The Vasil Hadzimanov Band is comprised of Vasil Hadzimanov (piano, keyboards), Branko Trijic (guitar), Miroslav Tovirac (bass), Bojan Ivkovic (percussion, vocals), Pedja Milutinovic (drums) and features David Binney (alto sax). The results are simply dumb-founding.
Alive opens with Nocturnal Joy (written and arranged by Hadzimanov). Picture yourself in a concert venue and this is the first number you hear. You’re not going anywhere, pal.
The repeat-on-keyboard starts off the piece with what sounds like car tires on metal grate. The piano adds the feel of the cool night. It is a cool melody that is picked up—just as coolly—by Binney’s alto sax. A new melody breaks out that calls to mind the Joe Jackson hit from the early 1980s. The original theme resumes and a weaving texture of theme and variation takes shape.
Vasil Hadzimanov is a splendid pianist and he works in dialogue with David Binney’s sax wonderfully. Binney’s sax solo is a thing of beauty. The rhythm section of Tovirac-Ivkovic-Milutinovic is furious. The tone of the night and the excitement that it brings are precisely painted by the music. And, if this is the opening track, hold your breath as those lucky concert-goers in Serbia must have done.
Zulu (composed and arranged by the VH Band) comes flying with Progressive fever. The rhythm section has the bull’s eye painted right on them. Trijic’s guitar is a whirlwind of strumming fury. Unbelievable.
It calls to mind the Battle of Isandlwana where the British army was overwhelmed by the native forces of the Zulu. The vocalizations by Ivkovic remind of the single chant of the Zulu war-leader, inciting the Zulu to steel themselves for the attack.
Binney is a man on fire with his sax solo followed by Hadzimanov’s fierce attack on the Fender Rhodes. And then there’s that rhythm section…
Dolazim (composed by VH Band and David Binney) gives the band a bit of breath after the ferocity of Zulu. It is more of an improvisation and free. Binney resembles Jan Garbarek’s work in the free-form opening. Strum-master Trijic initiatives a structural development that Hadzimanov takes over. The structure never takes hold as the free-style development has a life of its own. Underneath it all, however, Milutinovic keeps the drums in fine movement. Milutinovic actually becomes the bridge into Oldazim.
Oldazim is the composition of guitarist Branko Trijic. The drums are unrelenting, even when pianissimo, and the guitar touches lightly above the rhythm. Hadzimanov brings the keyboards on top and takes the piece until it is handed back to Trijic. This is a cool track. I’m not saying it’s my favorite piece but…okay, it’s my favorite piece.
Tovirafro (Miroslav Tovirac, comp.) is the bass player’s run at Funk. It takes a brief pause into a send-up of The Mikado, or something like it, before heading into Progressive Apache…or something like it. The Funk returns to carry us to conclusion. Riotously great fun.
Razbolje Se Simsir List is a cascading work of piano and alto sax that is a lullaby of sweet touches and Jazzy swirls. Beautiful.
Hadzimanov’s Uaiya follows. The acoustic piano introduces the piece. Tovirac’s bass moves smoothly alongside. Percussion and alto sax join in and the whole band moves in corps progression until the sax solo. Binney was a marvelous addition to the group on this tour and his enhancement is obvious throughout.
It is so easy, on the other hand, to find fascination in the artistry of each and every one of these musicians. There is no weak member and the audience is appreciative of it.
The composition itself is just top-flight. You have to dig the chord changes and the general movement of the piece.
The concert/album concludes with Oktrice Snova (VH Band, comp.). It is a cool, highly percussive number that allows movement in a musical vortex; think 3-D instead of 2-D. The Fender Rhodes movement is tight and attractive. The bass is bumping, the drums are straight-up and Milutinovic turns in a drum solo that is breath-taking.
The Vasil Hadzimanov Band is an incredible assemblage of tight percussionists, brilliant composers/arrangers, and dedicated melody-makers who bring it all to bear in front of fortunate audiences who, until now, have been limited to Europe and Japan. Thanks to MoonJune, we get to be numbered among the lucky ones who have witnessed the spirit and skill, intelligence and talent, of The Vasil Hadzimanov Band. They truly make you come Alive.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl