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Bansko Summer Jazz
Article by Lucy Cooper, The Sofia Echo, 22-28 July 2005

BANSKO is the place to be for music this summer in Bulgaria. Following hot on the heels of this weekend's July Evening Disco Rock Concert, is the eighth International Bansko Jazz Festival. From August 8 to 14, the mountain town will host bands from across Europe. The festival has several aims, say it's organisers: to bring jazz "the music of the free people" to the public, to provide a stage for talented Bulgarian musicians, and to show the "summer charm" of the beautiful, ancient town of Bansko, more usually known in its winter incarnation as a ski-resort.
Musicians from Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Austria and as far a field as the US, will be making the journey to the Bulgarian town nestled in the Pirin mountains about 100 km south of Sofia, where they will perform alongside Bulgarian bands and musicians.

High up on the bill of homespun talent is the Assen Doykin Quartet. The quartet's leader, and namesake, was born in 1975 in the town of Pazardzhik, in south-west Bulgaria. As a student, Assen Doykin created his own jazz-trio and performed at many clubs and festivals in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Norway and France. In 1995 he went to Boston where he had the chance to study and play with the likes of jazz saxophonist George Garzone, trombonist Hall Crook, composer, bassist and bandleader Bruno Raberg, drummer and jazz historian Joe Hunt, percussionist Jamey Haddad and trumpet player Roy Hargrove, at Berklee Musical College. Here Assen was awarded the Jesse Stone Scholarship and in 1998 he received the Berklee Jazz Performance Award.

After his graduation in 1999, Assen moved to New York where he began teaching piano and composing at The Rhodes Piano School, as well as performing with various bands. Assen's brand of jazz has been described as fusing "classic and contemporary music with a uniquely Balkan flavour." To hear it for yourself, he'll be performing with Petar Momchev (sax), Misho Yosifov (trumpet), Martin Doykin (bass), Dimitar Dimitrov (drums) on Friday August 12.

Another homegrown Bulgarian performer to look out for at the festival is Kamelia Todorova. Kamelia's breakthrough came when her professors at the Music Academy chose her to represent the Academy at the Second Jazz Festival at the Universiada Hall. An invitation to Lublen (Poland) for a festival dedicated to Duke Ellington was soon to follow. She took part in the Bombay (Mumbai) Festival, performing with legendary jazz saxophonist Stan Getz. Then the big hits started rolling and Kamelia made a name for herself in the domain of Bulgarian pop with hits such as Whispered Dreams, Discovery, Words Drift Away, Mood and Violets.

Kamelia then embarked on a career in Germany and Great Britain, building up a repertoire of soul, funk and rock. She recorded her first single with Roger Tyler of Queen under the title (My Heart is) Bursting at the Seams, which was released by Virgin Records. She has also worked alongside show biz personalities such as George Michael, Boy George and Hot Chocolate.

However, her real vocation remains jazz, her interpretations distinct for their "vocal technique precision and emotional abundance." Kamelia marked the start of her 25th anniversary on stage at The Fifth Bansko Jazz Festival. Three years on and she's still going strong. She will perform with Petar Salchev and The Angel Zaberski Quintette at the close of this year's festival on August 13.

Purchase property in/near Sofia Bansko

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