The Jazz Groove Brno festival will take place in several venues in Brno from 2 October to 5 December 2018. With its director Josef Buchta we talk not just about this year’s programme but primarily about the new name and the new content of the event, which you can learn more about at groovebrno.cz.
Jazz Groove Brno is a new name on the Brno festival scene, but the event itself has a history …
Yes, the name is new but it is taking place for what is already the eleventh year. Until now the festival was known as Moravia Music Fest but we decided to rename it after the tenth year. In Brno there is already the excellent and clearly profiled festival JazzFestBrno and many other events are held here. At the same time the organisers of some festivals, which have yet to even begin, are claiming that they are or will be, the best. Rather than engage in this debate, are aware that first it is necessary to build something and to achieve something. It is said that after ten years things break, which I also felt with B-Side Band. And I was also aware of it with our festival.
How did you arrive at the new name?
The changes were preceded by long consideration of where we want to go, what we want to offer Brno, where exactly is our place … After all the efforts to set out what we enjoy and where our strengths lie, we came up with the term groove. Everyone can think what they like from this word, but to me it is the motor, the basis, drums and bass, what propels or pulses. Obviously associated with this is jazz, which we also have in the name. We concern ourselves with jazz, but we add to that various related styles – funk, R&B, soul… That is where we have our place and it is what we understand. The third word in the name is Brno, because Brno is where we hold the festival.
Over this last ten years the festival has changed a great deal. Did you have any idea at the beginning how it would develop in the end?
The first year was built around the Jazz Mass by Jaromír Hnilička. We played it in churches throughout South Moravia – in Strážnice, Hodonín, Vyškov, Znojmo and I believe there were three concerts in Brno. In order to be able to make it happen, I arranged everything under the heading of a festival. At the same time I began to gain experience and discovered that I enjoy it. In the third year the event moved to being only in Brno and began to be a festival in the classical sense. In the further years we learned more and moved on. Last year the festival reached its peak and I decided to close that chapter and open a new one. With this is associated the change in name which clearly defined and placed it. And we are convinced that this year’s line-up is the best and purest in the whole existence of the festival. It sets a direction in which we want to continue.
What was most demanding in the rebranding?
Primarily the contemplation, the effort to find ourselves. It was team work with a clear task: Let’s define, let’s have each of us say who we are. And the new name had to provide an umbrella for it all and take us further. One needs a new impulse, a push. When you organise a festival you have to be an enthusiast. All of us in the office welcomed the change – it gave us enormous energy for the coming years.
From that I sense that it is not just about the name change you’ve described, but also possibly about you deliberately closing off several of the pathways that you previously tried.
Some of the pathways we truly want to close off and to profile ourselves rather in groove and fusion. I see it as great good fortune and a gift from god that in one year we have so many wonderful groups. I said to myself that we must have done something to deserve having all these great stars in one autumn. It is a coming together of various circumstances and chances.
Let us take a look at this year’s participants. The programme opens on 2 October in the Boby Centre with Al McKay’s Earth, Wind & Fire Experience.
Yes, it is a legendary group, even if those in the know are aware that they divided into two entities that do not see eye to eye. Specifically, Al is the guitarist and producer off the greatest hits of Earth, Wind & Fire, such as for example September, and is himself the holder of six Grammy Awards. He is bringing with him original members of Earth, Wind & Fire, while other musicians are from the group Tower Of Power or from Prince or Quincey Jones. I am looking forward to it as I grew up with this music. It is positive music, which gives energy, and at the same time it is thought out and timeless. It will be one of the high points of the festival.
Another two concerts will belong to your B-Side Band, Vojtěch Dyk and the guest singers Ondřej G. Brzobohatý and Ondřej Ruml. You are promising a “unique set”. In what way? And will both concerts, on 3 and 4 October, be the same?
Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Dean Martin at some point made up the trio of The Rat Pack. That appealed to Vojta and both Ondřejs and said that they would like to try something similar with the B-Side Band. I am interested to see how they cope with this role. I am looking forward to it and I am sure it will be an experience. Both concerts will have the same programme and it will also be performed twice in Prague’s La Fabrice.
