After more than 25 years of playing and writing music focused in a particular direction—mixing folk music and modern jazz with the other styles of music—I am still in the middle of the process. With each experience I get closer to what I feel is an ideal way of melting those sounds together, doing a crossover and coming to a point where one can say: "it sounds fresh and original, it sounds like—good music!” Finding the right people and experimenting with different musicians and instruments is always a challenge. This particular project could be labeled “ethno jazz,” “folk jazz” or “Balkan jazz”. I call it simply “music.” Looking back at my early CDs like Transylvanian Dance, Back to the Roots, Balkan Jazz, Romanian Dance or Transylvanian Grooves, to name a few, I thought that Transylvanian Jazz would be a good title for the next project.
This is the first project where I invited more musicians playing folk instruments than musicians playing conventional instruments. Everyone is a great player and a great personality on his own, so it was easy for me to line up the best grouping for each tune, to create a colorful group sound with a repertoire that is stylistically cohesive. I wanted to get the feeling and the mood of Transylvanian and Romanian folk music, to write or arrange a few songs like Hora Staccato, Lullaby or Colind in a very simple way and have fun playing them. They have something in common: scales, rhythms, chord changes, melodies, atmosphere. And they sound organic. It's like a picture, like a landscape with lots of details and contrasts.
Hora Staccato is a violin standard that nearly every violinist has heard and played. Grigoras Dinicu, a great Romanian violin player, wrote and performed it many times. Jascha Heifetz, another great classical violin player, arranged it for violin and piano and brought it into the classical repertoire. I kept the marvelous melody very close to the original but changed the comping and chords, alternating the original harmony with some poly chords and incorporating alternating time signatures. The melody is a fast 4/4 and the comping is an alternating slow 3/4 (half time) and fast 4/4.
On Lullaby, based on the “Chanson pour Bercer” from the George Enescu masterpiece, Impressions d'Enfance, I took the lullaby-like melody and repeated it over and over again, producing a dreamlike mood. The character of the piece then transforms into something else. It is like a fairytale. It speaks to us about other places, other times, about being lost in the depths of space somewhere, sometime….
Colind is a very old traditional Christmas song from Transylvania, from the village of Leud in Hunedoara. This masterpiece was transcribed and recorded by Bela Bartok almost 100 years ago and arranged for the solo piano album, Rumдnische Weihnachtslieder.
By keeping the music easier and simpler and by following the mood of each song, the spirit and the soul of it can come alive. This was always my idea, to make a timeless music. Now how good we did it—it's up to you to say.
I am very glad that the Romanian Culture Institute (ICR) from Bucharest trusted me and my musician friends and supported this project. It is great music inspired by the great old tradition of the Romanian folk music. It may be more Romanian or Transylvanian jazz but it's still sounding like universal music, a little American, Eastern European, African, Oriental, pop, Indian and so on. It is the music of our time. It has a strong rhythmic element, some gorgeous melodies, it swings, it grooves, you can dance if you want; you can just listen and dream if you like, it is yours now. We really enjoyed playing it. Just hear it and sing with us.
Last, but not least, I would like to say thank you to my musician friends and colleagues for their passion and support, for making the music sound so natural and beautiful and for putting their soul into the music. Gjako, Martin Lubenov, Zoltan, Giani, Sorin and Boris: I compliment you guys for your creativity and thank you for your friendship. --Nicolas Simion, from liner notes
1 Transylvanian Wood 6:162 Bear Dance 7:37
3 Children' Song 5:05
4 Colind (#3) (dedicated to Bela Bartok) 5:19
5 Wedding Song At The Black Sea 4:53
6 Lullaby For Pinx (dedicated to George Enescu) 5:54
7 The Village Is Getting Drunk 6:10
8 Hora Funk 5:58
9 Doina & Girl's Dance 2:43
10 dance from Maramuresh 7:49
11 Hora Staccato 1:39
12 Three Leaved Flower 3:10
Nicolas Simion clarinet, bass-ciarinet, soprano & tenor saxophones, caval
Zoltan Lantos violin
Martin Lubenov accordion
Giani Lincan cymbalon
Sorin Romanescu guitar
Martin Gjakonovski bass
Boris Petrov drums
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