Jazz Legends Give Concerts at Na Provázku and in Sono

13 April 2017, 13:00
Jazz Legends Give Concerts at Na Provázku and in Sono

In the week before Easter JazzFest entered its second half. Another series of concerts linking various forms of jazz from traditional through jazz-rock to funk begun with an evening of Brno and Prague jazz legends in CED Husa na provázku and followed by a double concert of the Jiří Šimek guitar trio and the stellar Poogie Bell Band with their unmistakeable (and resounding) frontman on his drum kit.

This imaginary duel of Brno and Prague jazz legends was initiated in a confident and joyful fashion by the traditional jazz formation of the double-bass player Vincenc Kummer, who certainly did not take his return to his native Brno as an opportunity to relax. He is still giving concerts, has brought out several CDs, for example with the variable line-up Two Generation Trio, and he recently published his readable book of memories and anecdotes from life as a musician entitled Medvědí stopou (Bear Tracks). Due to illness the wind multi-instrumentalist Svatobor Macák and Ctibor Hliněnský, who was replaced by the young talent Kristian Kuruc on drums, were missing from the announced line-up. This did not stop the trio of seventy-somethings from enjoying playing with the support of a drummer some three generations younger. In the introduction Vincenc Kummer paid tribute to his spiritual jazz father Ray Brown with his own version of his work F. S. R. (For Sonny Rollins), the guitarist Milan Kašuba gave his homage to Rodgers and Hart’s hit My Funny Valentine and Miroslav Hanák revived Bécaud’s hit What Now, My Love from the pen of Pierre Delanoe. To conclude the opening set they all came together on a brisk version Isham Jones’s It Had To Be You. Then it was time for their guests – Kummer’s fellow students from the conservatory and for many years fellow players in various Brno jazz groups, fresh from celebrating their seventy-fifth birthdays, Jan Dalecký and Mojmír Bártek. In memory of another legend – the trumpeter Jaromír Hnilička and the historic line-up of the Gustav Brom Big Band – the composition Hřebenovka was performed and Bártek’s trombone and Dalecký’s violin gently completed the set. There followed a set with the Slovak guest singer Peter Lipa and the peaceful evening of traditional jazz continued uninterrupted with Satchmo’s On the Sunny Side of the Street, Carmichael’s popular Georgia On My Mind, then Just Squeeze Me by Duke Ellington and the symbolic song Let The Good Times Roll  by Sam Theard at the conclusion. It was a pleasure to listen to these gentlemen in their later years, playing (and singing) despite that in excellent form and without the need for empty display.               

After the break there was the expected jazz-rock thrashing: Martin Kratochvíl and the revived legend of the Prague jazz scene from the 1970s Jazz Q, whose Brno concerts (as Kratochvíl himself nostalgically recalled) packed the listeners into Semilasso. In the mid-80s the group, which was together with Blue Effect the most progressive here, fell silent for almost forty years and Martin Kratochvíl concerned himself with a large number of musical and non-musical activities such as the interweaving of film-making and mountaineering. Their resurrection was marked by the respectfully received new album Znovu (2013), and last year there was the less enthusiastically reviewed CD and vinyl Talisman (2016). The current composition of Jazz Q offers unquestionable playing quality. Alongside the leader and exclusive author of their repertoire Martin Kratochvíl on the piano it is made up of the excellent guitarist Zdeněk Fišer and the precise bass guitar sideman and master of slap Přemysl Faukner. Against their return album Znovu there has been one change in their make-up. On the drums Ladislav Vajec Deczi was replaced by the group’s baby Filip Jeníček. The concert set at Na Provázku offered pieces from both of their latest albums (Znovu – Cindy, Zdroje tu jsou, Potopa, Čundrácké blues, Talisman – Drobnolistý kvítek, tec.). From the stomping and evidently well-prepared set emanated the evident inspiration of Kratochvíl’s examples John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock. Everything went together, the musicians put everything into it at full tempo, cascades of keyboard solos alternating with guitar riffs. The excellent work on stage however lacked a certain lightness, perspective and the experience of sharing the fun with the audience. The greatest sense of being at ease with the audience was communicated by the guest Imran Musa Zangi with his brilliantly controlled percussion in the style of Airto Moreira. Unfortunately they did not present their earlier taken for granted attractive and endless musical ideas, which burst forth from their albums in the previous century. All the way through to the end (with the exception of the endearing musical motifs of Drobnolistý kvítek) the concert built up layers in the spirit of film music. Eventually there came illumination like a flash of lightning from a musical pearl – the strong, inventive and brilliantly played Toledo, a concluding reminder of the supreme era of the legendary Jazz Q and their album Elegie from 1976.                                                                                        

