Lucian Ban, piano. Friday, May 27, 7:30PM. Wistariahurst Museum, 238 Cabot St., Holyoke, MA Single Tickets ($15) at www.jazzshares.org and at the door. Masks and vaccination needed for entry. This tour is made possible with the support of Jazz Road, a national initiative of South Arts, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Developing a program of solo piano music is the ultimate challenge for any improvising pianist. Lucian Ban’s mesmerizing new recording of solo piano improvisations, Ways of Disappearing, represents a daring addition to the genre and is a powerful and uncompromising statement for his first unaccompanied solo album.
Watch a trailer for the new solo record here.
Recorded in his native Transylvania in May 2021 in the stunning sounding Baroque Hall in Timișoara, on a grand Bösendorfer and in the midst of a world standing still, the album presents 14 pieces and improvisations including Lucian’s chilling takes on two modern jazz standards by Annette Peacock and Carla Bley.
Since moving to NYC in the late nineties, Lucian Ban has become known for his amalgamations of Transylvanian folk with improvisation, for his mining of 20th Century European classical music with jazz, and for his pursuit of a modern chamber jazz ideal. His albums investigating the folk songs of Transylvania (collected by Béla Bartók) with master improvisers Mat Maneri and John Surman, re-imagining the music of famed Romanian classical composer George Enescu for an all-star octet, conversing with the classic jazz quartet in his Elevation group with Abraham Burton, John Hébert and Eric McPherson (all on Sunnyside), or freely improvising with Evan Parker and again, Mat Maneri (Clean Feed) or his various duets (ECM, Sunnyside), have won critical praise and awards but, more importantly, they have revealed a singular focus to stradle the worlds of American jazz and European chamber music with the freedom of improvisation.
In Ban’s view “improvisation is just composition in real time” where the performer is utilizing elements developed in practice and applying them in a natural way that fits the emotional, structural, and thematic parameters set by the artist. “If structure (i.e. the tradition) can be learned, freedom is more of an instinct” says the pianist and one has to pose musical questions and, especially when improvising solo, answer them in the act of the performance.
Years of studying the art of the solo piano have made Ban particularly devoted to radical pianists who approach the piano in unique stylistic ways. Ban: “I have always felt closer to a line of jazz pianists that I see as radical, people like Ellington, Monk, Paul Bley, Keith Jarrett, Andrew Hill and a few others who challenged the ways piano can be played both in a group or solo setting … for me they pushed the language beyond its defined borders”.
Ways of Disappearing was co-produced with long-time friend and collaborator Mat Maneri and presents a program of fourteen distinct pieces that, as a whole, show the kaleidoscopic breadth of the pianist’s improvisatory and compositional styles.
After decades of gestation, Ways of Disappearing presents itself as a significant contribution to the art of solo jazz piano and shows just how inspired Ban can be in the moment, making music from ether, and, as Downbeat says in describing his music, “making personal art that feels universal”.