Alf Carlsson & Jiří Kotača Quartet – Journeys

6 January 2020, 1:00

Alf Carlsson & Jiří Kotača Quartet – Journeys

While trumpeter Jiří Kotača is known to the Brno jazz audience mainly as the bandmaster of the progressive big band Cotatcha Orchestra, on his first CD he presents himself with a different formation. He had met the Swedish guitarist Alf Carlsson during his studies in the Netherlands, and then they met up again and founded their band during Alf's tourist trip to the Czech Republic. Then they invited two very talented Slovak players to a joint trip for music, drummer Kristián Kuruc and double bass player Peter Korman, who is a member of Kotača's big band. This international formation plays Kotača's and Carlsson's original compositions and gets more or less inspired by Moravian, Slovak and above all Scandinavian folklore. The album was given the name Journeys, because journeys – to music, to knowledge and to the heart of souls – are what the life of not only this band revolves around.

The album, despite being a debut, will captivate you with its maturity from the very first tones. The quartet carefully balances the melodic and rhythmic components, developing harmonic structures, and surprises you with both dynamic and tempo twists. Right in Kotača's opening track named Journeys, musicians invite us not only for an interesting journey, but also for sitting and telling strong stories. Not only here, but also in other songs, the trumpet (or flugelhorn, as the case may be) speaks in such an intense voice that it reminds of, for example Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his anti-war album Cross My Palm With Silver. Yet the inspiration resources and other references of young Europeans are based on completely different conditions and culture, and are far from the rampage in the Middle East. In other words, even inspiration from the Nordic landscape and peaceful musical friendship can bring musical unrest and urgency that move the compositions up several floors.       

In his big band Jiří Kotača has been recently experimenting with ambient electronic music. On the album Journeys, the only non-acoustic instrument remains Carlsson's guitar, which, for example, in the eight-minute track  Namida develops its range of registers from imitating an acoustic piano to sounds approaching ambient music in particular. However, the two leading instruments will also show a series of interesting interplay on the album's surface - as one of them, let's mention the staccato trumpets with responding guitar in the final track Wavelength . If you want to enjoy the intense collaboration of all four musicians, we can recommend the multi-layer composition Uummannaq Traditional Music For Lovers.            

Although every single composition on the album is intriguing with its development and its inner way, the album as a whole looks naturally integral. Not even the arrangement of the Swedish folk song Gånglåt Från Älvdalen is protruding. On the contrary, the melodic motifs of the trumpet as well as the sound of the other instruments seem to develop the authorial work of both leaders. 

In their joint debut, Jiří Kotača and Alf Carlsson succeeded in doing a thing that is not quite self-evident. They made a record on which they had no inclination to compromise, yet it is an accessible and inspiring album, not gazing just into itself. Such a musical journey is worth embarking on.  

Alf Carlsson / Jiří Kotača Quartet – Journeys. Amplion Records 2019. 7 tracks, total playtime: 48:31

Photo from archive of the artists

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