“Consider this brainy, brawny and compelling tuneful take on the music of Romanian Romantic composer George Enescu, refracted through a modern-jazz prism and played by a scary good group…” -TIME OUT NEW YORK Top Live Show
“Trust us; this kind of night only happens once every three centuries.” - VILLAGE VOICE
Following the US premiere concert presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York in 2009, Sunnyside Records and The Romanian Cultural Institute present on November 2 the CD Release celebration of ENESCO Re-Imagined. Lucian Ban and John Hébert assembled this daring contemporary jazz re-imagination of famed 20th century Romanian composer, George Enescu, featuring a stunning group of New York jazz iconoclasts; Joyce Hammann, violin, Mat Maneri, viola, Andrew Bishop, tenor saxophone, Ralph Alessi, trumpet, Lucian Ban, piano & re-orchestrations, John Hébert, double bass & re-orchestrations, Badal Roy, tabla, perc & voice and Gerald Cleaver, drums.
Regarded as one of the few classical geniuses of the past century as a violinist, Enescu’s brilliant work as a composer has been under recognized for decades. He was born in Liveni, Romania in 1881 where he began music studies at age four. Enescu showed promise from an early age studying at the Vienna Conservatoire and later in Paris with Gabriel Faure and Andre Gedalge. By his early twenties, he had made a number of impressive debuts as a violin soloist and composed a number of major works (including his well known Romanian Rhapsodies). Enescu had a long relationship with the United States, visiting yearly from 1923 to 1949. During that span, he conducted a number of major orchestras, performed as a violinist, and taught at a number of American universities (most notably Mannes). By 1930 Enescu was considered one of the most famous musicians of his time, conducting all major orchestras, performing & recording some of the definitive interpretations of Bach violin works (many with Yehudi Menuhin), and collaborating closely with such great musicians of 20th century like Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, David Oistrakh, Edouard Risler and Alfred Cortot. Enescu split his time between Bucharest and Paris but finally left Romania in 1946 to teach in the US (most notably at Harvard, Princeton, and Mannes) after the Communist takeover of the country. He passed away in Paris in 1955.
Romanian born, New York based pianist/composer Lucian Ban was familiar with Enescu’s work from his study in Romania but really fell under his spell upon receiving a commission from the George Enescu International Festival in Bucharest to arrange the composer’s work. Upon rediscovery, Ban was immediately drawn and stunned by the depth of Enescu’s catalogue: “I’ve found that many of Enescu’s works, some of which are lesser known, have a structure and a feeling resembling that of jazz; this was the starting point for wanting to present his music in a new light, together with an ensemble featuring some of the most daring musicians of today.” In 2006, Ban started a workshop in an effort to play and re-interpret the Enescu’s compositions using methods garnered from jazz, classical, and contemporary music. In 2008 after receiving the Festival commission, Ban invited his friend, bassist John Hébert, to collaborate on the project and really dig into Enescu’s work. The intention was to “re-imagine” some of Enescu’s lesser known pieces. To assist in their effort, Ban visited the vaults of the Enescu Museum in Bucharest where he was allowed access to the original scores of Enescu’s work.
Enesco Re-Imagined was recorded live at the 2009 George Enescu International Festival in Bucharest on September 20, 2009. Ban and Hébert put together an amazing ensemble to perform these compositions that span the composer’s entire career. The performers included trumpeter Ralph Alessi, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, violist Mat Maneri, violinist Albrecht Maurer, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and tabla player Badal Roy. “Aria et Scherzino” is a melodic masterpiece that features a unique ascending open string violin along with a tremendous tenor sax solo from Malaby. “Octet for Strings Opus 7” is one of Enescu’s earliest works (he was all of 19 when it was written). Its modal theme presented an intensity that Badal Roy’s tabla fits under perfectly. Enescu was well known for his use of Romanian folk themes. This device is best represented by the “Sonata No. 3 for Violin & Piano Opus 25.” The first two movements are represented here and illustrate the influence of Romanian gypsy fiddle virtuosos on Enescu. Rounding out the CD is “Symphony No. 4 (Unfinished).” Enescu began work on the piece in 1928 but never finished it. “Especially in Marziale, the 2nd movement we ‘attacked’ the themes and lines which seemed…almost lifted from the best of Ellington or Mingus orchestral charts. John’s bass line is the one Enescu wrote in his score and I heard immediately the melodies played with our ensemble,” comments Ban.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the leaders, supporting each other as both composer and musician, though they come from very different backgrounds. Ban was born in the town of Cluj in Transylvania, Romania. After studying piano and composition at the Bucharest Music Academy, he moved to New York City to study at New York’s famed New School Jazz Program. Since then, Ban has played and recorded with some of the best jazz musicians around, including Sam Newsome, Alex Harding, Abraham Burton, Nasheet Waits, Bob Stewart, Barry Altschul, and Reggie Nicholson. Hébert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana where he also attended Loyola University. He then moved to New York to study with Rufus Reid at William Patterson University. Since then, Hébert has been a highly in demand bassist for musicians like Andrew Hill, Lee Konitz, Paul Bley, Paul Motian, and Fred Hersch, among many others.
Enesco Re-Imagined will tour Europe in 2011 and 2012 – with support from RCI in Bucharest. The Sunnyside release includes an enhanced CD with video and an electronic PDF booklet that features a full bio of Enescu plus personal notes from Ban and Hébert.