Herbie Mann & Sona Terra

Eastern European Roots

Herbie Mann Music

Herbie Mann, alto flute, C flute, shepherd's flute; Bruce Dunlap, guitar; Alexander Fedoriouk, cimbilum; Gil Goldstein, accordion; Geoff Mann, drums, percussion, mandolin; Paul Socolow, bass; Mihály Birbély, soprano sax, fujara; Mihály György, guitar, bouzouki; Zsolt Sárvári Kovács, drums; Matyas Szandai, bass

This is an astonishing musical document from a musician who is in no way associated with the rhythms and melodies of Eastern Europe. Herbie Mann could have built a non-Jazz career on music of this quality and intriguing depth.

Someone once said, jokingly, "Folk music should remain with the folk." That is probably true, generally, but this material is something of an exception. One suspects that Mann's acumen for style and the extremely mature approach to playing this music are the factors lifting these pieces so far above the average. There are, of course, Jazz inflections, but all made subject to the expression of that special "Eastern" sound, which is part Jewish, part Moslem, and part Romany - our dictionary describes the word "Gypsy" as domba, from the Sanskrit, musician of low caste. The guys at Collins need to revise. Although Herbie's "Balalaika Love Song" drips with schmalz at the start, it soon turns into a deeply moving vehicle for Mann's lyrically warm flute solo. "Jelek" (track 6) is enchanting and "Bucovina" offers passages as close to funk as any shepherd is likely to experience. If you've ever hit the brakes on a remote, dusty road to avoid killing half a flock of sheep, and been greeted with a friendly wave and grin from the guy in charge of them, this CD will bring back the memory. Highly recommended.

by Lawrence Brazier

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