Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gig Review: Luboš Andršt Blues Band

Charles Bridge Jazz Club
6th December 2008

It is always interesting to see things for the first time. This time there were two firsts for the price of one. It was Prague Jazz’s first visit to the new Charles Bridge Jazz Club, and also our first look at the current incarnation of the ever-evolving Luboš Andršt Blues Band.

The Charles Bridge Jazz Club is a pleasing addition to the local scene. It is a bit of a squeeze for everyone to fit around the tables, but the close packing gives it the sort of front parlour intimacy that a good jazz venue should have. There is also a decently sized bar area, so those who wish to ignorantly talk over great music can do so without irritating everyone else. The atmosphere is friendly and the prices are reasonable for its location, almost literally in the shadow of Prague’s most famous landmark (excluding Darling Cabaret). Unlike some places in this city it feels like a real music venue rather than a tourist trap, and that is the most important thing for those of us who are real music enthusiasts rather than gormless travellers.

As well as a good venue a good evening requires a good band, and the Luboš Andršt Blues Band certainly falls into this category. We here at Prague Jazz are proud fans of the mighty Luboš and the musicians he usually plays with. With him for this concert were perennially funky electric bassist Wimpy Tichota, drum powerhouse Pavel Razím, and Jan Holeček on keys and vocals.

What the band delivered was three sets of hard-hitting electric blues, ranging from gospel spirituals to a rocking blast of “Cross Road Blues” (R. Johnson). Their arrangement was very close to the Cream interpretation that has become known as the definitive version to many people. Luboš’s improvised solo was dazzling, while Holeček wailed the lyrics with passion. His voice is very similar to a young Robert Plant, and he could no doubt make a good living in a Led Zeppelin tribute band if he was so inclined.

The rhythm section spent the night having a fun old time in the corner. Tichota and Razím have played together for many years, developing an instinctive communication that allows them to manoeuvre the music through a maze of twists and turns without ever breaking stride. Pavel forsook the “big kit” school of drumming, using only a snare with brushes, a kick drum, and a hi-hat. From this three piece collection he produced a surprisingly wide palette of sounds and some furious solos, sending a brush flying in his frenzy. Wimpy also unleashed some fine slapping solos from his Fender Jazz bass. Their constant interplay and asides showed a band that was really enjoying performing, and this came across strongly all night.

Andršt’s guitar work was the undoubted highlight of the concert. Whenever the band paused to make room for one of his solos there was a noticeable air of anticipation. We all knew that something great was about to be set free and he never disappointed. With both great technical skill and great feeling he guided his red Strat through the curves and contours of his imagination. Sometimes flashy, sometimes simple, but always in the best possible taste, his playing held the audience spellbound. During “Cross Road Blues” there was nobody in the room that missed Clapton, and the finale of “Hey Joe” (B. Roberts) was electrifying, sending shivers down spines and eliciting hearty cheers.

There are a lot of good nights out for the serious music fan in Prague, but the regular appearances of the Luboš Andršt Blues Band at the Charles Bridge Jazz Club must currently rank amongst the best. They don’t seem to make real guitar gods anymore, the old-school axe-men who let the strings do the talking. So make sure you go and see Luboš for he is one of the last of the old guard, a bluebood guitarist who can still make the magic happen.

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