CD review: Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri

transylTransylvanian Concert
(ECM 372 8258)

Lucian Ban is a Romanian-born pianist and composer who moved to New York; Ma Maneri is the Brooklyn-born violinist and violist. They first played together on a Ban project and were coming to the end of a bigger group tour when they were offered this duo concert in a grand building called the Culture Palace in Targu Mures, near to where Ban was born.

In the final piece – the ten-minute Two Hymns – the alert listener will hear in the spaces in the sound a background pattern of rain on the roof. “It only rained during that time,” says Ban. Perhaps it was nature’s response to this delicately dark, mournful music, mostly written by Ban, created by the marvellously empathetic interaction between the piano and the viola (Maneri plays the bigger fiddle throughout).

Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri

Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri

The mood and style of the compositions is there in the titles, which include Harlem Bliss, Not That Kind Of Blues and Monastery. And Maneri plays a solo version of the traditional tune he played with his father, the late saxophonist Joe: Nobody Knows The Troubles I’ve Seen. They are drenched in the blues but the harmonies and improvisational melodies that they develop are made of stranger stuff, very much absorbing Eastern European and other classical flavours.

Maneri has an inimitable style which brings microtones into play and using just viola is a masterly stroke. Ban plays quite low on the piano a lot of the time, adding to the relatively low light of the music.

The results are compelling.

  • The pair are currently touring this music. They were at the Vortex in London last night and they come to The Voicebox in Foreman Street, Derby, this evening (tickets £10 on the door and it starts at 7.30pm), courtesy of Derby Jazz, and Newcastle University tomorrow before moving on to the Continent.

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