Dimitar Liolev plays jazz infused with Bulgarian rhythms on “Eastern Shadows”


With a recording history that is only a few years long, Dimitar Liolev has managed to carve a niche for his brand of jazz. “Eastern Shadows” is the saxophonist and composer’s third album. Liolev displays his knowledge of Bulgarian jazz and folk music to create avant-garde jazz.

About Dimitar Liolev

Ardent followers of jazz will know Liolev from his presentation at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival in 2004. Then, he was with a group called Rakia.

The following year, he received second place and earned the outstanding performer award at Leidse Jazz Awards. By 2006, Liolev’s reputation was growing, and he was able to play and record with some of the most renowned names in Bulgarian jazz.

During the early years of the 21st century, Liolev took leadership roles in a quartet, quintet and septet. By 2008, he was teaching at the Academy of Music at Plovdiv.

Liolev remains busy. He is currently a member of the National Radio Big Band and the Brass Association Big Band. In addition, he was director of the July Jazz Festival for a few years.

Liolev’s discography includes 2014’s “The Other Side,” and “Rhodopology” and 2017’s current album, “Eastern Shadows.” The songs on “Eastern Shadows” are original compositions, either written by Liolev alone, or with his ensemble members.

Sound of “Eastern Shadows”

“Four TSalkers”

A smattering of drum ushers in the track. The drum sounds get bigger and more varied in the beginning. A lonely sounding saxophone, plays notes that almost squeak, then the motif grows smooth.

The song takes on a new sound and feel. All of a sudden, the staccato sound turns into a series of smooth lines that include saxophone, trumpet, double bass and drums – – all the instrumentation represented in the ensemble. The clattering of drums is consistent, and the saxophone plays a frenzied line until it fades out at the very end.

Audiences don’t have to be familiar with Bulgarian jazz, or even Bulgarian folk traditions to appreciate what Liolev does here. The songs are at turns avant-garde, and at turns traditional. But the art of jazz is present on each piece, and that is perhaps the most important thing.




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