The double concert in the Sono Centre was kicked off by the three-man line-up of guitarist (and composer and sound engineer) Jiří Šimek. After many years of somewhat inconspicuous playing with Milan Svoboda from Kontrabanda, as a member of the Nuselský umělecký orchestr or the respected Limbo, he is now part of the five-member Prague experimental jazz ensemble Muff, which is the domain of Marcel Bárta and Jakub Zítek. So five years ago Šimek found his own field of authorial activity in his own Czech-Slovak group the Jiří Šimek Trio. Both his co-players, otherwise members of the crossover formation and wonderfully empathic sidemen Dan Šoltis (drums) and Rasťo Uhríka (bass guitar) were great choices. They worked brilliantly together on sophisticated arrangements of his own works inspired by a palette not only from the jazz genre including blues, drum’n’bass and funk, but also reworking of the popular cult groups Nirvana and Depeche Mode (Enjoy the Silence). Their own repertoire exhibits inventiveness as well as irony and perspective (Cluster Headache and the concluding dark-toned Libanon full of ominous ostinato). They entertained even if slightly gratingly, with the ironic Play Country. The initial stomping rhythm in the style of Johnny Cash’s backing group the Tennessee Three, gradually became a parody of all country music’s rhythmic and melodic clichés without their own ideas. This trio with its wonderful playing and colourful creative potential is despite this worthy of attention not just from festival audiences.                                                                                                        

Anyone who came to listen to Poogie Bell, the respected legend of the New York jazz scene, probably the most versatile contemporary drummer and much sough-after studio sideman across the musical genres, certainly left excited. Family predestination (as son of the jazz pianist and bandleader Charles Bell he made his debut with his father’s Contemporary Jazz Quartet in the famous Carnegie Hall at two and a half, and by five was playing concerts regularly) determined his musical career. He played from his early years with the best jazz musicians and family friends Ron Carter and Ornette Coleman or their neighbour Paul Chambers. During his musical education in New York he made friends with the future jazz elite: Omar Hakim, Lenny White and his long-term colleague Marcus Miller. Even in today’s Poogie Bell Band there is his comrade and fellow player from his childhood, the guitarist Bobby Broom, and their peer is also the exceptional Slovak bass guitarist Juraj Griglák, who Poogie has worked with for a long time on his European tours.  Poogie’s evident respect for his fellow musicians in the group (which can be seen also from the careful placing of all four names alongside each other of the posters) also applies to their youngest colleague, the saxophonist and singer Mike Stephenson, who brilliantly complements and balances the trio of fifty-year-olds.                                                                                                          

