This is a new episode of our series of shows investigating adventurous music from all over the world. But this time we stay in Romania, and I’ll try to dive a bit deeper into the Romanian jazz and blues from the past, but also from the present. Within the next couple of hours, I’ll try to investigate the lush world of Romanian jazz. Take a couple of deep breaths, put your seat belts on and let’s experience this adventurous ride through the intriguing world of jazz records from the 60s up till the present moment.
Romanian jazz may be a big word for music purists outside of Romania, mainly due to the lack of international music distribution. If you’re not that familiar with jazz music produced in Romania, hopefully this episode will give a taste and maybe crave for more. Since it’s quite a challenging task to document the huge amount of jazz music made in Romania, I got so much interesting music that I had to split the episode in two parts. This is the first part, focused on the jazz music released in communism, mainly at the Electrecord record label; the second part is focused on the contemporary scene.
The association between Romanian music and the Electrecord record label has always been inevitable. The two grew up together, developed together, lived in a strange and natural symbiosis and experienced intense moments throughout history, which influenced the culture of Romania. Basically, Romanian music would not have existed without Electrecord. Or vice versa, Electrecord would not have existed without Romanian music. In order to better understand the trajectory of the Electrecord company, we must refer to two defining periods: the period of glory before the Revolution and the period of decline after the 1990s.
Jazz has been imported in Romania as early as the interwar period, thanks to musicians such as Sergiu Malagamba (or Serghei Malagamba), a Romanian composer, musical arranger, conductor and drummer. However, jazz music was banned after World War II, with the arrival of the communist regime. The ban was dropped in 1964. Promoted by Cornel Chiriac, jazz musicians such as Eugen Ciceu, Richard Oschanitzky and János Kőrössy helped establish the genre in Romania, initially promoted alongside "easy music". Vocalist Aura Urziceanu has performed at New York City in 1972 and toured extensively under the name Aura Rully or Urziceanu-Rully. The Romanian female pop star has toured and performed with big legends from the international jazz scene, such as Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Hank Jones, Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Paul Desmond, Joe Pass and Mel Lewis.
Although restrained, jazz after 1989 still has cult following, with a number of festivals such as Gărâna International Jazz Festival or Green Hours Jazz Fest.
This first episode features music from important artists that contributed to the foundation of Romanian jazz: Harry Tavitian and his various projects, Johhny Răducanu, Dan Mândrilă, Marius Popp, Corneliu Stroe, Paul Weiner Quartet, Richard Oschanitzky.
*special thanks to Victor Plastic for the contributions
Tune in! We're also on SoundCloud.
*This article is part of the project Music & Conversations in the Attic, co-financed by AFCN.