The 21st annual jazz festival is characterized by big bands and connecting world-renowned musicians with Czech ones. Among the performers will be Maria Schneider’s Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in conjunction with Dan Bárta, pianist Brad Mehldau in a Bach-based programme with the Brno Philharmonic, double bass player Christian McBride’s quintet and guitarist Lionel Loueke, both solo and in a project with his Czech musical guests.
For the fifth time, the festival will enliven the River Svitava’s waterfront. The programme, which is free of charge to visit, includes concerts, theatre performances, “neckyáda” (a show with boaters using unconventional and funny ways of boating or vessels) and much more. Performers will include Fast Food Orchestra, Phil Shoenfelt & Band of Heysek and more.
As the designated UNESCO City of Music, Brno is all set to be filled with harmonious sounds of music once again. Hundreds of musicians will perform in the city over the four days of the festival, with dozens of concerts scheduled that shall make the squares, streets and concert halls resound with music. Encompassing a variety of genres, this year’s Brno Music Marathon will take place in mid-August, just like before, and it’s going to be one of the few public events to happen this year. The line-up includes Lenka Dusilová, Juwana Jenkins, Sisa Feher, Fanfara Transilvania, Malalata, Circus Brothers, Horňácká cimbálová muzika Petra Mičky (the Horňácko Cimbalom Band of Petr Mička), Javory and a host of others. Street “rooms” by Kateřina Šedá is not absent from it, either.
A miniature, but a faithful copy of the Janáček Cultural Centre at the scale of 1: 10 shall serve for testing the audio parameters of the project. The model arrived at the Brno Exhibition Centre today, where a team led by Yasuhisa Toyota, a world-renowned acoustician, will carry out acoustic measurements and check calculations that have been made.
Under the “cipher” 29/2 (reads as “Twenty-ninth February”) there is a band that was created for a bit of fun. They used compositional techniques that should not work in songwriting at all. It has united musicians who, by definition, perhaps can never understand each other. And yet the result is an album of very strong songs that, despite all the experimentalism, makes sense and works as a whole.
American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla is claiming her Haitian roots. She lives in Louisiana and connects the traditional musical genres of the U.S. South with the culture of the island where her ancestors came from. On Tuesday, 27 July, we will be able to hear her voice and songs live at the festival of Folkové prázdniny (Folk Holidays) in Náměšt' nad Oslavou.
On this very day (19 May) an event will start in Valašské Meziříčí which all the dulcimer players from almost all over the world have been looking forward to for two years. It is the 14th International Dulcimer Festival, which has been held in this town every odd year since 1995. This year, it is sure to be rather modest due to the pandemic situation; the organizers are going to stream some of the concerts, while others will be broadcast on the Czech Radio stations Vltava and Brno. This year, Michal Grombiřík, a dulcimer player, became the first ever such musician admitted to the Jazz Music Interpretation Department of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU). What is the path from a traditional folk song, through classical music to jazz music, and what exactly is Michal going to do at the aforementioned dulcimer festival? We covered all these topics in our conversation.
Ód ... The artistic name evokes singing, narration, poetry, odes… It is also a guide to pronounce the first name in Czech of the protagonist, a French singer settled in Brno, Aude Stulírová Martin. She has been living in Moravia for ten years and is an excellent Czech speaker. In that time she has co-founded a band called Šarivary as well as the theatre company of Le Cabaret Nomade. She was also active as an artistic director of the Bonjour Brno festival. Bébé Lune is her current, second album – a collection of lullabies from around the world, it was created by Ód as a result of her winning Expats for Brno, a competition seeking innovative projects. So, while the project is international in its content, it is very closely related to Brno.
Anyone who knows the B-Side Band, especially through performing international hit songs with the singer Vojtěch Dyk, or last year’s album Folk Swing, may be surprised by their unique take on a production of Jaromír Hnilička’s Missa Jazz. In fact, the big band’s history is tightly interwoven with the composer’s legendary Jazz Mass.
