Hristo Vitchev – Mini Interview

Guitarist Hristo Vitchev was in Japan recently for an extended  tour.
1. Where are you from and how did you first get into jazz/music? 

I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria but also lived quite a few years in Caracas, Venezuela and then 15 years ago moved to San Francisco, CA.
I got into jazz for the first time back in 2002 after seeing a performance by the Wallace Roney Quartet. It was then that for the first time in my musical life I heard the multidimensional tonal colors and mesmerizing hues of the jazz idiom and fell in love from the very first sound. Since then, I have devoted every single moment of my life to these beautiful art-form and means of expression.
 

2. Why did you choose the guitar and who were your first influences? 

 
I chose the guitar in a very natural way. Since my teenager years I was really into all the hard rock and heavy metal bands of the 80s. As any other teenager the dreams and fantasies of becoming a rock star were a common part of growing up in popular culture. Since the guitar was an icon of such music and cultural movement, I guess it was only natural to have an attraction and fascination with the instrument. And as the first possibilities to study a musical instrument came upon me, the choice was more than obvious. 

My very first influences on the instrument were the guitar greats of the 80’s. Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Joe Stariani, etc…
However, once I discovered jazz my ears quickly started scanning other frequencies. Pat Metheny, Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and John Abercrombie are amongst my favorite. I am also tremendously influenced by the music of pianists. Bill Evans, Keith Jarett, Esjborn Svensson, Tord Gustavsen, etc.
 
 
3. How did you first come to Japan and what were your impressions of the jazz scene here?
 
I first visited Japan back in 2008. I was the guitarist backing up a Japanese jazz singer from the USA and we did a 14 cities tour. It was one of the most amazing musical experience. The culture, people, food, architecture, and everything about this beautiful country were simply inspirational. I fell in love from the very first time. The musicians were also so amazing and talented. We did a lot of jam sessions then and it was a blast.
Last 2 weeks marked my 2nd visit to Japan. This time around I was touring as a leader with my band – The Hristo Vitchev Quartet. We did 10 days and just got back to the USA last night. We really had a blast. This time around we moved from Tokyo to Osaka/Kobe area covering 7 different cities. The entire band was mesmerized by the warm reception, respect, and love for the music by the Japanese audiences. In all honesty, no where else in the world you have such an attentive and amazing audience to play for.
We truly hope this is only the beginning of a long relationship and partnership with this beautiful country. Can not wait to be back next year.

4.What are your current and upcoming projects?
 
I am now working on the new album of the quartet which we would be able to bring to Japan Live next year. I am also touring with an amazing new project led by vibraphonist extraordinaire Errol Rackipov (which also included members from the Roy Haynes fountain of youth band) and also working on a new electric jazz fusion album with virtuoso drummer Wally Schnalle and our project Idiot Fish. Thing are busy and I love it!

5. Three favorite albums
Pat Metheny Group – Speaking of Now
E.S.T (Esjborn Svensson Trio) – Viaticum
Gary Burton New Quartet – Next Generation
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Mr. OK Jazz is a 18+ year resident of Japan and spends all his free time wandering the Kanto area looking for jazz cafes, bars, clubs and record stores. For two years he hosted the OK Jazz radio show on InterFM Radio, currently the OK Jazz podcast. You can reach him at *protected email*
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