From the study in acceleration of "Mad Djore" to the song of remembrance "Far Away from Here, A Long Time Ago" (the first two tracks of the album) it is already clear that this will be an excursion into virtuosity, romance and melody.
“Mad Djore” springs the album to life with splendid melodic storytelling from the beautiful vibraphone work of Rackipov and the exciting piano of Martin Bejerano, a fiery young Miami native. It is clear that he has been mentored by the great Gary Burton. However, that does not hint that Rackipov has not gone far-afield of his friend and mentor. Indeed, Rackipov is not enslaved to the Burton approach but rather uses it as a springboard into his own creativity.
The song itself shows that Rackipov has not departed from his classical beginnings as he describes the composition as “variations on a theme with Rondo form.”
Josh Allen’s bowed bass and the fanciful sax of Lubomir Gospodinov introduce the wistful “Far Away from Here, A Long Time Ago.” The longing of piano and vibes add to the reverie. It is romantic and full of memory. According to Rackipov, it is one of the oldest pieces on the album and is closer to chamber music than to straight-up Jazz. It is Bejerano’s “cadenza” that really gives the piece its depth of field.
This is exactly what the album delivers.
"Jumble" and "Dill Man" give a special spotlight to Gospodinov on sax and he doesn't waste the opportunity. Rackipov even states in an interview that, even though it is Rackipov’s album, “the sax is the lead instrument.” “Jumble” has the coolest folk-song melody to it. Gospodinov’s sax indeed steals the show and Bejerano’s piano follows beautifully. It is a lively and energetic track with great movements and solos. It ends as it began—in a jumble of speed. Actually, the song is a musical palindrome and—after the solos—reverses course and follows the same progression in reverse order.
The corps progression of vibes-sax-piano are especially entreating on "Folk Dance." A smoking groove that sets up the masterful work of Rackipov and Gospodinov separately and in tandem.
Hristo Vitchev takes special moments for "Wild River." Vitchev makes any recording a must-hear and this album only serves to emphasize that fact. He takes a Metheny-like approach here that works well for the track.
The title track is alive with the imagery of the rattling-rhythm of trains on tracks wherein Rodolfo Zuniga’s drums takes command. The teamwork of Zuniga and Josh Allen on bass creates a brilliant display of rhythm as resonance. The two of them are a special delight of this album.
The album's concluding track, "Once a Mother Had a Child" is a lovely ballad that makes the heart yearn. Vitchev's finest moment comes in this sweet meditation. Rackipov admits that it was a piece that almost didn’t make the album. But Hristo Vitchev encouraged a retry and Rackipov listened to his advice. In another run-through, with just vibes-sax-guitar, something happened. One of the other musicians thought that maybe this was the secret mix—just let the Bulgarians play it. Being a Bulgarian tune, that Rackipov had remembered since his childhood, it created a ”magical moment” that went far beyond expectations.
The whole album is filled with such “magical moments.” In fact, the album can be described that way. With “Pictures from a Train Window,” Errol Rackipov has carved his place in the Jazz world with a group who support his every composed note and wistful daydream. This is a group to be enjoyed for years and years. The right personalities and skill-sets and talents have coalesced into one of the finest debut albums of recent memory. First Orbit Sounds has scored big with this astonishing addition to their constellation of stars.
Visit Errol Rackipov's website at: www.errolrackipov.com/
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Purchase "Pictures from a Train Window" here.