The international jazz festival JazzFestBrno published its complete programme today. It promises fifteen musical evenings, where we will get to hear great names including the bassist Stanley Clarke, trumpet player Theo Croker, Avishai Cohen and Peter Evans, guitarist Julian Lage and South African singer Melanie Scholtz. This year, the festival will pay homage to the legends of the Czech Contraband stage Milan Svoboda and Luboš Andršt, whose Blues Band will be joined by the singer Peter Lipa. The list will also include big names of contemporary Czech jazz such as bassist Jaromír Honzák, trumpet player Štěpánka Balcarová and Michal Nejtek.
The spring part of the festival in the Stará Pekárna club will begin this evening with the concert of English singer Elles Bailey, accompanied by the Czech band The Bladderstones. The festival promises 27 jazz and blues concerts with an international representation. We will get to see for example the Mike Ross Blues Band, Marek Kotača Trio, Tom Smith Quartet and the Vilém Spilka Quartet.
JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz Wine invite talented young musicians to participate in the Central European Jazz Competition. Only a few days are left to the closing date for young Czech and Austrian bands. The competition is being organised jointly by the festivals JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine.
A concert by Matúš Jakabčic and his quintet with the Brno Philharmonic opens the fifth year of the subscription concert cycle Jazz & World Music. The evening will include six pieces: from Jakabčic’s original works, through jazz standards to Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. The orchestra will perform under the baton of Pavel Šnajdr.
The characteristic feature of the building of the Janáček Cultural Centre is duality; a linking of two structures in one building. One part is enclosed and fully given over to music while the second is transparent and open to people. This is how Tomasz Konior, general designer of the team that has worked on the design of the building since January this year with the acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota and architect Petr Hrůša, talks about the project for a new concert hall for Brno. They presented the results of their work today.
The ProART Festival is entering its 15th year. This year for the first time this multi-genre festival is taking place in four towns and cities. In addition to Brno, Valtice and Liberec this year it will also expand to include Plzeň. A total of 34 instructors will lead workshops in contemporary dance, theatre, singing, music, literature and photography. Among them will be Lenka Dusilová, Zdeněk Bína, Eva Vrbková, Radka Fišarová, Zdeněk Král, and Ida Kelarová as well as authors like Josef Formánek, Michal Viewegh, Jiří Hájíček, Alena Mornštajnová and Tereza Boučková.
The Brno singer and artist Dáša Ubrová has sung with a group, performs with a big-band and is close to chanson, jazz and rock. Her album, named simply after her, is important to her and not only because it is her solo debut. It is the first time she has written all the lyrics herself. The music is mainly created by her “court co-workers” and album producers, the pianist Vojtěch Svatoš and the guitarist Pavel Šmíd.
The last week full of musical events culminated in the final round of the Central European Jazz Competition organised by the “neighbouring” jazz festivals – JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine. This cross-border musical project has a promising future: the first year of the jazz competition in its final afternoon offered six half-hour blocks of the finalists, who were a surprise with their musical range and the quality of their musicianship.
Two servings of first class musical mastery and each one different. One was musical show that was demanding for its audience, where only informed listeners perceived it as a reminder of tragic events. And the second was a lighter dance-like evening with songs that could be sung by the whole of the hall at the Sono Centre. The organisers of JazzFest Brno have shown that no two jazz quintets are alike. Both of the leaders in the last two concerts of this year’s festival rightly got the stormy applause they deserved. At the same time you could hardly see on stage two such different musicians as Terence Blanchard and Richard Bona.
The Cameroonian musician Richard Bona is returning to Brno after a year and a half. While last year the audience in the Janáček Theatre had their breath taken away by his Afro-Cuban project Heritage, this time he is coming with his international group Richard Bona Group. When on 25 November in the Sono Centre we are admiring Bono’s virtuoso guitar playing, it would be good to be aware while he may have inherited his sense of rhythm and general relationship to music from his ancestors, his current level is the result of his hard work. At least this was something he emphasised in our interview, in which we also covered Bono’s love of flamenco and for his club, which he recently opened not far from Paris.
On Friday 19 October the big band Cotatcha Orchestra performed in HaDivadlo with an important foreign guest: the trombonist, composer and arranger Ilja Reijngoud. After the review of the concert we are now also bringing you an interview with this Dutch jazzman, holder of a Latin Grammy and other significant awards. Reijngoud answered our questions shortly before the Brno concert.
The promising developing contemporary Czech jazz scene, which includes well-functioning festivals and two universities with the teaching of jazz (in Brno and in Prague), is creating the background not just for little ensembles, but also for large orchestras. In Prague there is the excellent Concept Art Orchestra, which under the leadership of the trumpeter Štěpánka Balcarová focuses on the work of contemporary Czech authors in the middle and younger generation (the so-called Prague Six). In Brno the B-Side Band, led by the trumpeter Josef Buchta, sells out big halls and plays at major festivals, cooperating with the popular Vojtěch Dyk, but has not given up on its original jazz repertoire and also cooperates with foreign stars of the calibre of Kurt Elling. Another Brno big band, the Cotatcha Orchestra, under the leadership of (yet another trumpeter) Jiří Kotač, has not yet met with such great success. Despite this the ensemble, put together from students and teachers of the jazz department at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, is fiercely and healthily making progress in our scene and given the quality of the musicians it has at its centre, I believe that it will in the coming years win a unique place for itself.
In the course of four days the Brno Music Marathon offered some 150 concerts with more than 500 participants. The festival brought together local artists and guests from abroad. The Jazz Evening in the Sono Centre opened with Brno’s Marek Kotača Trio, followed by Yaron Herman from Israel and Kenny Garrett from the USA, while on the stage at Špilberk Castle the local hip-hop legends Chaozz and the crossover and world music Dog Eat Dog got the audience moving. The Adicts from England together with the Prague group The Fialky took care of the rock evening at Fléda, while in the Sono Centre it was the Dutch Physical Graffiti paying tribute to Led Zeppelin. Brno was full of rock, with the British alt-J also performing on Sunday evening.
To record an album of famous jazz standards translated into Czech and yet not only to not come up short, but even to come across naturally and as much as possible even originally, is extremely demanding. Darek Neumann, “a kind of Brno character” (as stated in the booklet of the album) has managed it. The fact that it successfully balanced on the very borders of sentiment and pure blues, is much down to the lyrics of Ester Kočičková.
There were concerts by big bands at the start and finish of the spring programme of this year’s Jazzfest Brno. And both were supreme musical experiences. The Christian McBride Big Band as one of the three concluding concerts for their European tour for the first time performed in Brno’s Sono Centre. And it was great: crossover, entertaining and light playing, at the same time full of virtuosity and inventive and creative playing. “When we play together it is one big party,” stated the double bass player and bandleader Christian McBride at the start – and both he and his colleagues certainly confirmed that.