With pictures from a train window, Bulgarian-born vibraphonist and composer Errol Rackipov debuts his eponymous group with guitarist Hristo Vitchev, reedman Lubomir Gospodinov, pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Josh Allen, and drummer Rodolfo Zuniga. Listening to the groove laid down by the bandleader on “Mad Djore,” it won’t come as any surprise that the mallet man studied under greats Gary Burton and Ed Saindon. But there’s also an underlying sensibility that is uniquely his own, and which he expresses in his ability to keep his musicians in focus.
The ever-prolific Vitchev trades his normally outgoing smoothness for the back road, architecting his virtuosity distinctly in “Folk Dance” but for the most part content in providing tender underpinnings. Gospodinov carries the band into nostalgic territory on “Far Away From Here, A Long Time Ago,” where his sopranism reveals the art of a genuinely melodic improviser. Then there’s Allen, whose bassing draws triple-metered spirals in “Dill Man,” also a fine vehicle for Bejerano’s pianism. As for Zuniga, he is the heartbeat of heartbeats, anchoring the set from start to finish with chameleonic ability.
Yet despite, if not also because of, these contributions, pictures is Rackipov’s baby through and through. He is a consummate player who shows not only the skin but the internal organs, and whose geometric styling leaves few facets un-rendered. Be it the Eastern European folksiness of “Jumble” and “The Other (Wrong) Way,” the sparkling dialoguing with Vitchev in “Wild River,” or laid-back beauties of the title track, he spins the wheel with assurance and tenderness. As on the final “Once A Mother Had A Child” by Dimitar Ianev, the only non-original of the album, his attention to structure leaves an aftertaste that is clean, sonorous, and itinerant, making for a lovely addition to any vibraphone enthusiast’s shelf.