Vasil HADZIMANOV Band (Васил Хаџиманов) – Lines in Sand – MoonJune Records MJR095 – 11/18: ***:

(Vasil Hadzimanov: keyboards; Branko Trijic: guitar; Mirosav Tovirac: bass guitar; Bojan Ivkovic: percussion, vocals; Pedja Milutinovic: drums; Rastko Obradovic: sax (2, 8); Marta Hadzimanov: lead vocal (4); Dean Bowman: lead vocal (8)

Fiery electric fusion with elements slavic/modal wailing and incendiary soloing. 

This group led by keyboardist Hadzimanov is great good fun from start to finish. Twelve tracks (half of which  titled in Serbian) vary little in essence. Uptempo hard-driving rhythms, funky hooks, layers of electronic textures and always a surging rattle from the kit. Vocals add whatever world-beat emphasis there is. Not much in the way of the traditional Sevdalinka tradition, the most melancholic and dramatic vocal tradition that I have ever heard, informs the airy vocals. Indeed, on Lost we are in the realm of pop music. On the other hand, the high-standards for guitar playing of the region prevail throughout Branko Trijic magnificent on his guitar, dark-textured and amply juiced up with effects.

The leader is a first-rate piano player; I can only imagine what he would do on a more straightforward and less pop-endeared recording with his fleet fingered band mates. His solos suggest that this might not be the best context for his talent. Meanwhile,  Miroslav Tovirac is authoritative on a bass; he is  asked for little more than clearly marked time and gut-bucket forward drive.

The vocals are unlikely to be an enhancement for a certain type of jazz aficionado. Although the percussionist has some heartfelt moments in which bring the ensemble to the perfect boiling point. However, For Clara (track 8) is a maudlin tribute to Marvin Gaye motown crooning, lyrics and melismatic singing will dampen the spirits of the non-pop audience. Likewise, for this listener a certain amount of added electronic texture could have been scraped off the surface, as you might do with a icing of a birthday cake. Nevertheless, this is a creditable jazz-pop debut by a promising musician whose prowess would suggest that his future work will merit checking out.

—Fritz Balwit

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