July 19, 2024

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CD review: Alex Simu Quintet – Echoes of Bucharest 2019: Video, CD cover

Echoes of Bucharest – a reflection of the present, a fragrance of the past and a glance into the future of a city with a rich multicultural legacy.

The compositions of this suite encounter no rules or boundaries, only love, and the urge to create and share. The vision is built on two main pillars – innovation and heritage, and aims to shape sounds into a unique audience experience.

The music and the concept behind the compositions are a natural reflection of Alex Simu’s experience with his hometown, expressed through the lens of his emotional and historical ties. All sounds are inspired by the history of Bucharest, from its creation and evolution, to its contemporary times and future.

Found at the juncture between East and West, Romania benefited from rich cultural influences which lead to the creation of various identities throughout its historical evolution. Purely folkloric sounds, the dramatic influence of the Ottoman Empire, the Phanariot epoch, the Little Paris illusions, the two world wars, the communist regime, the revolution, and the contemporary Bucharest, they all become subtle echoes reflected through the spirit of the music on this album. All the various influences that have carved the cultural identity of Bucharest over time come to life as melodies, rhythmic themes, and motifs. Complementing the original compositions, thematic fragments of classical pieces by George Enescu and Dimitrie Cantemir have been specially arranged to harmonize with the contemporary language of jazz and free improvisation.

  1. Open Air Concert
  2. A Thousand Lanterns
  3. Slowly Dancing for Peace
  4. The Orphan
  5. Armenian Street
  6. Echoes of Bucharest

Alex Simu – clarinets (Romania)
Franz von Chossy – piano (Germany)
George Dumitriu – viola/guitar (Romania)
Jörg Brinkmann – cello (Germany)
Kristijan Krajnčan – cello/drums (Slovenia)

The Armenian Street, Bucharest At the heart of the city, Bucharest, there is a street with a history of itself. A place where culture, religion, spirituality, breath-taking stories, beautiful architecture, and people who changed history come together. The inspirational aura of the street was given by the Armenian people and their culture – a subtle, yet significant part of the heritage of Bucharest. This is how my story with the Armenian street begins, strengthen by the love for the Armenian culture. It all connected on a much deeper and personal level when I started playing the saxophone. There was some kind of spark when I first listened to Garbis Dedeian playing a tribute concert to John Coltrane, back in 1999. Garbis and his brother Capril, are two very important figures of the Romanian jazz scene. Only 18 years old, I was spending my time going to Garbis’ concerts, and slowly, as the months where passing by, I was able to sit in with his band and learn the magic of playing jazz music. At the time, I was told he is Armenian. However, even though late ’90s, the echoes of the communism era where still very strong, resonating in the existence of the people and inspiring fear to anyone who would talk of any other ethnic origins than Romanian. This was an eye-opening moment, and the start of many discoveries. I explored the drawings of Cik Damadian, the paintings of Theodor Aman, the books of Varujan Vosganian, and much more that was yet to come. Studying in the Netherlands later on was very resourceful: I had access to internet and the great public library of Amsterdam; I started listening to Armenian music of all sorts, reading about the history, the amazing and unique music system, and how it all enriched the culture of the Ottoman Empire and all the surrounding lands. I had Duduk lessons with Gevorg Dabaghian, an experience towards understanding how love for the music is an important element in creating a beautiful sound – if not played with care, the Duduk sounds very unpleasant. This entire journey became even more intense when I heard and met Tigran Hamasyan, the Armenian jazz pianist, who introduced a new world of contemporary sounds. When traveling in faraway corners of the world, people would ask me where am I from, and I would answer that I am Romanian. Then they would say, Armenian? And I would answer, well, no, Romanian. My answer would then create confusion. Perhaps due to my strange accent or maybe because those people never heard of Romania. This sometimes made me think for a second, maybe I am Armenian, or Aromanian, or meant-to-be Romanian.Now, looking back on the times I occasionally walked on the Armenian Street in Bucharest, I wonder, how could I have known this street’s history goes so far, way beyond my imagination? I wrote this composition to express my gratitude towards the beautiful Armenian heritage, and to send out an invitation to everyone to visit Bucharest and take a walk down the Armenian street. It is an experience of understanding and reflection upon how much we can benefit from living together, from sharing and learning from each other.

Jurre Wieman – Recording for Radio Bimhuis Marc Schots – live sound Ivana Dukic – graphic design Raluca Baicu – production manager Tycho Heusen – stage lights Filming crew: Corneliu Ganea John Aponno Joao M B Costa

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