The great Bulgarian clarinet blower is back with a set of fiery, experimental instrumental numbers that mix snaking Thracian melodies and complex rhythms with subtle jazz tones. Some Papasov fans might be slightly disappointed at the absence of vocals from Ivo's mercurial wife, Maria Karafizieva, but there's a real focus to these blistering, Balkan-flavoured tunes. Papasov's playing is sometimes broiling and spicy, sometimes considered (almost ethereal) in its reflection, but it's always at the centre of arrangements that illustrate the power of putting together a sterling set of support musicians and enveloping them in a big, spacious production sound.
Highlights include the rip-roaring opening track, and on this and the more melodic Tinner's Dance, Ivo's dazzling virtuoso runs are underpinned by percussion that crackles with energy. Sunrise is moodier, almost menacing in tone and positively begs for inclusion on an arty East European cinema verité soundtrack.
Speaking of films, there's a nice oriental nod in the direction of Henry Mancini on Pink Panther, the smooth tone invigorated by Papasov's innate tendency to stray adventurously into wild and soaring improvisational runs.
Technically brilliant but with a fresh, energetic approach, the only real drawback to Dance of the Falcon is that some of the jazz tinges (especially the guitar and keyboard flourishes) seem superfluous, and in fact at times they're buried almost apologetically in the mix. There is also a danger that the sheer breathless virtuosity will become overwhelming for some - don't expect to be humming too many catchy melodies after hearing this album. But with Paposov's wild gypsy past rushing like an invigorating whirlwind through this recording, Dance of the Falcon is one of the most thrilling - if challenging - releases of the summer.