It is an exceptional experience to see a drummer not only as a clear an unmistakable bandleader, but also as a confident frontman, controlling his drums and the whole composition without one superfluous move, only using his sticks and non-verbal communication with his fellow players. At first it seemed that in the loudness of the performance he would overdo it (in the introductory Graduation Day), but quickly the dominant frontman became an excellent sideman in the works of his colleagues (Ds Blues by Bobby Broom and Time To Fly of Juraj Griglák with its imposing bass solo). The following Tennessee Waltz slightly fell apart but the musicians quickly pulled it together and brought it successfully to a close. And then there was a surprise: Mike Stephenson performed like a virtuoso charismatic gospel singer with a carrying colourful voice. He carried away the listeners with a masterful interpretation of the song A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke and then he quickly recalled Stevie Wonder in a magnificent version of Jesus Children of America. As there third piece the musicians played with the Beatles. Lennona and McCartney’s Blackbird was given a decent funk jacket including a vocal part (Stephenson of course). It was impossible to miss the way in which the whole quartet listened to and naturally understood each other without words. Poogie really enjoyed Mike’s success as a singer and nodded appreciatively after each successful solo. This sixty-minute concert passed very quickly, but fortunately the Poogie Bell added a couple of encores. In Goose Bumps, a work by another of Poogie’s erstwhile colleagues, the bass guitarist Victor Bailey, Juraj Griglák excelled with a virtuoso slap bass solo and in the last song by Jim Morrison Light My Fire the performance of the band culminated in a cool valedictory solo by Poogie Bell winning a standing ovation.                                                                                                   

At the conclusion of the concert it was clear that Poogie Bell knows how to build up the mood and also how to enjoy the respect and applause of an enthusiastic audience. They were able to recognise the excellent drumming, as well as the clear and communicated and undimmed by the years of performing joy from music making, which he shares with his colleagues and the audience. The Brno concert will be followed by a short tour of Slovakia. I would recommend it to anyone who did not make the concert in Brno. After his return to the States Poogie Bell is promising a new disc. Those that he brought to the concert sold like hot cakes.

For the opening concert of the 20th anniversary season of the Špilberk Festival yesterday, the Brno Philharmonic chose a dramaturgy consisting of proven as well as lesser-known pieces. The subtitle Romantic Carnival immersed all evening in the carnival spirit associated with celebrations before the carnival opening. The aim of the programme was to characterize the period of merriment, celebrations and masks by compositions that tell with their mood about this period of the year. The almost full-up castle courtyard had the opportunity to enjoy an unpretentious and appealing programme, which also with its lower temperature more easily approached that cold carnival period.       more

As a UNESCO-listed city of music, Brno has had four festival days full of music and dance. Tens of concerts and performances with hundreds of performers took place at twenty-two music venues. Music in the streets sounded on every corner, but most attention this year was attracted by four rooms by the artist Kateřina Šedá, in which artists of different genres and nationalities took turns. Another attraction was the performances of the British Motionhouse and No Fit State Circus, who repeatedly enchanted the Náměstí Svobody Square with their acrobatic pieces and breathtaking performances. Two large stages were also set up – Dominik Stage on Dominikánské Square and Django Stage on Malinovského Square, on which appeared artists such as Jana Kirschner, Monika Bagárová, minus123minutes or Jan P. Muchow & The Antagonists. Traditionally, the festival was accompanied by the sound of barrel organs whose players met in Brno as part of their 10th international meeting. This year, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tinatin Tsereteli (Hannover) and violinist Nicola Manzan (Bologna) as artists from UNESCO partner cities of music also premiered at the Brno Music Marathon. The atmosphere of the festival is captured in the video below.  more

Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou is a festival standing out with its dramaturgy, structure and atmosphere. Every season has its own theme, every evening has its own theme, and even some individual performances have their own themes. The long-time programme director Michal Schmidt managed this year to excellently balance Czech premiéres and truly extraordinary projects with reappearances and sure bets. This year's theme of Folkové prázdniny was About the Soul; however, this week-long event has its soul every year.  more

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One of the musicians who will appear at Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou as part of a special programme called Harfy nad Oslavou [Harps upon Oslava], is the Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda. In Náměšť, he will also give a solo recital as part of an evening called O duši s lehkostí i naléhavostí [About Soul with Lightness and Urgency]. In our telephone conversation – we called him to New York where he lives – we talked to Edmar Castañeda, for example, about a harp specially constructed according to his requirements, or about his cooperation with the Czech singer Marta Töpferová.  more

