by Ian Mann
April 27, 2023
Stoysin's music is a welcome and beautiful constant in a rapidly changing world.
“Whispers from the Sun”
(Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597-9)
Branco Stoysin – guitars
Born in the former Yugoslavia in the university town of Novia Said, now in modern day Serbia, Branco Stoysin is a skilled acoustic guitarist and composer who is inspired by the folk music of his homeland.
Also an acclaimed educator Stoysin has been based in London for thirty years and runs his own Sun Recordings label, which acts as an outlet for his work. His first two releases for the imprint were the solo guitar recordings “Something Between The Sea And The Sky” (1998) and “Amber” (2000)
Stoysin’s beautiful playing first came to my attention in 2006 when I reviewed his fourth album “Lily of the Valley”, which was subtitled “Traditional Folk Music of the Yugoslavs”. This was essentially a solo acoustic guitar album, but with the six string electric bass of Leslee Booth filling out the sound on four of the fifteen pieces, the programme consisting of eleven traditional folk songs and tunes plus four original compositions from Stoysin. This early example of a Jazzmann review can be found here;
In addition to working as a solo artist Stoysin also led a working trio featuring Booth’s six string bass plus Buster Birch on drums and percussion. These days Birch is probably best known as a member of bassist / composer Alison Rayner’s excellent quintet ARQ. In 2003 the Stoysin Trio released the album “Heart Is The Bridge”, followed in 2007 by “Quiet Stream Breaks The Rocks”.
The trio also featured on 2009’s “Inexhaustible”, an album that placed a much stronger focus on Stoysin’s original writing, with an arrangement of the Antonio Carlos Jobim tune “Triste” representing the only outside item. My review of this impressive recording can be found here;
As its title might suggest 2013’s lavishly packaged “Alone” marked a return to solo performance, albeit with Stoysin overdubbing himself on multiple guitars and occasionally adding a dash of percussion. The programme features a series of folk inspired original tunes and the album is dedicated to the memory of the Serbian born scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943), a pioneer in numerous scientific fields, including the generation of electricity.
Album review here;
2018’s “Above The Clouds” was another solo recording that again featured the sounds of multiple, overdubbed guitars and which also integrated field recordings of birdsong into one piece. The album packaging also revealed Stoysin’s considerable skills as a wildlife photographer and this was a recording that emphasised Stoysin’s love for both humanity and nature, as well as his continuing fascination for the work of Tesla. Album review here;
Despite the fact I’ve reviewed numerous recordings Branco and I have never met, although we have spoken on the telephone and have maintained regular email contact since 2006. Nevertheless I consider him to be a friend and the warmth and generosity of his personality is expressed through his recordings. I’m also yet to see him play live, as he rarely performs outside London and the South East. One day I hope that we will be able to meet up in person at last at a gig somewhere.
Stoysin’s latest album, “Whispers from the Sun” is a celebration of forty years of music making, thirty years of living in London and the 25th anniversary of the founding of Sun Recordings. It is Stoysin’s tenth album release and his back catalogue also includes a live DVD featuring the Booth / Birch trio plus two guitar instruction books based on the “Lily Of The Valley” and “Alone” albums.
The new recording follows in the footsteps of “Alone” and “Above The Clouds” and features a series of solo and multi-tracked guitar pieces, including new versions of some of the items from his back catalogue. In this respect the album represents something of a career retrospective.
The album commences with the title track, a solo guitar piece that features Stoysin’s cleanly picked acoustic guitar. His previous albums have demonstrated that he has a gift for writing beautiful folk inspired melodies and this piece is no exception.
Stoysin’s album notes describe “Still, It’s Gonna Be A Sunny Day” as “the first tune written in London”. Performed on four guitars it’s a vivacious piece that wears its age well as the various guitar melody lines interweave, the optimism inherent in the title being reflected in the performance.
