Some artists like to claim they are big in Japan, but David Dower and his Trio are big in Bulgaria, it seems, having just completed their third tour in as many years. And there’s a distinctive Balkan flavour to much of the new album, which is sprinkled with impressive performances from some of the local musicians they have encountered.
The stunning opening track, Leto Ide (or Summer is Coming) features a lead vocal by Rayna Vasileva, backing vocals by her Bulgaria choir, and lyrics by the band’s publicist, Mariana Vasileva. The tune opens with a haunting vocal, percussion (Kanjira drum) by Matt Fisher, and bass by Luke Fowler, before the piano and choir join, and the tunes builds to a rockier finale.
Take On Me sees Dower take on the A-Ha classic with characteristic good humour, giving a playful Latin spin to the tune. After a fine piano solo, the trio again build to a noise close, reminiscent of The Bad Plus - but rather more subtle!
The title tracks is a fine illustration of Dower’s gift for melody. The trio is joined by Zhivko Vasilev on Kaval, a traditional flute-like instrument, which has a set, vocal-like feel. Luke Fowler takes a solo here, supported by Dower, before Vasilev delivers a solo of his own. The tune is dedicated the much-missed singer-songwriter, Elliot Smith.
The Painter is a more radical departure, with the band joined by Berklee-trained singer Vesela Morova, who is highly regarded on the local music scene, and deserves wider recognition. The lyrics are moving, and there’s also the chance to hear Dower on backing vocals - a first, and hopefully not the last.
Redmond is my favourite tune on the album, and arguably back to basics for the Trio. A strong melody, fine ensemble playing, and solos by both Fowler and Dower, before a Ben Folds Five-like finale. Fabulous stuff!
Listen to Redmond here:
Purple-Haired Lady sees Dower get down and dirty. The tune feels like a noise Esbjorn Svensson outing - with added Kaval and guitar, for good measure - the guitar courtesy of London-based Elliot Frost. Moyata Sestra - My Sister - brings the album to a close. It’s an elegant, melancholic piece that sees the return of Rayna Vasileva and the choir - and almost sounds like it belongs to a movie soundtrack. A gorgeous way to end a more adventurous outing from this fine trio. Highly recommended.