Stefan Kristinkov’s Clarinet Vibe is a glittering example of instrumental excellence. This excellent musician and composer surrounds himself with comparable talents on this five track EP and serves listeners thoroughly accessible fare despite his considerable skills. He’s well versed in classical, post-modernism, Eastern European minimalism, and jazz so there’s little he cannot do, but he doesn’t spend the aforementioned five compositions showing off for listeners. He gives listeners and other musicians alike a mini masterclass in how to use advanced compositions ideas and techniques in a way capable of speaking to large audiences. The musicians demonstrate a freewheeling spirit in each performance that carries listeners off in unexpected ways.
Adam Alesi’s drumming is a highlight of “Things to See”. A onetime student of drumming great Greg Bissionette and an in-demand session player, I don’t doubt Alesi can hit hard, but he doesn’t have to. Instead, he builds momentum laying down a steady series of beats and establishes an unwavering pattern. The faux solo he takes will definitely appeal to many listeners. Kristinkov’s architectural talents shine through. His clarinet playing is, of course, the musical focus and his melodic inventiveness never wears out its welcome. This is one of the EP’s longer songs, clocking in over the five-minute mark, but doesn’t feel like it.
“Summer Forest” is more chaotic than the other songs on Clarinet Vibe, impassioned without ever losing control, but fits in well with the remainder of the EP. Multi-instrumentalist Itaiguara Brandao accompanies the other players here and threads several inventive strands into the track’s tapestry.The third song “Smooth Ride” is one of the briefer tracks included on Clarinet Vibe, has a low-key atmosphere and puts the focus on the release’s production as well. The care and attentiveness taken with capturing every nuance helps further distinguish this collection.
“Last of a Kind” has a harder edge than earlier songs. The recurring low flame lashes out from the arrangement but Kristinkov wisely never overplays the moment. The drums are the key, however, as they create a sleek yet minimalist groove. It’s the shortest song on Clarinet Vibe and doesn’t waste time placing listeners under its spell. “Searching the Skies” brings the EP to a vigorous close. The up-tempo finale never rushes itself, however, and its extended running time allows the players an opportunity to shine a final time.
Instrumental releases are notoriously hard sells. Stefan Kristinkov, however, isn’t in this for the money. There’s no question after listening to these performances that he wants to create an aural artistic experience for listeners that they can return to tune after time. He wants his work to get us thinking. Clarinet Vibe succeeds on both counts. There isn’t a single song included on this EP that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and I’ll be certain to continue listening to anything Kristinkov puts out from this point forward.