Wednesday, May 27, 2009

London Review of Emil Viklický 60

The Vortex Jazz Club in London has just published a good review of the Emil Viklický 60 live album, previously reviewed on Prague Jazz. It is good to see this special recording getting worldwide recognition. The review can be found here.

Prague Jazz and Social Media

Unless you have been sitting for the last two years with your head in a bucket of porridge (possibly in order to recreate the acoustics of Prague’s Congress Centre) you will have noticed the rise in use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Not many of the stars of the Prague jazz scene have embraced this new way of communicating yet, but if you are interested…

Prague-based Chicago bluesmaster Rene Trossman can be found on Twitter as @rtblues. His Twitter page can be found here.

Ondřej Pivec and his ORGANIC Quartet can be found on Facebook – just search for them when you are logged on.

Update 14/6/09 - There is now a Facebook group for the Robert Balzar Trio. Again, just seach for it when you are logged on. There are also pages for AghaRTA Jazz Centrum and Jazz Dock.

If by any chance you want to follow me and events at PJHQ then you can also follow me on Twitter – @TonyEmmerson.

Hopefully more of the local musicians will use social media soon. If you stumble upon any of them doing so please send me the details so I can add them here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

News: Geroge Mraz Interview on Radio Praha

Radio Praha has an interview with Jiří "George" Mraz, the Czech bass player who has received worldwide acclaim. You can read and/or listen here.

News: Diana Krall in Prague

Diana Krall will be in Prague on 26/11, playing at the Congress Centre. This is a rare chance to see the Grammy Award-winning Canadian pianist and singer in the Czech Republic. Tickets are available from Ticketpro.

It should be pointed out that the Congress Centre, while having very comfortable seats, also has acoustics that make everything sound like you are listening to it with your head in a bucket of porridge.

News: Bohemia Jazzfest 09

The programme for Bohemia Jazzfest 09 is now available on their offical website. This series of concerts is performed across the Czrch Republic, with the Prague concerts being held in Old Town Square (12, 13/7).

Full information can be found here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

CD Review: Pavla Milcová

Pavla Milcová & Tarzan Pepé
Independent / PM 02-2, 1998

And now for something a little bit different: Pavla Milcová. I first saw her perform in the spring of 2008 and, disgusted at the lack of English coverage of her work, set up Prague Jazz as a result. She was one of the most unique artists I have ever seen take the stage and continues to be so. Her infrequent appearances are on my must-see list and she never disappoints.

Milcová’s sound is distinctive and delightful, if not 100% jazz (so we don’t need any emails from jazz purists informing of us this). However there are distinctly jazzy passages, she does play in jazz clubs and at jazz festivals, she sometimes dips into the Great American Songbook, and her cohorts include the very jazzy Jaromír Honzák (acoustic bass) and Pavel Plánka (percussion). With the jazz there is a rich blend of folk and world music, expressed through a mixture of original material and inventive interpretations of (sometimes unusual) other work. Wrap all this up in a sense of fun, without losing the depth of purpose, and you have some sort of idea of what is happening here.

Of her four albums to date Pavla Milcová & Tarzan Pepé is perhaps the most consistently interesting, although all of them are definitely worth having.

The first track, “Neví se, zda odletěli” (P. Milcová), opens with low, brooding acoustic guitar and slightly sinister background effects, creating a tension that opens out into a more welcoming chorus.

Both electric and acoustic guitars on this album are provided by Milcová’s main collaborator, Peter Binder. As well as being good with the strings he is a pretty mean piano and synth player and also a sound engineer, perhaps explaining the clean sound of both their recordings and their live shows.

“Hvězda na nebi” (P. Milcová) is a sweet number with some nice violin from Tomoko Suzuki and lovely vocals. Although sung in Czech (like most of the pieces) Pavla’s voice is sufficiently interesting to be worthy of attention even if you don’t understand a single word. Expressive to the last, she jumps between high angel and low growl, throwing in the occasional giggle and yelp along the way.

“Petře!” (P. Milcová) is a more straightforward slow piece, but again with delightfully breathy vocals and some lovely legato trumpet from Michal Gera. The sinisterly named “Mr. Lurk” (P. Milcová) starts off with the sound of tea being made, possibly with a kazoo. The trademark use of kazoo is one of the more unusual aspects of Pavla’s particular musical style, and oddly enough it works. Powered by rhythmic acoustic guitar, bouncy bass and clattering percussion, it is a playground through which her vocals romp. With a kazoo.

