“In 1996, when I was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, I had a revelation – a close encounter with one’s mortality can do that. I realized that, though I’ve loved all the music I’ve ever played (granted, some of it more than others), I’ve spent my musical life as a sort of “assimilado”. I’m no Brazilian, Latin, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Black, etc. My roots are in the culture of Eastern Europe and I am Jewish.
Some of the music I’d written in previous years had this Eastern European feeling to it and seemed to come from some mysterious place within me. Even though I was drawn to it, I set most of it aside because I didn’t think it had a place in my musical world. The music always seemed kind of dark and heavy, laden with the suffering of generations. My mother came over on the boat from Romania and my father’s father had come from Kiev. Life for most Eastern European Jews wasn’t easy.
But during the treatments for my cancer, I started thinking about my legacy and those stashed away melodies. I dusted them off, played around with them, and started writing new ones. Through this musical journey, I discovered more than darkness and heaviness lay in that tradition. I also found joy, tenderness, passion and a different version of “the blues”.
The trip that my wife and I made to Budapest in April of 2000 helped solidify the music on this recording. I met many wonderful musicians who are also rediscovering their own musical traditions. Two of the songs on this recording are a direct result of that trip.
I have traveled all over the world, but had never been to Eastern Europe. During no other visit anywhere else have I had the feeling that I experienced there. It was an eerie, indescribable feeling of having come home.”
— Herbie Mann, Fall 2000