Saturday, June 1, 2013

Vladimíra Krčková - The Rich Man Has Gone

Vladimíra Krčková Quartet - "Go For A Rich Man"
Jazz Dock

Vladimíra Krčková is not your typical young female jazz singer with a band. For a start, her voice is far better than that of a typical singer. You don't get a Berklee scholarship because you're about up to banging out "The Girl from Ipanema" in a hotel bar. The strength and versatility of her voice frees her up to use some of the best musicians on the local scene and let them really play, rather than be backed by blandness in cheap suits. She is also willing to take risks and follow her creative instincts, both in her compositions and the presentation of her shows.

Krčková made her name singing standards, but in 2012 she unveiled her new project, Go For a Rich Man, an album of original songs and associated tour. Rather than play it safe as many artists do, shyly throwing a couple of recent songs into a tried and tested live set then getting back to familiar ground as quickly as possible, she presented the album as a whole and in sequence. This gave the show a strong thematic identity, but may also be the reason why Thursday was the final outing for the Rich Man show. Like a less mental, more jazzy Ziggy Stardust, she has felt the call of a new direction and is terminating her current incarnation.

The live Rich Man band is the same one as on the album: Adam Tvrdý on guitar, the seemingly omnipresent Petr Dvorský on acoustic bass and Jan Linhart on drums. As is so often the case the live versions, stripped of the studio as an instrument, had a simpler sound but packed more of a punch. Opener "Five Forty Two" sounded better without the double tracked vocals; there is a lot going on musically as the band plays at full throttle and maximum jazz, and the purer sound of her untampered voice cut through cleanly. The more ethereal effects of the album sound great through headphones, but would get lost in a venue offering anything less than perfectly balanced acoustics. "Go For A Rich Man", the title track, sounded better too. Built over some monster riffs from Dvorský that are too quiet on the album but pleasingly robust live, it has a cheeky chorus that could easily emerge from your radio and let the jazz diva flirt with being a rock chick.

Krčková is not afraid to try out different styles. There was some straight-down-the-line jazz: "Why the Nights Are So Bright" is a great strum'n'brushes ballad. Other songs retain the improvisation and jazz sensibilities (this band can turn on a penny and will do so at the slightest opportunity - no hotel bar complacency here) but have a more modern and mainstream flavour. "Inner Flights" could sell to the general public if it was marketed well, and "Tattoo Girl" again veered towards a rock sound, this time with Tvrdý's guitar slipping into a harsher mode.

We got a snapshot of the future at the end of the concert, with two new songs from the upcoming project. Both were at the more accessible end of the spectrum, but the guitar - vocal duet of "I'm So Afraid To Love" brought absolute silence to the Jazz Dock audience for the first time I can remember. Ah yes... the Jazz Dock talkers. What is the serious music enthusiast to do? You can't pretend they don't exist, and you can't hit them in the face with a flaming shovel until they die. Or so I'm told.

If Vladimíra Krčková pursues her next project with the same thoroughness that she did Rich Man it is unlikely that most of these songs will get much of an airing in the near future. The show is over but the album remains, and if you want to to hear an interesting take on modern vocal jazz it is highly recommended. Her lyrics are as beautiful as they are poetic (very little "boy meets girl", lots of goings on behind closed hotel doors and being sleazed up by slimeballs) and her work is yet further evidence that the jazz scene in Prague is still real and still producing good young acts to follow in the footsteps of the established greats.

The album is easily found on Spotify or can be bought from Amazon.

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