Monday, December 31, 2007

Milcho Leviev honored by the Bulgarian President

The Bulgarian pianist Milcho Leviev has been nominated for the Saints Kiril and Metodii order by the Bulgarian president (The Sofia Echo). Leviev left Bulgaria for political reasons in 1970 and since then lives in California. The first time I heard him was on Airto's "Virgin Land" LP, produced by Billy Cobham for CTI's subsidiary Salvation label, back in 1974. Two Leviev's intriguing tunes, "Peasant Dance" (featuring Eddie Daniels on clarinet) and "Lydian Riff" (with one of those Flora Purim's ultra-sensuous wordless vocals), were among the album highlights, up to now released on CD only in Japan. That same year, he did a splendid performance with Cobham at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

In the early 80s we became in touch thanx to Yana Purim, and I was able to give airplay to many of his tracks at the Tupi FM radio station there in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Surprisingly, some of them became very popular among the listeners, being often requested, specially "Air on a Blue String" (Milcho's adaptation of "Air on a G String", from his "Piano Lessons" LP for Dobre Records), "Waltz for Maurice" and "Sad, A Little Bit" (both from his masterpiece orchestral album, "Music for Big Band and Symphony Orchestra", recorded in Sofia and LA for Leviev's indepent label Philippopolis Records). Another superb effort, the piano solo album "Easter Parade - Milcho Leviev Plays the Music of Irving Berlin" was, fortunately, released on CD in 1988 by Albert Marx's Trend/Discovery Records. One of its songs, "Soft Lights and Sweet Music", is one of the best 10 Fender Rhodes tracks ever!

We lost contact in the 90s, but, by the end of that decade, I became aware of his recordings for the Vartan and Elephant labels. During a trip to Brazil, I was caught by surprise to watch him on a TV special during a concert filmed in São Paulo. Where are you now, Milcho?

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