Simon Trpčeski - Makedonissimo - American Record Guide
Makedonissimo—meaning “very Macedonian”—is an ambitious folk music project led by pianist Simon Trpceski. The folk music of his native Macedonia is brimming with rhythmic vitality and modal beauty. For Trpceski and many other Macedonians, it is part of everyday life and has been so since childhood. For Makedonissimo, he grouped songs and dances together by meter into six plaits, or folk medleys. Some of these meters even get into rare 13, 18, and 22-beat patterns. Fellow Macedonian Pande Shahov then transcribed them for Trpceski and the rest of the Makedonissimo Quintet, made up of professional classical and folk musicians. They toured internationally with the project starting in 2017, leading to this album. And what an album! It isn’t your average take on folk music; Shahov is not aiming for ethnomusicological authenticity, but rather for a truly original and personal transcription that retains the essential spirit of the music. His background in jazz can be sensed in the way he approaches writing for the quintet, making space for improvisations and embellishments. The music is challenging, written to match the high level of skill of the musicians. The group often trades between ensemble sections and solos in a way that feels jazzy, but also completely in line with folk tradition. Makedonissimo strikes a balance between tradition and originality. Whether given a haunting and poignant melody, a nostalgic, lyrical ballad, or a whirlwind of vigorous, celebratory dancing, the musicians bring strong feeling and unfettered joy to the music. I highly recommend this album to any music lover.