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Herbie Mann and Sona Terra: Eastern European Roots

Flutist Herbie Mann has previously challenged us by melding jazz with world music on recordings, but never in such a personal way as on this CD, where he delves deep into his Eastern European and Jewish heritage.

Mann performs 11 original and traditional tunes he had begun working on after his 1996 diagnosis and treatment for inoperable prostate cancer. A cultural exchange trip to Budapest in 2000 solidified his music and granted him a sense of homecoming. In fact, “Jelek,” the best and longest track, was recorded in Hungary with native musicians. On the remaining tunes, Bruce Dunlap (guitar), Alexander Fedoriouk (cimbilum), Gil Goldstein (accordion & arranger), Geoff Mann (drums, percussion, mandolin) and Paul Socolow (bass) radiate freshness and spirit, skillfully navigating intriguing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic alterations. Each well-developed tune contains engaging melodious gems.

Especially notable are Mann’s cadent, mysterious “Gypsy Jazz,” which perfectly melds world themes to jazz; “Gelem Gelem,” a joyful rendition of a traditional song; Geoff Mann’s weaving “A Dance at the Rise of the Moon” (which gives Herbie an extended solo workout); and Herbie’s “Bucavina,” which begins as a melancholy ballad before shifting to an underlying funk beat and Dunlap’s fine solo.

This CD is one of Mann’s most unique and heartfelt recordings to date. He fully triumphs in solos and there’s sufficient jazz (and beyond) feeling to satisfy longtime fans who might cling to Mann’s classic 1970s hits such as “Birdwalk,” “Memphis Underground” and the like.

Originally Published