One of the previous years of Moravia Music Fest was focused on big bands. This year as part of Jazz Groove Brno, alongside your B-Side Band there will be two swing orchestras and that will even be on one evening, on 6 October.
Ondřej Havelka and his Melody Makers and the Bratislava Hot Serenaders will be competing. These two ensembles will be having a Czech-Slovak battle of the big bands. Both orchestras will appear at the same time on one stage and will hit back and forth songs like ping-pong balls, and so compete for the attention of the audience.
The group Carpet Cabinet comes from a different musical world and for me personally it is one of the major discoveries of recent times. They add elements of hip-hop and electronic dance music to jazz and groove.
We always also give space to young groups at the festival. Carpet Cabinet is a Czech-Slovak formation, which got together and plays in Brno. When I first heard them I was aware of their huge potential. I am a fan – it is a group which has in itself the energy to go further than just Brno’s club scene. And for audiences it will interesting to hear how young people make music today.
Then on 22 October the American group Yellowjackets will be playing in Metro Music Bar …
Yes, the holders of two Grammy Awards. We have jazz in the name of the festival and for me the jazz saxophonist Bob Mintzer, who plays in the Yellowjackets, is an icon. On the other hand the Yellowjackets are not just about jazz; it is also again groove, music full of colours, variety and directions. They have been playing in various line-ups since 1977 and is one of the groups I grew up with. The Yellowjackets were among the first I included in this year’s programme as an ideal piece of the jigsaw.
Dirty Loops from Sweden are on the other hand a relatively young group.
And for me I have great expectations of them – I am really looking forward to them. However we have also been trying to get this group to the Czech Republic for three years. The instrumental skills of the musicians and the technical facility of the singer, who sings like something between Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, brought me to my knees. Even though they have only been playing for a short period they are already conquering the world’s stages. We are the first to get them to the Czech Republic which is a source of pride to me.
Ondřej Pivec, who on 7 November is presenting his American group Kennedy Administration, has already played in Metro. And among other things he also has a Grammy.
I am really glad for him and very proud of him. Ondřej, among other things also a native of Brno, played for us earlier as part of his Czech project. Now he plays with the jazz giant Gregory Porter and with him he also won a Grammy Award. For us musicians this is the biggest prize in the world. At our festival Ondra is coming with the group Kennedy Administration, in which he is one of the important members, alongside the singer Kennedy. I was really happy when he offered me this concert. It will be their first performance in Brno in this line-up.
While Kennedy Administration and Dirty Loops are coming to Brno for the first time, the group Electro Deluxe has already played at your festival. Why have you decided to invite them again?
This group, made up of top French musicians and the American singer James Copley, has already played twice in Metro Music Bar and I have fallen in love with them. We became friends and now we are even planning to prepare a joint programme with the B-Side Band. The line-up at the festival shows that they can’t be missing this year either. I think they will come with something new.
The closing concert has the title Tribute to Radim Hladík and Blue Effect. What should we expect?
About a year before his death, Radim Hladík, who was a friend, invited me to work with him. With B-Side Band we were really busy, and so I put it off for another year. Unfortunately we didn’t make it. I mourned for him. For that reason I decided to organise a commemorative concert and dedicate it to Radim and the group Blue Effect in arrangement by Zdenek Novák. There will be a forty-member orchestra made up of B-Side Band, a string orchestra taken from players in the Brno Philharmonic and the Czech Ensemble Baroque choir. Honza Křížek, Roman Dragoun and others will also be performing. The most famous songs of the group Blue Effect will be heard, but in completely different clothing.
While the conclusion of the festival and the Electro Deluxe concert will take place in the Sono Centre, several concerts will take place in Metro Music Bar, which you co-own. Not long ago the club celebrated its tenth birthday and it interested me that there, alongside rock and jazz there are also folk concerts. What music now best suits Metro?
We started with folk about a year ago, and as the first from this genre there was a performance from Cimbálová Muzika Harafica, which I love. I am a trumpeter, but the cimbalom is my favourite. I was never that keen on brass band music. The club was completely sold out for Harafica. We began to have folk music more regularly and a few days ago it was once again full for Musica Folklorica. Metro is not just a rock club. Jazz is played there and folk also has its place. We avoid hip-hop and electronica – there are other clubs for that. We go for live music.