Transylvanian Folk Songs

“The Dowry Song”


Early in the 20th century, Hungarian composer Béla Bartok began his investigations into the Romanian folk music of Transylvania. Traveling through the countryside, he made field recordings documenting the region’s indigenous music, eventually amassing more than 3,000 songs comprising six catalogues, which certainly had an imprint on his own work. One hundred years later, Lucian Ban, John Surman and Mat Maneri look to Bartok’s collections for inspiration on their release Transylvanian Folk Songs (Sunnyside). Pianist Ban, who grew up in Transylvania, has frequently found sustenance in the music of his homeland. Maneri, who grew up in Boston, also came to the music of Bartok early in his development, recognizing the folkloric connection to rock and modern classical music. After conceiving of a project that would launch from the Bartok field recordings, Ban and Maneri recruited master reedist John Surman, who grew up in the English countryside, as the third side to their triangle. Among the tunes they interpret, allowing plenty of space for personal expression, “The Dowry Song” opens the collection on a sprightly note. Surman’s edgy baritone saxophone engages in a stately dance with Ban’s rhythmic piano motif, the pair soon joined by Maneri’s stringent viola. The piece grows in intensity as it unfolds, whirling like revelers at a wedding who have enjoyed the free libations before quieting into somewhat somber reflection.

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The Authoritative Voice in Jazz