“Rusalka”(P. Milcová) and “Otče!” (P. Milcová) both bring percussion to the fore but in very different contexts. The former is a short but hypnotic piece with vocals delivered over little but rapid percussive effects. The latter is a high-tempo romp, complete with some pleasingly fuzzy electric guitar.

Next up are two of the most unusual covers you are likely to hear on a Czech record. Scottish folksong “Silver Herring” is performed in a joyfully upbeat fashion (lyrics in English, or rather Scottish), while Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 66, set to music by Peter Binder, is a moment of delicate sadness. Binder joins in on vocals to create a duet in which both voices wind and wander around each other, separate and yet together. The sparse music brings with it a hint of darkness, and something that could have ended up sounding cheap and cheesy is in fact a highlight of the album and of their concerts.

In “Podzim” it is Czech poet Ivan Blatný who has provided the words. Having left Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup in 1948 he lived as an exile in England, including a spell in a retirement home in Clacton-on-Sea. He died in 1990 but here his words live on, again set to music by Binder. This time the duet is between acoustic guitar and forceful violin, subsiding as Milcová sings the poem unaccompanied, before resuming in mournful tone.

“Ještě že nejsou andělé” (P. Milcová / P. Binder) lifts the mood with a comparatively lush arrangement, vocals delivered as a duet, and some aggressive electric guitar from the normally restrained Binder. “Je každá vteřina originál” (P. Milcová) also utilises a fuller arrangement with dissonant and almost Spanish-themed trumpet, elastic bass from Honzák, background sound effects, and pulsing steady drums (Binder again!) Finally “Mniši & Rytíři” (P. Milcová), the last piece on the album, places the emphasis back on the singer with effective multi-tracked vocals.

There is an experimental (without entering silly territory) and celebratory feeling to this recording that makes it fit in with the spirit of jazz if not the strict definition. But then folk purists probably wouldn’t claim it as their own and it is too Western to be officially given the ultra-trendy stamp of “world music”. I would never call it pop and it really isn’t rock. It is what it is and I like it a lot. I may not know in which section to put it in a record shop but I do know that it deserves to be heard.

Artist information and mp3 samples can be found here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Superb 1974 Laco Deczi Video

If you're wondering whether you should go and see trumpeter Laco Deczi when he passes through Prague then here's a little food for thought. Winding all the way back to 1974, in a faraway country called Czechoslovakia, here's Laco and friends at the International Jazz Festival. Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

News: Vyšehraní 2009

More festival jazz can be found at this year's Vyšehraní event, where Laco Deczi will be playing with his Celula New York outfit on 6/6. This US-based Slovak trumpeter who tours internationally is always worth seeing.

The final night of the festival (17/6) has in its programme both guitarist Radim Hladík and singer Vladimír Mišík. They may not be jazzers but they are fantastic musicians and Czech icons never the less. See them if you can.

Full details can be found here.

News: Prague Proms

This summer's Prague Proms will contain a decent amount of jazz, both local and international. Highlights include regular Jazz Nights that will be held at Reduta, and the one and only Randy Brecker who will be playing at Žofín Garden on 18/7.

Full details can be found here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

GigTips: May 2009

It seemed a long time coming but the warm weather is finally here. Outdoor tables, refreshing beers, and map-gazing tourists getting underfoot… all part of the Prague spring fun. If you feel like ending your hot day in the city with a night of cool jazz then here are our recommendations for May.

At AghaRTA Jazz Centrum we will focus on two guys who balance playing in their own outfits with regularly appearing alongside some of the biggest names in Czech jazz. Pianist Ondřej Kabrna is often seen playing in the Luboš Andršt Group (5, 30/5), but in May you can also see him with his own Quartet (19/5). Similarly František “Paganini of the Bass” Uhlíř will be dropping by with his own František Uhlíř Team (17/5) as well as with the Emil Viklický Trio (15/5). Two great players, four great bands.

Fun things are happening at the new Jazz Dock, including three unique nights from Jan Kořínek & Groove with special guests Najponk (7/5), Rene Trossman (8/5) and Rostislav Fraš (9/5). This new club seems to be an exciting addition to the Prague music scene. If anyone has been there and has thoughts to offer then please contact us at PJHQ.

Finally, the velvet-voiced Eva Svobodová is one of Prague’s less frequent performers and so it is worth making the time and taking the effort to go to one of her shows, even if it is at the cash-hoover that is Reduta. She’s there on 18/5. Her voice is beautiful even if the bar prices are so very, very hateful.

This is just a brief summary of some of this month’s highlights but for a fuller picture please check out the links below. If you do go to any of the gigs listed here please tell the venue that you saw it featured on PJ, and if you take any good photos that you’d like to see on the site please do send them via email. Happy listening...