Many of the Bucaresti musicians and artists have marked down last night as when the banner was passed for jazz music in this country. After hearing maybe the best jazz concert ever heard here, Johnny Radacanu, the king of Romania jazz stepped up on stage to embrace Professor deFulbright Scholar Tom Smith. Since everybody knows what a character Johnny is, professor Smith accepted the stunt with good graces. But, it made the right impression, because Johnny knows what everyone else also knows. After producing all parts of last night and by disciplining the usually incorrigible Radio Big Band the week before, the new king of Romania jazz is an American.
Last night’s concert was a History of Jazz, where Ruxandra Todiras narrated jazz music’s development as a social affector of culture and creative thought. The band on the stage of a packed Arcub, was Smith’s latest creation, something he calls the National Jazz Ensemble of Romania. It contained 23 musicians with some alternating their posts to let others participate. People were on the stage that no one would ever have believed could perform together. But they did perform together, making for the best jazz heard in Bucaresti.
There were so many great spots that it is hard to remember them all, although Allyn Constanciu and Garbis Dedeian were great. Also Mircea Tiberian and Cristian Soleanu, and of course Johnny who played two wonderful solo compositions. Let us not also forget Smith’s great trombone playing either. The last composition was a long suite called Birds of Paradise composed by American Carla Bley. It featured the young George Dumitriu on violin, who was superb throughout. Before the performance, Professor Smith joked that this was the hardest piece of jazz music ever played in Romania. When it was over, no one disagreed. The work was dedicated to the astronauts of the American space shuttle Columbia, and was a perfect tribute.
Next to Ambassador Guest, Tom Smith is probably the best known American in Bucaresti. The US Cultural Center sponsored the event, so many Americans were present. His contribution to culture in this country is large. His rich compliments made about his musicians were deeply felt and most appreciated. It was an unforgettable evening of music.