Vlada Tomova - Balkan Tales
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Vlada Tomova
Balkan Tales
Kuker Music

Vlada Tomova’s piercing gaze on the cover of this CD lets you know she’s serious about what she does, and her voice drives the point home all the more. Born in Bulgaria and having studied jazz at Boston’s Berklee, she’s got a sure grasp on the musical traditions of her native country (songs customarily sung by women in particular) and the surrounding areas as well as a desire to see what can be achieved by taking those traditions beyond their roots. Tomova is presently based in New York City and Balkan Tales was recorded there, but the tales she’s telling in song reach far and wide. Flamenco and other Andalusian influences are readily apparent on the opening pair “Momche” and “Dimianinka” as Tomova establishes herself vocally capable of blending scat-like into the accompanying acoustic instrumentation (provided by a crackling crew of NYC players) or aggressively darting ahead to lead the way. Soon Arabic, Russian, Roma, Greek and yes, distinctly Bulgarian colors appear, often with twists such as Latin subtleties, the use of Indian bansuri flute and anchoring double bass that would sound right at home in a jazz combo.

Tomova is never at a loss, managing fado-like delicacy on “Augoustos,” for instance, before diving headlong into “Women’s Dance” to match the speedy intricacy of the accordion and percussion that fuel the tune. At no point does she try to knock you out with sheer range, though she clearly could if she wanted to. It also merits mention that the production, mix and mastering on the disc are all first rate. Voice and instruments have a rich glow that helps provide whatever tingling of the spine or pumping of the blood a particular moment happens to be shooting for. And there’s not a hint of weakness or filler among the songs, which culminate with “Leili,” an absolutely soaring traditional Kurdish piece. Vlada Tomova has found her niche, and Balkan Tales is an exceptionally fine release. Highly recommended. -Tom Orr

You can hear recordings at the artist's web site: www.vladatomova.com

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