The Olomouc Baroque Festival has begun. In the local Jesuit Convent the seventh year of the festival opened with the modern premiere of the serenata Il tribunale di Giove by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf. The work was first performed at the birthday celebrations for the Prussian King Frederick the Great on 27 January 1775 and after a repeat in Wroclaw in 1777 it fell into oblivion. The Ensemble Damian decided to reverse this unfortunate fate, and led by the ensemble’s artistic director and director Tomáš Hanzlík they attempted to revive the work. Appearing in the solo roles were Leandro Lafont (Fate and Apollo), Kristýna Vylíčilová (the Genius of Europe and Minerva), Lucie Kaňková (Time and Fortune), Monika Jägerová (Jupiter) and Jakub Rousek (Mars). The costumes and backdrops were designed by the director Hanzlík.  more

The Slunce [Sun] Festival in Strážnice will be held for the twentieth time this year. Especially lovers of folk music and classical big beat have  marked the dates of 12th and 13th July in their calendars. We talked to the director of the Slunce Festival Pavel Kopřiva about the history of the festival, its top moments and hardships, as well as what this year's festival season will be like.  more

The end of the first school-holiday week was carried in the spirit of celebrations. The 7th of July in fact falls on the birthday of Alena Veselá, a prominent Brno organist and a professor at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), who celebrated an impressive age of 96 years on that day. The concert, organised particularly for this jubilee, was also the final event of the 39th Brno Organ Festival and as a celebration of the birthday of its founder (and now patron of the whole show), it already has a strong position in the festival programme.  more

We live in a free democratic society, in which the role of the state is to create the environment and conditions for the development of creativity and creative potential, being aware that today's living art creates cultural heritage for the future.  more

Last weekend, the 74th Strážnice International Folklore Festival 2019 as well as the 37th Strážnice Children's Folklore Festival were held in the South Moravian Mecca of folklore. The biggest folklore festival in the Czech Republic enjoys great interest and it wasn't  any different this year either, despite tropical temperatures, with tens of thousands of people coming back to Strážnice again.  more

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Jiří Orten, the company ProArt prepared a multi-genre project called Ohnice – Where the Wind Is Dancing in the former Brno penitentiary on Cejl Street. The poetic production with verses of the young poet, which reflected his hard and short life, was premiered on 25 June.  more

The twenty-fourth season  of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival came to an end after almost a month of rich musical experiences. Musical works, thematically labelled as the Concert of Nations, guided the festival visitors around thirteen picturesque Moravian towns and gave them a taste of key musical works of (not only) European nations. All this was moreover served in the interpretation of more than twenty world-famous ensembles. With the conscious transnational, cross-border concept overreaching the Czech border, the festival organizers chose the Golden Hall of the renowned Musikverein Concert House as a suitable venue for the closing evening. The extraordinary finals of the 24th season opened thus a series of Concerts of Czech-Austrian Partnership and at the same time announced  the celebration of the festival's quarter of a century to be celebrated next year. In accordance with this symbolic overture of the concert, the main star of the festival was the patron of the festival and famous singer Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the no less famous Collegium 1704 orchestra led by Václav Luks.  more

One of the biggest promises of the 24th Concentus Moraviae international festival was yesterday’s concert of the legendary Borodin Quartet, whose unique sound is the result not only of hard work but also collaboration with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This personal and interpretive trail still influences the group and is passed on to each new member. The programme took place in the library of the castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou , where in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the residence music-loving Haugwitz family. The music of Sergei Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn and Dmitri Shostakovich could be heard by the audience in a venue that was more than merely dignified.  more

In the summer months Špilberk Castle’s courtyard often resounds to the sound of music. Until September it is possible to combine a tour of the castle with a cultural experience. The organizers have tried to prepare a programme across genres that has something for everyone. Yesterday it was the turn of folk music. Despite the adverse weather the stage was dominated by the Military Art Ensemble Ondráš.  more

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Editorial

The travelling opera company Opera on the Road, which has been producing opera performances since 2012 and travelling with them around cultural "suburbs", is preparing a new premiere of a comic opera called Les Amours De Ragonde or Every Woman Wants   Love. It will be presented at the castle theatre in Valtice and in the garden of the Jurkovič Villa in Brno. The title roles feature Andrea Široká, Roman Hoza and Josef Škarka. The ensemble Concerto Aventino will take care of the music accompaniment.  more

