“This is a new generation of Bulgarian “alchemists” who take our folk music on an interesting journey to New York, perhaps Amsterdam…and back!”
Theodossi Spassov - world-famous Bulgarian kaval player
WHAT IS JAZZANITZA?
Jazzanitza is a new generation of ethno-jazz which translates the ancient Balkan groove and the improvisational legacy of the Bulgarian folk giants into the language of current jazz.
This music incorporates the naturally danceable and groovy asymmetric rhythms – a distinguishing feature of Bulgarian folklore, which has the biggest variety of odd meters in the Balkans. It also elaborates the unique Bulgarian folkloric improvisational tradition, born in the groundbreaking “wedding band style” of the 1980s, and brought to worldwide attention by clarinet virtuoso Ivo Papasov.
The sound of Jazzanitza excites both the intellect and the body: while speaking the complex language of modern jazz, it thumps with the beat of the asymmetrical dance rhythms, spurs with the ornamented melodic curves and echoes the lyricism of the Balkan folk song.
The group builds upon the legacy of Bulgarian folk giants like Ivo Papasov, Petar Ralchev and folk-jazz pioneers like Milcho Leviev, Anthony Donchev, Theodosii Spassov. It is equally inspired by world-jazz landmark artists like Avishai Cohen, Dhaffer Yousseff and Tigran Hamasyan, as well as the powerful jazz groups of Branford Marsalis, Dave Holland and Ambrose Akinmusire.
WHO IS JAZZANITZA?
Jazzanitza is a project led by Bulgarian drummer and composer Borislav Petrov (who is known on the European jazz scene for his work with the innovative Dutch jazz trio Tinmen & the Telephone. Borislav gathers a collective of musician friends from around the same generation who share a common background, musical education and development.
Borislav Petrov, Dimitar Liolev and Ludmil Krumov belong to the first generation of Bulgarian musicians after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) who were able to get an academic jazz education abroad and then return to their home country and explore the opportunities between blending Bulgarian folk music and modern jazz. Besides improvisers, composers and arrangers of jazz and folk music, Liolev, Krumov and Petrov are devoted teachers and researchers of Bulgarian folk-jazz. They have publications and conduct masterclasses and workshops internationally.
The name Jazzanitza blends ‘jazz’ with some of Bulgarians’ favourite words ending in the suffix “-itza”, which are inseparable from their sense of identity. For example: “lyutenitza” (a favourite tomato and pepper spread), “nadenitza” (sausage); the popular odd meter folk dances “ruchenitza” (in 7/8) and “kopanitza” (in 11/8); as well as the games that bring back the memories of childhood: “krienitza” (hide and seek) and “gonenitza” (tag).
“The journey to this creating this began sine 18 years ago when I met saxophonist Dimitar Liolev. He opened my eyes and heart to the magic of Bulgarian folk music. After many years of investigation, exploration and experiments, I finally got the courage to write music and assemble a band that reflects my ideas about blending jazz and Bulgarian folk music. I am happy to have some of my best friends in this band. These are the people I am fortunate to grow with as an artist and human being.”
Jazzanitza released their debut album of the same name in 2016. The project was honored to have two very special guests contributing to this album – the great Bulgarian musician Vladimir Karparov, based in Berlin, who played tenor and soprano saxes in the album, and the legendary pianist, composer and pioneer of Bulgarian folk-jazz Antoni Donchev, who played the album release tour.
Folk music masters like Theodossii Spassov, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Stoyan Yankoulov and Peyo Peev were honorable attendants of the Jazzanitza album release concert.
Jazzanitza quickly became a leading name on the Bulgarian jazz scene and performed at most of the major festivals around the country.
In 2018, the song Pravo Kato Magistrala was selected by students in the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, to be featured in the annual graduation concert of the school’s Middle Eastern Fusion Ensemble.
In 2019, the band performed in the Art and Culture Institute in Bucharest, Romania (ARcub) and recorded a live album featuring the songs from the album Jazzanitza.