On the occasion of his 66th birthday last year, documentary film-maker, singer-songwriter, musician, author of theatre plays and writer Jiří Vondrák released a double album, one representative of his musical activities at large rather than a selection of his best-known material. Despite the title this is no “best of” collection, instead it’s a noteworthy mix of hits and rare pieces, old songs and new songs, and modern folk and rock pieces. As such it serves as a great introduction to Vondrák, a Renaissance man of culture in Brno, as well as a collector’s item featuring recordings not released elsewhere or almost impossible to find. The first half of the double CD really packs a punch, too.
Hajcman, a tramp-swing group with its roots in Brno, released their expected debut album Jednou to bude (It Will Come to Pass). The band’s name, derived from the Czech word for a supporting steel frame in coal mining, is a reference to cave exploring, the hobby of the group’s leader Martin Škrobák, whose first band was called Stalaktit (Stalactite). While the album largely showcases the talents of the tramping legend, it does feature a sample of the band’s work in the form of two songs by Martin, hinting at the direction of the band’s future album of author's songs. It’s Jaroslav Velinský aka Kapitán Kid who is the author of the most of the debut’s collection of songs, the result of over a decade’s effort. An old friend of Martin’s, as well as a fellow musician and inspiration to him, the tramping music king Kapitán Kid had planned to record some “blasts from the past” in 2005 with his previous outfit the Banjo Gang, as described in the sleeve notes and associated songbook. Joint recording sessions with Martin and his friends took place subsequently, but Velinský’s best-known tramping songs from the CD Tempo di kůň (Tempo de Horse; released in 2007) were eventually preferred. This is how these tracks came to be short-listed, with the blessing of Kapitán Kid himself, and recorded just a few years after the songwriter’s death, making it essentially a tribute to him.
While concert halls and opera houses are rather on the empty side, seven hotels in the city have seen a lot more activity thanks to the Brno Contemporary Orchestra – a chamber music group led by Pavel Šnajdr and the arts platform Terén – Pole performativního umění (Terrain – Fields for the Performing Arts). Every night of the week, from 15 to 21 March, fans of modern artificial music had the opportunity to visit one of the hotels via YouTube. Not only was the atmosphere of the empty rooms and corridors absorbing, but also the drama in combination with unusual the visual stimuli. Please, do not disturb, as the series was named by its creators - the Brno Contemporary Orchestra and Terén, featured more than just standard recordings of concerts. Indeed, a narrative thread ran through every evening’s experience, which was directly or subtly connected with the musicians or the space itself.
The coronavirus crisis of 2020 (and 2021) has had such an impact on the form of the musical market that researchers, with hindsight, will probably ask whether there are any recordings released at that time and not affected by it. Robert Křesťan and Druhá tráva (Second Grass) wanted to work on a double album containing cover versions of songs by his favourites and new own works next to each other. The British producer Eddie Stevens became a part of this ambitious project but the interrupted opportunity of travelling between the Czech Republic and London also stopped work on the 2CD. The band decided not to wait for the easing and released the Díl první (Part One) separately. This is not the exact form of the initially intended first disc. “Releasing cover versions only without any apparent relationship between them and the original works seemed inadequate to us and the production style of Eddie Stevens is individual and unifying in a specific way to such an extent that we decided to release a mix of the two on the first medium and delay the second part,” explains Křesťan. Therefore, we have Díl první in front of us, but this is not any half-hearted recording or unfinished work. In spite of the Act of God, Druhá tráva has succeeded in recording one of the strongest Czech discs of 2020.
With the current epidemiologic situation and the impossibility of live concerts, many large and small ensembles have been using the time to prepare new media. One of them is the Brno Philharmonic, which has extended its range to include its own edition of CD recordings with this bold motto: “Music you can hardly buy anywhere else”. Although it might seem that this is, primarily, a successful slogan created by the Marketing Department this brief description is not merely empty words. The first pair of CDs released at the end of 2020 offered the unfairly forgotten oratorio Lenora (Lenore) by Antonín Rejcha (heard at concerts on 5, 6 and 7 February, 2020). The philharmonic orchestra also recorded a programme with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Zlonické zvony (The Bells of Zlonice) and the composition entitled Bagatelles, Op. 47, (Maličkosti (Trivia)) both adapted (and in the case of Bagatelles also with richer instrumentation) by the chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic, Dennis Russell Davies. And this is the album which will be the object of our evaluation.