"Folk music is a definite music form, a living phenomenon, created by real people, inherited and brought to perfection through generations, and still full of life even today." This quote is from a 1963 record by the Swede Bengt-Arne Wallin, an album which has strongly influenced my thoughts about the Europeana project. I strongly believe, that we should not only respect and care for our rich heritage of European folklore, but that we should keep it alive by letting our best contemporary musicians interpret this wonderful music, a music that has been reaching the hearts of people for centuries. This is what we wish to achieve with Europeana."
We have waited a while for the world premiere performance of the “Jazzphony” Europeana, a piece that had already been released as a 1995 CD co-production of the NDR (North German Radio) and ACT. Now the performance is being realised at the Musikhalle Hamburg on September 10th 2006 as a benefit for the 20th anniversary of the phönikks-foundation. This world premiere with the NDR Pops Orchestra und Jörg Achim Keller and the international jazz stars Joachim Kühn, Nils Landgren, Klaus Doldinger, Markus Stockhausen, Christof Lauer, Lars Danielsson and Viktoria Tolstoy is made possible by the generous support of the NDR and the willingness of all the involved soloists to do without a fee.
All of this would be reason enough to re-release the highly acclaimed album Europeana (ACT 9220-2), which has been awarded the renowned “Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik”. The new release will be in the form of a Hybrid-Multichannel CD. This new Super-Audio CD contains the regular audio CD, the Super Audio 24 bit version and the Surround Sound version, all recorded in brilliant quality and mixed by Walter Quintus. At the same time this re-release is intended as a tribute to two masters of their instruments, whose decisive influence can be heard on the original recording and who have since passed away: the Frankfurt trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and the French bass player Jean-François Jenny-Clark.
Ever since antiquity, artists have been concerning themselves with Europe’s mythic tradition. For Europeana, the world famous British composer and arranger Michael Gibbs rearranged some of the exceptional compositions of European folk tradition into a piece for symphony orchestra and jazz soloists, which was recorded in 1995 by the NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Europeana contains elements of symphonic music, swing, free jazz, blues and flamenco and Gibbs himself called it his JAZZPHONY No.1.
Gibbs is without doubt one of the most creative and versatile arrangers of our time. Before working on the orchestration, Gibbs studied Joachim Kühn’s piano playing intensively, and remarks that his work on this project is heavily influenced by Kühn’s highly personal style. Europeana is an eloquent example for Gibbs’ wealth of experience. He utilises tempo changes, innovative chord voicing with extremely effective use of dissonance, and changes of mood in an inventive and unusual way.
Gibbs fulfilled a long-time wish with this project: his collaboration with the piano virtuoso Joachim Kühn. Born in Leipzig, Kühn has been an outstanding voice in European jazz for more than four decades. He is the main soloist on Europeana. He is supported brilliantly throughout the CD by Jean-François Jenny-Clark. The French double-bass player, who died in 1988, was one of the most versatile and excellent Europeans on the instrument. Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen became world-famous for his “relaxed and economical use of a phenomenal technique” on recordings with Jan Garbarek, Dexter Gordon and Keith Jarrett, to name but a few. Scottish oboe player Douglas Boyd is co-founder of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and was until recently their principal oboe player. As early as 1995 he was regarded as one of the stars on the instrument. Englishman Django Bates appeared on the scene as a great European jazz talent in the early nineties, and has since established himself as a gifted juggler of genre. Equally fascinating is the bizarre trombone playing by Albert Mangelsdorff, grandmaster of the German jazz-elite who died in 2005, on “Three Angels”, a 13th century folksong which Mangelsdorff recorded with his quintet in 1964 under its old name “Es sungen drei Engel”. Klaus Doldinger also holds a place in the pantheon of German jazz. His insistent, blues-flavoured playing on the Irish “She Moved Through The Fair” shows that he is no stranger to the song. He recorded it with his band Passport in 1972 as “Fairy Tale”. Markus Stockhausen is known internationally for his trio recordings for ECM. He consistently bridges the gulf between classical music and jazz. Christof Lauer, saxophonist from Frankfurt, has been performing with admirable continuity on all the worlds continents for the last 30 years, and his unbelievable creative energy is a constant and unmistakable reminder of the autonomous quality of European jazz. The French accordion player Richard Galliano completes this illustrious circle of soloists on Europeana.
This fusion of the rich and diverse European folk tradition with the exceptional orchestration skills of a Michael Gibbs, the masterly playing of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Hanover and the European jazz-elite resulted in a fantastic musical collage, that has fully deserved to be re-released now in first class sound quality on SACD.