrases confidently with lines that have no cliché component. They do have some of the flourish and grace notes of native Bulgaria. Tupan hand drumming and tenor come to the forefront in “Tangra” with more of the notey Bulgarian folksiness. There’s a seamless transformation of the style from native winds to modern hard-edged tenor. Bulgarian Funk in eleven is what “Ulitzata” is all about. On “Kreuzberg CueCheck,” the gadulka, a stringed instrument in the violin family, enters the mix and the player Peyo Peev duets well with Vlad (soprano) on the head then solos over a dance rhythm. On “Song for N” there are tenor effusions that seem to come effortlessly off Karparov’s fingers yet have real musical resonance. Going from there, Vlad’s liquid-toned soprano holds forth on “Apollonia” with a ravishing solo that has momentum and absolute beauty.
Were Paul Desmond around today, I’m sure he would get a kick out of their version of “Take Five,” which goes into a straight eight Bulgarian embellished version of the tune, with Vlad’s tenor launching sixteenth note barrages that wail.
Thracian Dance shows Karparov to be a major figure in combining European (Bulgarian) tradition and edgy contemporary Jazz. He’s a hell of an instrumentalist, writes very interesting music, and gets the most out of some excellent players. I highly recommend this one as more than just a change of pace. It sets its own pace. And it has an exuberant joy to it that just might give you a big smile as you listen.