Lucian Ban

Lucian Ban Portrait

Called “A name to watch” by The Guardian and “one of the most gifted pianists to move to NewYork” (B. Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery), Lucian Ban is a NYC based pianist & composer working atthe forefront of contemporary jazz. Known for his amalgamations of Transylvanian folk withimprovisation, for his mining of 20th Century European classical music with jazz, and for his pursue of amodern chamber jazz ideal his music has been described as “emotionally ravishing” (Nate Chinen,NYT/WBGO), a “triumph of emotional and musical communication” (All About Jazz), “Unorthodox butmesmeringly beautiful” (The Guardian) and as holding an “alluring timelessness and strong life-force” (Downbeat).

Lucian Ban (b 1969, Cluj, Romania) was raised in a small village in northwest Transylvania, in “the region where Bartok did his most extensive research and collecting of folk songs” and grew up listening to both traditional and classical music. He studied composition at the Bucharest Music Academy with classical composer Anatol Vieru while simultaneously leading his own jazz groups, and notes that his approach to improvisation has been influenced by “the profound musical contributions of Romanian modern classical composers like Aurel Stroe, Anatol Vieru and of course Enesco”. Desire to get closer to the source of jazz brought him to the US, and since moving from Romania to New York in 1999 his ensembles have included some of today’s most celebrated jazz musicians. His compositions are performed and recorded by several ensembles and he has released 18 albums under his name for labels such as ECM Records, Sunnyside, Clean Feed, CIMP, Jazzaway, all the while maintaining a worldwide touring schedule.

His Enesco Re-Imagined Octet co-lead with bassist John Hébert and featuring an A-list of creative musicians (Ralph Alessi, Tony Malaby, Badal Roy, Gerald Cleaver, Mat Maneri, Albrecht Maurer) has re-envisioned the music of his fellow countryman, 20th century classical composer George Enescu through improvisation & contemporary jazz. Released to critical acclaim by Sunnyside records Enesco ReImagined has won multiple 2010 BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR awards and performances on both sides of the Atlantic. Press described it as “a spectacular dreamy affair” (All About Jazz) “Sparkling new album”, (New York Times), “dazzling thematic writing” (The Guardian). Jazz Times says “Enesco Re-Imagined is visionary third-stream music . . . this recording places Ban and Hébert among the great 21st Century interpreters.”

In 2013 Lucian Ban releases Transylvanian Concert with violist Mat Maneri for the prestigious German label ECM Records. Informed by the twin traditions of American jazz and European chamber & folk music the album wins critical press acclaim and several BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR sparking continuous touring throughout the world. Jazz Times calls is “As close as it gets to Goth-jazz”, The New York Times talks about “enfolding mystery”, The Guardian notes its “own kind of melancholy beauty and wayward exuberance”, and All About Jazz hails its “unanticipated beauty”.

Lucian Ban musical partnership with Mat Maneri continues with Fantasm (Nemu Records 2015) a cutting edge chamber trio featuring German violinist Albrecht Maurer called “a masterwork of mood and nuance, one of the highlights of 2015” (Point of Departure) and in 2017 Mat Maneri & Lucian Ban team up with legendary UK saxophonist Evan Parker to release Sounding Tears for Clean Feed records named a BEST ALBUM OF 2017 by Jiornale della Musica (Italy), a “one of a kind experience” (Jazz Trail), “an emotionally ravishing piece of music” (WBGO), and “among the most beautiful recordings released in 2017" (NYC Jazz Record). In 2018 Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri premiere at Lyon Opera Oedipe Redux a radical rewriting of George Enescu Oedipe opera featuring Jen Shyu, Theo Bleckmann, John Hebert, Ralph Alessi, Tom Rainey and the French bass clarinet virtuoso Louis Sclavis.

In 2006 he establishes the ELEVATION quartet with saxophonist extraordinaire Abraham Burton and the acclaimed rhythm section of John Hébert (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums). Their 1st album Mystery (Sunnyside 2013) documents a blistering live performance in New York City and was named BEST ALBUM OF 2013 by Elzy Kolb (Hot House), Jeff Stockton (NYC Jazz Record), and Ken Micaleff (Downbeat). The follow up album Songs from Afar (Sunnyside 2016) with special guest Transylvanian traditional singer Gavril Tarmure and violist Mat Maneri wins the 2016 DOWNBEAT BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR and a 5* masterpiece review in Downbeat Magazine: “Alluring timelessness . . . like many of the great masters, pianist Lucian Ban makes personal art that feels universal” (James Hale, Downbeat).

Lucian Ban close collaboration with Alex Harding, one of the most significant baritone saxophonists of the past decades, has yielded an amazing body of music featuring several different groups and producing 6 albums together: his 2001 US debut Somethin’ Holy as a duet, the 2003 Premonition quintet, the Tuba Project (2005) featuring legendary Bob Stewart on tuba, Alex Harding’s Blutopia The Calling (2006) featuring Nasheet Waits, the Romanian-American Jazz Suite (2009) a sextet co-lead with soprano sax virtuoso Sam Newsome re-interpreting Romanian folk songs and the 2019 NYC Jazz Record BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR Dark Blue a duet celebrating two decades of working together.

In 2020 Lucian Ban releases Transylvanian Folk Songs in trio with Mat Maneri and legendary John Surman re imagining the Béla Bartók collected folk songs of Romanian people in Transylvania at the beginning of XX century. Album garners critical acclaim with features on National Public Radio, Financial Times, Jazziz, The Wire, etc.

Lucian Ban has composed original scores for dozens theater productions, for dance and movies and live scoring for films by Andy Warhol and Andrei Tarkovsky. Lucian has performed/recorded with: Mat Maneri, Abraham Burton, John Surman, Nasheet Waits, Alex  Harding, Billy Hart, Badal Roy, Barry Altschul, Ralph Alessi, Gerald Cleaver, Bob Stewart, Tony Malaby, Evan Parker, Mark Helias, Sam Newsome, Ralph Alessi, Pheeroan AkLaff, Jorge Sylvester, Albrecht Maurer, Reggie Nicholson, Drew Gress, J.D. Allen, Randy Peterson, Brad Jones, John Hebert, Albrecht Maurer, Eric McPherson, Derrek Phillips, etc.