22 d’octubre, 2012

Meet the Artist: Lucian Ban

«El fenomen musical més gran des de Mozart». Així va definir Pau Casals el compositor romanès Georges Enesco (més conegut per la grafia francesa que ell mateix va adoptar que per l'original romanès George Enescu). Lucian Ban, pianista romanès establert a Nova York des del 1999, reconeix que, de fet, no es va immergir a fons en la música de qui Leopold Stokowski va definir com a «geni» sinó una vegada establert a la capital del jazz, quan molts músics li feien el comentari que la seva manera de compondre els recordava Enesco o fins i tot l'hongarès Béla Bartók. Anys després, fruit d'un encàrrec d'un festival de música clàssica, Ban va trobar l'oportunitat per treballar en la música del compositor romanès des d'una perspectiva jazzística.

El resultat va ser Enesco Re-Imagined (Sunnyside), un disc en directe excepcional, potser una de les obres mestres del jazz en l'última dècada. Al capdavant d'un autèntic dream team del jazz contemporani (Ralph Alessi, Tony Malaby, Mat Maneri, Albrecht Maurer, Gerard Cleaver, Mark Helias i el mestre de la tabla índia Badal Roy, excol·laborador de Miles Davis), Ban presentarà aquest projecte, en el tercer concert del cicle Clàssics i amb el suport del Romanian Cultural Institut, el dimarts 13 de novembre a l'Auditori (sala 3). 

By Lucian Ban 
Consider for a moment these things said about composer Georges Enesco: «The 21st century will be The Century of Enesco» (Yehudi Menuhin), or "I have known very many great musicians, and very few geniuses. Enesco was a genius." (Leopold Stokowski), or this one “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart” (cellist Pau Casals)…  now these guys surely know something.
Even though I’m originally from Romania (thus sharing the same country origin with Georges Enesco) my connection and experience with the man and the composer Georges Enesco is a strange one. Strange because I truly discovered him here in New York where I live since 1999. As I said to a reporter, «I have come to truly discover and fall in love with Enesco’s music long after I moved from Romania to New York City to study at Mannes School of Music, one of the U.S. universities where Enesco regularly taught. A few years after I moved to NYC to pursue my career in the jazz Mecca, I wrote some chamber pieces for different ensembles, and more than once I had musicians and conductors tell me 'Man, this sounds like Bartók and Enesco'» This was very intriguing to me, so I started listening to some of Enesco’s works. To my near shock, I discovered lines, phrases and motives in my pieces that seemed lifted from Enesco’s scores, scores that I’ve never seen or even heard. This was very strange.

So the moment that the George Enescu International Festival, a major classical festival in Europe that bears his name commissioned me to do a project on his music from a jazz perspective, I was very excited to immerse myself in such an endeavor. For me it had a personal meaning, something I think than any musician or artist that moves away from his home country following his/her art would well understand. Enesco, as his music attests so strongly, was very attached to our home country Romania but he lived most of his life in France and he signed his name using the French spelling Georges Enesco. He died there in sad poverty in 1955.

I’ve found that many of Enesco’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 my favorite musicians working today, artists who are actively pushing the music forward. I asked John Hébert, an old collaborator and one of the greatest bassists around, to work with me on this and re-orchestrate some of Enesco’s music. I remember vividly going to Jersey City to John’s place in spring of 2009 with a map of Enesco’s scores and how stunned we were at realizing the depth and richness of Enesco’s music. I mean his music was so open to be re-interpreted from a jazz sensibility. For such a project you really needed the right musicians and I’m elated to have on board people like Tony Malaby, Ralph Alessi, Mat Maneri, Albrecht Maurer or Joyce Hammann (who did a series of rehearsals and the premiere concert in New York at Merkin Hall in October 2009), Taylor Ho Bynum, Gerald Cleaver, Mark Ferber or Nasheet Waits, Drew Gress, Andrew Bishop, or the great Badal Roy.

Since then Sunnyside Records released to extraordinary press and audience acclaim the Enesco Re-Imagined CD with the live recording from Enescu Festival and we went on to tour major Festival and Venues on both sides of the Atlantic. And let me tell you this – EVERY concert is different than the last one! I am so proud to be able to (re)connect in a such a way with my fellow countryman the great Georges Enesco. To tour this ensemble and music with some of the best jazz musicians today, in one of the best jazz festivals ever, and in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Barcelona –can it get any better than this?