Stoysin is a passionate environmentalist and he dedicates “Kind In Green And Blue” to ‘Mama Earth’. Jazz listeners may suspect that the title also represents a tip of the hat to Miles Davis, but Branco refutes this - see the comment below the review. His jazz influences do include Jobim, guitarist Joe Pass and saxophonist Charlie Parker. He also acknowledges the inspiration of classical composers such as Vivaldi and Albinoni. Played on two guitars this piece features gentle, but incisive, melody lines from one guitar floating above the chordal backdrop provided by the other.
“Heart Is The Bridge” is a solo guitar arrangement of the title track of Stoysin’s 2007 trio album. It also works superbly as a solo guitar piece and the performance has a beauty and emotional depth to it that recalls a less austere Ralph Towner.
Stoysin dedicates “Quiet!” to his late mother – one suspects that this is what she used to shout at the young Branco. This is another four guitar piece and one that builds incrementally, adding graduating layers of melody and rhythm.
The only true folk item on the recording is an arrangement of the traditional Serbian tune “C’mon Kate, C’mon My Dear”, played here as a solo guitar piece. The piece possesses a particularly beguiling melody which Stoysin embellishes in interesting ways, particularly rhythmically.
“Transition” is another two guitar offering, a typically captivating blend of melody and rhythm.
Also performed on two guitars “Robin” is dedicated to the bird of the same name, a reminder of Stoysin’s passion for ornithology. The beauty of both the tune and the playing reflects that of its subject.
The gently languid “Light of The Nights” is another twin guitar piece and is dedicated to the moment “when inspiration happens”.
The closing track “After All (Peace Will Come”) reprises the experiments with field recordings that distinguished the track “Interlude With Birds” on the “Above The Clouds”. Credited to ‘two guitars and Nature’ Stoysin’s gentle guitar melodies are augmented by the sound of birds and water life. It’s a delightful way to conclude a typically beautiful Stoysin album.
Having now reviewed five of Stoysin’s recordings it’s difficult to find something new to say about his writing and playing. So I’ll leave you with my summation of the “Above The Clouds” album as those same virtues are very much in evidence again here;
“All of the Stoysin hallmarks are here, gorgeous folk inspired melodies, skilful but unhurried playing, a pristine recorded sound and an obvious love of both humanity and nature. At a superficial level it’s pretty and relaxing but this is music that reveals so much more, hidden just below the decorous surface”.
Congratulations to Branco on the various anniversaries that this album celebrates. His music is a welcome and beautiful constant in a rapidly changing world.
Branco Stoysin has a number of live performances scheduled during 2023 as listed below;
21st May 2023, SARAH THORNE THEATRE, Broadstairs, 2 Fordoun Road, CT10 2BN, 7pm, £14/12, tickets: 0333 666 4466 https://www.sarahthornetheatre.co.uk
Friday, 16th June 2023, Album Launch recital at the beautiful and historic BELL HOUSE, in the leafy Dulwich Village, 27 College Rd, LONDON SE21 7BG. 7:30pm, £15. *** With the magical finale of recital, with video screening of Branco’s three natural world music/video projects
23rd June 2023, COLCHESTER ARTS CENTRE, Colchester, Church Street, CO1 1NF, 7:30pm, £10/8, tickets: 01206 500 900 ***With video screening for the magical finale, of Branco’s three natural world music/video projects***
28th June 2023, KINO, Rye, Lion Street, TH31 7LB, 4pm, £15, 01797 226 293 (Intimate concert, limited seats of 30)
***With video screening for the magical finale, of Branco’s three natural world music/video projects*** https://www.kinodigital.co.uk/rye
Tickets on the door or in advance:
13th July 2023, ST MARY’S CHURCH, Frinton-on-Sea, Old Road, CO13 9BX, 1:15pm, Info: 01255 679 164
for CDs, DVDs, Music Books and much more.
From Branco Stoysin via email;
By the way, as you mentioned for the tune Kind in Green and Blue, in your review, a reference to Miles Davies, trust this won’t be disappointing, but there is no reference to Miles at all in the title or the music. I haven’t been influenced by him and his music at all. Kind in Green in Blue title, reflects purely the Earth as being Green and Blue, and kind to us, but not us to Her.
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