Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Hopkins - Kitanovski Quartet in “Universal Hall” in Skopje
The Emotive Performance of the “New England Stories”
The Macedonian jazz-guitarist Toni Kitanovski continues his cultural mission. Only 30 days after his concert with his trio, in the same “Universal Hall” in Skopje, this time he performed with a new “music formation”. On 19th of March this year, Kitanovski and the trumpet player Greg Hopkins, in front of the wide audience, presented the jazz-quartet together with Oliver Duev (drums) and Ivan Bejkov (contrabass cello), with the guest Dzian Emin (horn trumpet). Practically a band made of jazz-celebrities, we can say: Hopkins is one of the most influential jazz-musicians in the north-east part of USA, a professor at Berkeley, a trumpet player who has performed and recorded jazz music with the personalities as George Benson, Michel Petrucciani, Joe Lovano…). That fact was promising a nice evening for the jazz-lovers, and honouring the jazz improvisation liberty, above all. Especially if we are aware of the fact that Hopkins, together with Kitanovski and the other musicians mentioned above, had a really successful concert in the fulfilled hall of the Macedonian National Theatre four years ago, in 1999.
In spite of all this, it’s amazing how the concert had less than a 300 visitors (the real jazz-lovers in Skopje). That definitely influenced upon the atmosphere in the “Universal Hall”, but not upon the quality of the music from the stage. That was the exclusive and only flaw of this concert. It would be much better, we think, if it was put in some adequate jazz-concert facility (some club, or even some smaller hall, etc.). Or at least if the new scenery in the “Universal Hall” was used, the scenery that was promoted earlier by the people responsible for the “Universal Hall”.
Anyway, in about 80 minutes, Hopkins and Kitanovski with their quartet presented a concept that leans on few standards (“With the Song in My Heart” by Richard Rogers, “Jago” from John Louis by the legendary “Modern Jazz-Quartet”) and some music numbers from their latest work. And by the way, even their performances of the Hopkins’ – “Olive Branch” and “Red Vine” were especially notable, yet the concert had its creative peak with the „New England Stories“ suit (its three parts: “Massachusetts”, “Cathy Hunk Island” и “The Central Square in cambridge”), written in the period when Kitanovski was staying in USA.
The emotional performance of this deed presented Kitanovski in a different dimension than before – not only as a “great master of the instrument”, but also as a individual author and a band-leader that can make a “pull” whenever is needed, and to “make a space” to his co-musicians for a liberated but constructive improvisation.
The concert finished with “Steps” (a music composition known to the audience from the previous concert of Kitanovski and Hopkins in Skopje), but the satisfaction was prolonged after the quartet was hailed back at the stage to perform some more – in this case, it was the classic piece “Softly as a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg.