Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jazzová KLAUSura Continues...

The fifth JK concert, featuring American singer Deborah Davis, completed the 2013 programme of the former President's concert series.

Having written the programme notes for concert there is little to add in the way of a review, other than to say it was a a thoroughly professional and accomplished performance by the well-travelled singer and her Czech and Slovak band for the night. Presenting herself with flamboyance and glamour she showcased her interpretations and arrangements of classic tunes, including a seasonal encore, and was a commanding presence in the intimate auditorium that is the Autoklub.

The band, led by pianist Tomáš Jochmann, maintained that delicate balance of being sensitive to the singer's needs while at the same time keeping their own playing interesting and attractive in its own right. Young saxophonist Jan Fečo was a revelation, and is definitely a star in the making.

Bringing together musicians from around the world for one-night-only collaborations has been one of the most exciting aspects of the Jazzová KLAUSura concerts, and hopefully 2014 will bring more excellent entertainment for fans of sophisticated and unique jazz concerts in Prague.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jazzová KLAUSura 5 - Deborah Davis

The next Jazzová KLAUSura concert takes place on December 4th. I was given the honour of writing the programme notes for this event, but because the printed form will be translated into Czech I am making the original English text available here. 

December’s Jazzová KLAUSura brings together one of America’s hottest vocal jazz talents and several young stars of the Czech and Slovak jazz scene, performing together for the first time in what is going to be an intimate and elegant evening of music.

Born in 1956, Deborah moved from her home of Dallas, Texas to New York City in 1986, where she became a leading name in the vibrant Big Apple club scene. She is no stranger to large audiences either, opening for the likes of Eric Clapton, Jamie Cullum and Santana in Monte Carlo. She travels the globe extensively, frequently performing in Russia where she ventures away from the traditional tourist trails and has even toured Siberia. In her own words, music is the Universal Language and she relishes the fun and challenge of playing in new places and with new people, communicating with the band and audience through emotion as much as through the words of the songs she sings.

Following in the footsteps of powerful and charismatic American female vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Deborah has led bands featuring some of the great jazz players of her generation, including Benny Green, Delfeayo Marsalis, Cyrus Chestnut and James Williams, and has been called to the stage to jam by artists of the calibre of Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard. In 2004 she and her band were chosen by the U.S. State Department and the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC as Jazz Ambassadors travelling to Latin America with a mission of goodwill and jazz awareness.

Deborah has never been to Prague before, but its reputation as a beautiful place in a country that appreciates music has spread far and wide, and she is looking forward experiencing the city as much as we are looking forward to experiencing her performance. With a wide and varied repertoire to draw from, the one thing we can be sure of is that the music will be honest. "I don't sing many songs that have nothing to do with me, how I feel or who I am. I have to be able to relate, because I'm not acting. I'm singing my story. It doesn't matter if it's Europe, Asia, the U.S., a village of mud huts, a concert, a tour, a wedding, private event or party . I'm singing because I'm happy. I'm singing because I'm free.".

Deborah has recorded and produced three albums under her own name, “No Ways Tired”, “Only Part of Me” and “Compilation”, releasing them on her own label and presenting her interpretations of classic tunes such as “Secret Love” and “The Very Thought of You.” Her current plans involve more extensive touring to bring her music to new places and new audiences, playing both clubs and festivals. One day she hopes to have her own music club, but if that is going to keep her off the road then all fans of good vocal jazz should hope that the dream comes true later rather than sooner.

Sharing the stage with her tonight are some young men who are familiar faces on the European club and festival festival circuit as well as the Prague scene. Slovak pianist Tomáš Jochmann studied at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, developing an interest in Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music. Versatile and creative, he specialises in providing skilled and sensitive accompaniment for singers, and has recently performed with Justin Echols, Sarah Tolar and Romina Capitani. Bassist Tomáš "Kaštan" Baroš studied at the Prague College of Music, and in 2004 received one of the prized and prestigious Berklee scholarships. With over 15 years of performances under his belt he is one of the most in-demand Czech bassists of his generation. His partner-in-rhythm is another Slovak, Majo Ševcik. He has recorded and performed with small groups and big bands across Europe, as well as working alongside Baroš with Ida Kelarova and her band Jazz Famelija. He has performed at jazz festivals all over Europe and taken part in Leroy Lowe’s workshops and Juraj Bartos’ Hot House projects. In 2008, he received the “Jazzman of the Year” award,from the Music Fund of Slovakia. Also joining the band is Jan Fečo, the young saxophonist who is rapidly making a name for himself and who is definitely someone to watch in the future.

Deborah Davis has performed for a President before (American-born Reduta sax legend William J Clinton) but tonight we offer a her special welcome to the Autoklub and the unique concert experience of Jazzová KLAUSura. Sit back, relax and enjoy, because this is her story...

Tickets for the concert are available at

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jazzová KLAUSura 4 - Deczi & DePino

The fourth concert in this new series under the patronage of former President Václav Klaus featured Slovak-born trumpet maestro Laco Deczi and the latest formation of his Cellula New York band, bringing their electric mix of jazz, Latin funk and blues to the ordinarily more genteel surroundings of Prague's Autoklub. Just to make sure they got the place really rocking they also brought along Chris DePino - a chromatic harmonica player, singer and larger-than-life character - who would effectively front the band on this unique night of Deczi's extensive homeland tour.

It was encouraging to see the Autoklub floor packed and rows of faces peering down from the balcony on a night when competition came not only from the usual jazz clubs but also Wayne Shorter, who was playing down the road. With the lights down, audience seated and Mr Klaus occupying his usual front row centre position, Cellula New York (minus dePino) opened with "Plostica", a live favourite and typical of Deczi's writing and arranging; fast and intricate with flowing lines and Latin beats and the band very, very together. Michael Krásný's mastery of the six-string bass is one of the defining features of this current Cellula formation. A phenomenal young (and loud) player, his speedy fingers allow him to lead from the back and push the band through countless changes of direction.

It was starting to seem like the Krásný show when the second song opened with his new-agey played and sung solo, until it merged into the slower "Atlantic" and DePino joined the band. In an evening of frenzied instrumentals it was pleasing to hear Cellula occasionally playing a moody ballad rather than just setting off the fireworks, and they also dug out the jazz standard "Lover Man" for a few minutes of aesthetically immaculate reflection.

DePino brought with him not only his chromatic harmonica but also the showmanship and stage presence of an American performer, interacting with the audience and paying as much attention to balcony as the front rows. As a singer he delivered the meaty "American Blues" convincingly as well as showing his instrumental agility;  it is no small achievement for a harmonica player to handle the lines required by this demanding music and this demanding musician, Deczi.

Drummer Vaico Deczi (Laco's eldest son) was working overtime for most of the night, maintaining perfect precision while rattling through his father's high-speed originals, including the test of physical and mental stamina that is "Poison Bird". Together with Krásný and keyboardist Jan Aleš he created the pulsating Latin sound that got some of the ladies of the balcony dancing and rattled the windows of this intimate hall.

At first glance you'd expect 75 year old Laco Deczi to be knocking on the door asking for the noise to be turned down rather than being the key noisemaker himself. Showing little regard for the calendar he's still an excellent trumpeter, capable of playing big, fast music without a stumble. His new incarnation of Cellula, packed with young talent, has settled in and  buzzes with energy. Received with loud applause from the full house, this popular Jazzová KLAUSura concert proved this is a series that can bring electric entrainment as well as more traditional acoustic-oriented jazz to the refined music fans of Prague.

Many thanks to Chris DePino for his insight and thoughts on the concert and their setlist. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brian Charette in Prague

NYC-based and Grammy Nominated organist and pianist Brian Charette will be visiting Prague in November. He has a full and exciting schedule, including playing at 2 CD launches and a big birthday gig at Jazz Dock. Go and see him if you can.

  • Nov 18 Jazz Dock (Praha) CD release w/ Ondřej Štveráček;
  • Nov 19 Jazz Dock (Praha) w/ Steve Walsh  
  • Nov 23 Jazz Dock (Praha) w/ Otto Hejnic
  • Nov 24 Jazz Dock (Praha) Music For Organ Sextette Birthday Show
  • Nov 25 Agharta (Praha) w/ Adam Tvrdý
  • Nov 26&27 Reduta (Praha) CD Release w/ Soul Mates
  • Nov 28-30 U Maleho Glenna (Praha) in Piano Trio w/ Martin Šulc

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jazzová KLAUSura 3 is coming

The third jazz concert hosted by the former president is on September 4th at the Autoklub. There is now an official website with details of past and future concerts, and a link to buy tickets - take a look at

Monday, July 8, 2013

Intuition: Libor Šmoldas Quartet & Bobby Watson

The Czech jazz scene is a marvellous place. If it wasn't you probably wouldn't be reading this website and I certainly would not be writing it. But scenes, bands and individual musicians need external influences if they are going to grow and develop. Without fresh ideas and fresh perspectives there is staleness and stagnation rather than excitement and innovation. Sometimes that fresh perspective is found by going abroad, whether for an extended stay or for shorter tours or scholarships, and sometimes it is found by bringing in players from around the world and integrating them into existing outfits. The Libor Šmoldas Quartet have plenty of miles on the tour clock, but by hooking up with Bobby Watson for a tour and studio album they've propelled themselves to the next level. Both the band and the recording are deserving of global attention.

Bobby Watson, a wizard of the alto sax who honed his craft in the demanding school of excellence that was Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, first encountered the Czech band at a party at a North Carolina jazz festival. The fit was right, and after a tour back in Europe the band, now as much a true Quintet as a Quartet plus guest, went into the studio to record Intuition. That was in 2012, and on July 1st 2013 the album was officially "christened" with ritual champagne at the Prague Proms, mid-way through a concert that brought joy and the "wow factor" in equal amounts to the prestigious Hybernia theatre.

Focusing on their new album they also provided continuity by including the Bobby Timmons piece "Moanin'", which had appeared as a bonus track on Libor's recent live album 18 days 2000 miles. There is no point trying to describe Watson's playing other than to say it was as good as you would expect it to be from one of the great living jazzmen. Every note was perfectly formed, every note told a story. He played like the devil when it was the right thing to do, before sitting down to add subtle ornamentation or take a few seconds of silent contemplation. His attention to detail was the hallmark of a true master, and some of his interactions with Šmoldas's were sublime. It was also clear how much he was enjoying the experience, especially towards the end of the set when he revisited the champagne table at the side of the stage to get some of the surplus left over from the album celebration, and frequently interacted with the members of the band as friends, not sidemen.

Of the new material, both on the CD and on the night, the delicate "Letter Home" (Šmoldas) is perhaps the most beautiful. Dedicated to his wife and children when he is away, this is where the connection between guitar and sax sounds at its most telepathically sensitive. Never mind the tempo, feel the quality. This is no collection of ballads though. "Side Steps" is a Watson piece, adapting elements of the similarly named Coltrane masterpiece, and "Off the Playground" (Šmoldas) is a fun slice of groove. "Twists and Turns" (Šmoldas) hints at jazz-rock, but thankfully stops short of full fusion silliness, and "Ferry Tale" (Šmoldas) is an unabashed tip of the hat to Art Blakey's legendary outfit. Drummer Tomáš Hobzek is up to the task here as elsewhere, with a light, busy touch that places interest and invention over raw power. Underpinning the lot is the acoustic bass of Josef Fečo, whose live performances seem to get more exuberant on a weekly basis. His solos are whole body events that would keep a demanding rock crowd amused, never mind jazz fans who do not expect much in the way of spectacle, and they always go down a storm. These are no cheap tricks though, and he is a bassist of quality who is very much one of the stars of his generation.

Pianist Petr Beneš sometimes got lost in the live mix, but can be heard clearly on the album. His own composition, "5:15 In The Morning" is a wistful little tune and gives Watson the backdrop for an especially soaring improvisation. Not everyone in the band can fit under the spotlight at the same time, but if you listen to what he is playing under the others he is important in the overall texture of the sound.

