Songs of Love and Sorrow | Retracing BARTÓK

Reimagining the Bartók collected folk songs of Banat & Transylvania


5 years after the radical reinterpretation of songs collected by Bela Bartok in Banat and Transylvania, violist Mat Maneri and pianist Lucian Ban bring back to Timisoara the legendary John Surman, one of the key figures of European jazz in the last 50 years, and invites American bassist Brad Jones, world-renowned for his sound and unique contributions to projects and albums made with big names in jazz: Ornette Coleman, Elvin Jones, Marc Ribot, Cassandra Wilson, Han Bennink, Muhal Richard, David Byrne, Elvis Costello, John Zorn and many others.

The four musicians representing several generations will take a fresh look at the folk songs, carols and vocal songs collected by Bartok more than a century ago in an extraordinary effort of musical anthropology.

The 2018 recording of the trio John Surman, Mat Maneri, Lucian Ban, at the Baroque Hall of the Art Museum in Timișoara is, as JAZZ TIMES says, "an act of tribute, but also of transformation" and brought immediate appreciation both from fans as well as critics. The album was released on Sunnyside Records in New York.

After the prestigious National Public Radio in the United States broadcast an audio chronicle of this album in May 2020, including excerpts of the three's music and a refined analysis of it, chronicled by hundreds of local radio stations, the album was propelled into the Billboard chart (one of the oldest and most reputable music charts in the world) where it remained for several weeks. NPR critic Kevin Whitehead writes of "the mystery and clarity with which the trio infuses traditional Transylvanian songs, how the piano rings like church bells," while JAZZIZ speaks of "the baritone sax's imposing dance with the piano's rhythm and the rigorous sound of viola". In June 2020 Dutch critic Henning Bolte included the album in the Europe Jazz Media Chart appreciating "the three musicians' deep connection to the essence of Bartók's collection", while the prestigious British magazine The WIRE described Ban's performance as "luxuriant and romantic, while the viola moans and the clarinet murmurs like an underground river". The album is also noted by the well-known Financial Times newspaper, which dedicates a column to it in print with the title Village dances with a fresh spin.

So far, the trio has performed sold out concerts at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Jazz No Parque in Portugal, Stans Musiktage in Switzerland, Luxembourg Jazz, Porgy & Bess in Vienna and Zenehaz (House of Music) in Budapest.

In the fall of 2022, Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban reunited again in Timișoara under the auspices of the Retracing Bartok project to reinvent a new mold of songs through the singular voice of their famous duet formula. The results reveal a new depth to the century-old folk songs, reimagined through improvisation and the astonishing chemistry they've developed over the past decade. This album recorded in Timisoara will be released by ECM Records in 2024.

In the discussion about the future project in Timișoara, Mat Maneri says: "Bartok was able to see the fine fabric of connections in popular music from various corners of the world. While the instrumentation and tonal subtleties might be radically different, there is a unity of sweat and soul and the need to transcend our human condition - the indelible spirit of love, suffering, joy and our deepest desires. To be able to work with John, Lucian and Brad, who can breathe new life into these timeless songs, is a privilege.


Partners: Ethnographic Museum of Budapest | Bartok Archives in Budapest | County Directorate for Culture Timiș | MEWI | | | MPPL Business Law | PixelTM


The Retracing Bartók project, initiated and curated since 2018 by Jazz Updates (TM) together with pianist Lucian Ban (RO/USA) and violist Mat Maneri (USA), is conceived as a celebration of the extraordinary diversity and richness of traditional Romanian music, being in at the same time, an artistic reflection on the transformation of folk singing into contemporary culture and a reconstruction of Béla Bartók's story in Romania and his love for the music of Romanians from Banat and Transylvania.

Proiectul Retracing Bartók face parte din programul Timișoara 2023 Capitala Europeană a Culturii si este finanţat de Consiliul Județean Timiș prin programul TimCultura 2023.

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Retracing Bartók

Retracing Bartók