Summer courses of the Guitar Institute are coming up soon – a five-day series of lessons, workshops and outdoor concerts in Brno cafés and clubs. This year's lecturers include Klára Hemplová, David Pšenčík and Gabriel Červeňák. During the courses, participants can choose among genres such as rock & heavy, jazz-blues, pop-folk (acoustic guitar), flamenco or classical music.  more

For four days, the centre of Brno turned into a vibrant metropolis full of music of many genres that were heard virtually everywhere. Brno reaffirmed during this extended weekend that it deserves to be a UNESCO City of Music. Most of the productions were free of charge, the paid ones were sold out and even the shows were added. The attendance estimated by the organizer is 35 thousand people. It was played in the squares, in the streets, on the balconies, but also in the underground, in the town hall, in the arcade or in the churches. This year's specials were concerts in four street rooms by the artist Kateřina Šedá.  more

Janáček Opera invites its audience backstage. The premiere meeting with the directors' duo SKUTR, conductor Ondrej Olos and soloists from the upcoming production of The Tales of Hoffmann will take place in September.  more

Four days of August, twenty-two music stages, dozens of concerts and performances, hundreds of performers and thousands of spectators. All this is promised by the Brno Music Marathon 2019 international festival, which will burst out in just a week, on 8 August 2019. Concerts in the streets and squares will be accessible for free, featuring among others Jana Kirschner, Khoiba, Motionhouse and NoFit State Circus, Monika Bagárová, Jan P. Muchow & The Antagonists, Progres 2, Žamboši or Pacora Trio with Denisa Kopačková. Buskers will play in dwelling rooms on the streets, barrel organ players will appear as part of their 10th international meeting. DJ Jon Hopkins, known for his cooperation with Coldplay, will also come to Brno. Cirk La Putyka and Pokáč are coming, and Lázně Rašínova [Rašínova Spa] will be occupied by opera singers and synchronised swimming. Music will sound also in the underground, in a mall, in churches, in a hotel or in the Town Hall.  more

From the second half of August the grand courtyard of Špilberk Castle will once more host an open-air music festival with an international line-up. The Špilberk Festival traditionally offers four concerts and two ‘cine-concerts’. The guests for this year’s 20th festival include among others the overall winner of Talentmania Patricia Janečková and the Grammy award winners The Klezmatics.   more

On Saturday, the opening of the Folk Holidays international festival in Náměšť nad Oslavou will take place. This year, the festival enters its 34th season with names such as Edmar Castañeda, Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita, Félix Lajkó & VOŁOSI, Rura, Lenka Dusilová, Hana and Petr Ulrych or Spiritual Quintet.  more

The 27th annual session of the Beseda u Bigbítu [Debate over Bigbeat] will take place traditionally in Tasov near Veselí nad Moravou. The festival represents the independent music scene and hosts bands from all over the world. Among the most eagerly anticipated groups this year are International Teachers of Pop from the UK, The Kill Devil Hills from Australia and Algiers from Atlanta.  more

Znojmo Music Festival enters its 15th season this year. The programme includes concerts, opera performances, gastronomy and a programme for children. The opening concert, performed by the patron of the festival Pavel Šporcl and the PKF - Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Derek Gleeson, is dedicated to the reminder of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The culmination of the festival is the premiere of the scenic oratorio Saul by G. F. Handel. The title roles will be performed by Andreas Scholl and Adam Plachetka. The show will be directed by Tomáš Pilař.  more

The 165th anniversary of the birth of Leoš Janáček falls on today, Wednesday 3 July 2019. Janáček is one of our opera composers most frequently played abroad. TIC Brno dedicated a tram to him for his birthday this year, with the main characters from his operas graphically rendered by Brno artist Vendulka Chalánková. Janáček also has his own website, an educational trail, a memorial and an opera festival.  more