Yuri Yunakov, Ivo Papasov, Salif Ali, and Neshko Neshev
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cd cover Yuri Yunakov, Ivo Papasov, Salif Ali, and Neshko Neshev
Together Again
Traditional Crossroads (traditionalcrossroads.com)

Without dropping a beat, this quartet of Bulgarian wedding music superstars reunites after a ten-year separation. The breathtaking swirl of sound created by these accomplished musicians has lost nothing over the years. Individually, each man is a force to be reckoned with. As a group, they are positively combustible. While at the beginning of the opening number, "Oriental," it sounds as though they are tentatively feeling each other out, by the end of less than five minutes the groove is etched deep. Yunakov on sax and Papasov on clarinet trade jaw-dropping solos throughout the disc, leading the listener to wonder exactly when it is that they breathe. Neshev matches them note for note. Ali's drumming is crisp and deliciously clattery.

Whether focusing on traditional dance forms and rhythms or indulging in bebop-inspired soloing, each track builds to a tornadic intensity. "Belomorsko Horo," a nine-minute-plus sonic epic, starts out smooth, with creamy harmonies over slick drums then varies each little cell of notes, turning them upside down and inside out. Think of a Balkan version of Ravel's Bolero on several quarts of espresso. "Na Trapeza" allows each of the melody instruments an unaccompanied rhapsody. It's a gorgeous, pensive break in the cacophony. They jump back into the whirlpool with "Kurdzhaliiska Ruchenica," a brilliant jazz romp with stunning solos and a tight finish that comes right out of the air. Next time I get married, I'm hiring these guys. - Peggy Latkovich

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