There were few, if any, left unmoved in the Prague Proms audience by the time the band were through. Some overwhelming names can be underwhelming in their presence, but Watson had the unmistakable aura of legend about him and it emanated from his playing, not an ego. The most satisfying thing for anyone who cares about the local branch of the jazz world was that his presence was bringing the best out of the rest of the band, bringing them into his light rather than overshadowing them. His respect and fondness for these young men from a country a long way from Kansas makes the music feel good. I hope the promo guys in the States and the UK are going to run with this one, and that Watson continues to mentor the band from within. The potential is huge.

Intuition was released on NEW PORT LINE (NPL 0013-04) and more information can be found here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gig Review: Jazzová KLAUSura 2 (Anders Bergcrantz and Najponk Trio)

Autoklub České Republiky

Former Czech president Václav Klaus's concert series continued in June with another combination of international and CZ-based musicians. While his successor plays kingmaker in Prague's unfolding political crisis, and the Castle terrace seems to be turning into just another music venue with no direct input or interest from the man himself, there is something reassuring about seeing Klaus and his circle of familiar faces gathering to enjoy an evening of quality jazz. And enjoy they really do: if it wasn't for the close protection officer sitting behind him and his speech at the start, the ex-president would be indistinguishable from any other devoted fan. Front row centre seat, clapping in the right places and generally digging the band, these are not token appearances. Nothing ruins a gig atmosphere like a front row of bored VIPs (apart from talkers of course), but there is no danger of that in what is now effectively the personal jazz club of a retired statesman.

Anders Bergcrantz, the award-winning trumpeter from Malmö, Sweden, was paired up with local pianist  Najponk and his Trio. Najponk (born Jan Knop in Soviet-era Ukraine) brought with him bassist Taras Voloshchuk, also originally from Ukraine, and British drummer Matt Fishwick. Both Najponk and Voloshchuk have been on the Czech scene for many, many years, and the bassist is best known to many as a member of folk-rock festival darlings Čechomor. British star Fishwick, like his trumpeting brother Steve, is seen in Prague more often than you'd expect a Mancunian musician to be, and in 2012 played on Najponk's The Real Deal.

The Real Deal was a straight-ahead swinging jazz album, and that pretty much describes the way this band played with Bergcrantz too. Apart from some occasional deliberately incongruous tones and squeaks from the trumpeter they steered clear of the avant-garde and spent an hour and a half banging out interesting standards with style and panache, adding their own twists and flavours through the improvisations and keeping the audience attentive and keen without frightening them or taking them to dark places. It was a concert that felt good, felt happy, and felt like it was fun for them as well as us.

The revelation of the evening was Voloshchuk. Čechomor are a tight band, and he also play the blues - he is a regular sideman for Rene Trossman and Rene doesn't carry passengers - but jazz? Pure, swinging, bopping jazz? It turns out he can do it, and surprisingly well. His other lives did poke through, and there was plenty of punch and groove in there, but also the finesse and feel needed to be a true jazzer. Najponk was in his element serving up classic songs and hard bop ("Blue Monk" cooked most pleasingly), and towards the end they were joined on stage by Osian Roberts, the Welsh tenor saxophonist who also regularly plays in Prague. Roberts has the ability to play intricate and frantic improvisations while standing totally still in a pose of near meditation. The fingers do all the talking.

Bergcrantz did play one of his own pieces. "Slow Food", named after the movement that is to fast food what jazz is to chart pop, came with a sweet hook and a lively pulse, and certainly was no poor cousin. The only real criticism of the concert would be that such a talented composer should be showcasing more of his own compositions, but then a one-off set with limited rehearsal time and a prestigious audience is perhaps not the best place to start taking too many risks.

