Milcho Leviev, the Bulgarian-born composer and pianist, contributed his jazz and classical chops to the Los Angeles Theatre Center's American Kaleidoscope series Saturday night. Billed as "Milcho in Blue," the concert featured Leviev, a sextet of local all-stars and the L.A. Jazz Choir, in a series of attractive compositions whose vibrancy was derived more from the improvised ideas than those written by the composer.
While little of the blues was in evidence, Leviev nonetheless conjured the spirit with a treatment of three Bach themes in a 12-bar structure in "Bebach Suite," a wildly frenetic "Shoobee Doobee," and a unique arrangement of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," reviewed by The Times in March.
Extraordinary solo efforts were contributed by saxophonist Ray Pizzi, on "Sad A Little Bit," a poignant composition whose Latin beat belied its title, and "Shoobee Doobee." Trumpeter Oscar Brashear and trombonist George Bohanon provided a perfect contrast in brass style with the former providing sharply biting solos as the later took a more laid-back approach. Guitarist Mundell Lowe provided beautiful lines on the guitar as bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Paul Humphrey provided capable rhythmic support.
The L.A. Jazz Choir, under the direction of Gerald Eskelin, had some of its finest moments Saturday night. Unencumbered by tired melodies from the jazz past, the 12-voice choir did a cappella justice to the difficult "Pavanne for a True Musical Prince," showed that Bulgarian might be the perfect language for jazz in "Sboguvane," and aptly played the orchestra in "For Frederic and Bill," a waltz time tribute to pianists Chopin and Evans.