24 September 2009

Jazz entrée

I’m in Prague now, the town of various wonderful musicians: Miroslav Bukovsky and Miroslav Vitous and George Mraz amongst them. It seems there’s a strong jazz history here, and definitely there’s a busy jazz scene along with tons of tourism. There are numerous clubs with varying programs and some look quite challenging. The prices are a pleasure too, after cover charges approaching $A50 in Paris and Venice. Here there were some virtually free performances and the going rate for concerts seems more like $A15-$A20.

I caught the Bridge Swing Band in the afternoon on the famed Karluv most (Charles Bridge) which is a busy walkway for tourists and locals alike. They were relaxed and swinging and capable enough, but this was just a casual performance for busking and pleasure.

Later in the evening I planned to hear a duo in a bar before going to Agartha. On the way, I overheard mainstream sounds emanating from one of the hotels, but they took a break before I could get a pic. A few paces on was my bar/pizzeria, and I enjoyed a few standards played on bass and guitar. This duo sat well together, with melodies played variously by bass and guitar. The playing was capable and the solos were quite extended and inventive for such a background-style gig. I particularly enjoyed the bass with good tone from a century-old German bass, expressive melodies and good soloing with quite a turn of speed at times. Josef Sanitrak (guitar) and Ondrej Stajnochr (bass) played at the U Bodovce bar-pizzeria just beside the nave of the Tyn Church.

Just walking around the Tyn Church, I found the Jazz Club Ungelt. Ungelt seems to present a mix of blues and jazz (including the Alice Springs Blues Band) but my impression was of a more rocky venue. I dropped in for a listen and was impressed by a very energetic guitar trio playing Solar. This was hot and sweaty and choppy and rough and edgy, and too loud for me, but it was also impressive and alive. The guitar soloing was heavy on chords, or fast and furious runs. Bass was six string with chops to match: mainly finger style but also some slap and chordal work with fast, accurate and satisfying playing. Drums soloed too, sometimes swapping passages with guitar and bass and other times playing straight solos. I found it all fast and furious and somewhat lacking in dynamics as this style tends to be. But I much enjoyed it and would have stayed longer, but I had plans for Agartha. The band was called Nunu and comprised Siri Stivin (drums), Adam Turdy (guitar) and Jan Jakubec (bass).

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