It was a pleasure seeing Bergcrantz in Prague, and in an environment where his virtuoso skills could be appreciated by a knowledgeable, polite and engaged audience. He really made that horn sing with feeling, rather than just say cold words very fast. Like many things in the Czech Republic (schools, normal public transport timetables, long skirts) Jazzová KLAUSura is on hiatus for the summer months of July and August, but will be returning in September when Castle favourite Milan Svoboda comes to the Autoklub. Ticket details will be posted when we have them. These are unique concerts, unlike anything I've ever experienced before. Half state occasion, half club gig. A diverse audience of politicians, celebrities, Czechs and occasional foreign tourists are brought together by the common bond of music and a reasonably priced bar. It's anything but ordinary, and that's why you should go.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

News: Paul Desmond Biography

Acclaimed writer Doug Ramsey has been a friend of Czech jazz for many years, giving the scene here valuable international attention and reminding his vast US audience that jazz is not only an American phenomenon.

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond has sold out in hardback format but is now available as an e-book. Find out more about the book, read some reviews, and order it here:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

CD Reviews: George Mraz and Martina Fišerová

Two new CDs found their way to PJHQ last week. Both are by duos, both feature a Czech and a non-Czech, and both have a story behind them. Both are worth a listen.

Unison is the new album by George Mraz and English pianist Zoe Rahman. It was recorded live in 2012 on a UK trip that seemed to involve as much fishing as it did playing. The liner notes are split between the two preoccupations, and the positive effect of the riverside pursuit is evident in the music. It is an intimate, easy performance, and he is as at peace with his improvisations as he would be by the riverbank with a fly box and a haul of trout.

Just performing with piano and bass leaves a lot of empty spaces, which neither musician attempts to fight away with tedious overplaying. That's not to say that they are taking it easy, because the most certainly aren't. Mraz really cooks on his own composition, "Wisteria", bouncing melody and rhythm out of his instrument with great intensity. "Three Silver Hairs" is a Mraz original, but the sound is very similar to the wistful Moravian folk melodies that he has exported to the USA, and Emil Viklický's strident arrangement of the traditional "Pennyroyal" is faithfully executed by rising star Rahman. She has one original on the album too, "April Sun", proving herself a partner in this venture rather than a mere accompanist, and Mraz plays on her piece with the same conviction he shows on his own.

What gives this album something special is that the musical relationship worked, and it worked instantly and spontaneously. They met for the first time that day, and a few hours later pulled off a together and (no pun intended) unified performance. You can sense that something special was happening, and that is what makes this recording interesting. That sense of event, as well as a sense of creative joy, runs through the whole thing. That makes it worth listening to, in addition to the quality of the playing. They try, they take risks, they fly.

Another record, this time by a lesser known artist, also has an interesting background. Clearing Fields was recorded by Czech vocalist Martina Fišerová and American organist and pianist Brian Charette. Her biography is impressive, but this is the first thing she's put out in her own name. They first met 20 years before recording this album, and Brian's liner notes speak of a special chemistry in their act. Whether it was insight or wishful thinking I do not know, but they were to get together shortly afterwards. Thankfully this is the recording of two people who weren't quite at that point yet, so the feelings are present but mostly under the surface, rather than spewing out as a sickly sweet voyeuristic honeymoon document.

It is mainly an assortment of standards ("My Favourite Things"? Check. "I Got Rhythm"? Check.) but it has a certain charm. Fišerová sings clearly in English with just enough of a European accent to make it cute, which is infinitely better than than the attempt to sound 'Transatlantic' that is attempted all too often. Charette is perfectly capable on both piano and organ, and while he never really lets rip and lets it all hang out it is also no snooze-fest. There is one one original on the album, "Song for Brian" with words and music by Fišerová, and its actually rather good. It also has some acoustic guitar which helps give the sound some of the diversity that is lacking elsewhere. Jazz pop? Folk jazz? Either way it's cool, and if this is the sort of stuff she is capable of writing then I hope there is more on the way.

Clearing Fields is a charming little album. It doesn't set the world on fire but then very little does, and some of the things that do are napalm and atomic bombs so it is not always a great thing. It is, however, two talented people doing some songs together like it actually matters. If they are going to go on and do more of their own, more adventurous, music, then that's a great place from which to start.

Unison by George Mraz and Zoe Rahman is out on Cube-Metier: MJCD 21250 

Clearing Fields is out on Blue Season: BS 002-2

Friday, June 7, 2013

Benefit Concert for Jazz Dock

Next week there will be a benefit concert for Jazz Dock, the Prague riverside venue that was badly hit during the recent floods. If you go you will not only be supporting a good cause, but you will also be seeing some great musicians in action.

Jazz Dock will be closed at least until the end of June.

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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jazz After The Castle

Lew Tabackin and the Emil Viklický Trio
Autoklub České Republiky

As President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus may have irritated the environmentalists but he delighted his fellow jazz lovers by hosting monthly concerts at Prague Castle. There were 90 Jazz na Hradě concerts in all, performed in the Castle state rooms and gardens, where some of the biggest names in world jazz performed alongside the cream of the Czech scene. While lacking the closeness and informality of club gigs, these prestigious showcases demonstrated Klaus's personal commitment to the music, and the associated sponsorship allowed a Prague audience to see players who would otherwise be unlikely to drop by. They also had the advantage that even the densest of tourists understood that this was a concert, not an opportunity to talk loudly and eat crisps, and so music could occur against a blank sonic canvas, not a symphony of morons.

New President Miloš Zeman has not continued with Jazz na Hradě but the concept, the logo, some of the organisers and the man himself have relocated. Under the title of Jazzová KLAUSura, the new concert series kicked off at the Autoklub České Republiky with American flute and tenor sax maestro Lew Tabackin. He needed a band to play with, and when the Czech Republic needs a pianist you know that Emil Viklický will probably get a phone call. With Petr Dvorský on acoustic bass and Tomáš Hobzek on drums, Tabackin had a band with which he could speak the language of music even if he couldn't pronounce their surnames.

It worked. This Czech trio were able to keep up with Tabackin through his own compositions as well as the standard songbook, and while he was the star of the show he also had star quality behind him too. The originals included "Desert Lady", the title track of his 1990 album held together with evocative flute work, and the hard swinging and smile-inducing "B flat". There were a couple of superb Duke Ellington interpretations, "Self Portrait (of the Bean)" and "Sunset and the Mocking Bird", which were performed with exuberance and panache, his virtuoso improvisations stretching out far beyond the recorded originals. Stalking around, stamping the stage and generally being cool, this was ninety minutes of music that started well and got even better as the band played itself in.

Everybody got some time in the solo spotlight and nobody abused it. Hobzek is maturing into an excellent drummer, making good on the potential he showed when he was with the Organic Quartet, Dvorský is one of the must-have bass names working in the country at the moment, and Emil is Emil. As much as we love his usual concerts it is always interesting to see a musician you know well doing something completely different, and it is unusual to see him in the role of sideman. He provided sophisticated but unselfish accompaniment, listening and responding to Tabackin, and that connection made the show so much more than just a star and some hired hands.

The Autoklub is smaller than the halls of Prague Castle, but what is lost in swank is gained in intimacy. Klaus had a smaller entourage and he was happily talking to people before and after the music. The lone protection officer stayed out of the way, enjoying his earpiece and radio, and while there were still some VIPs they were there for the music rather than to be seen and photographed. The machinery around Jazzová KLAUSura is just starting up. Hopefully there will be a web page soon, and a bit more promotion. It would have been easy for Klaus and the organisers to look back at almost a hundred Castle gigs and decide that it was time for the music to stop. Jazz enthusiasts in Prague should be happy that this did not happen, and although the new setting is less glamorous it may well turn out to provide an even better experience for the true music fan.

Concert for Milan Peroutka

I am normally happy to promote gigs, but this one is a sad occasion. Drummer Milan Peroutka, perhaps best known for his work with Czech rock band Olympic, also played with jazz-rock outfit Q-Rats. He died on May 4th, and Robin Finesilver and the remaining Q-Rats will be playing a tribute concert for their friend in June.

Details of the concert can be found here.