Karel Velebny: SHQ (2008)
Multi-instrumentalist Karel Velebny was known as the father of modern jazz in the former Czechoslovakia. Besides playing the tenor sax, bass clarinet and vibes, he was also a composer, arranger, teacher, and the leader of Studio 5: one of the leading bands in the 60's. He died in 1989.
For the most part, Velebny finds his inspiration in mainstream jazz and bop. The terrain is well defined by the approach of the band, who play with undeniable power and spirit. But he also nods towards folk idioms and free expression and in acknowledging them along with his mainstream calling, turns in an exciting, solid piece of work.
Jiri Stivin brings a pastoral air on the flute to "The Uhu Sleeps Only During the Day'" before he flips into a bop rhythm and rides high on the beat. The path has been primed for the lyrical runs of Ludek Svabensky on piano and of Velebny on the vibes, but credit Velebny with the art of arrangement; he turns the progression around, pulling in the pulse and giving Stivin room to return to the meadow before the tune evaporates into the night.
"Andulko Safarova" is a neat blend of free and chamber jazz. The mood is sublime as Stivin's flute complements Vejvoda's arco bass, and it continues to be so even when the horns enter with the melody; the musicians squeezing the unwritten into the spaces. And these come from the tenor's torquing notes, from the rustle of the piano strings and from atonality. The weave is hypnotic.
Even when the calling is more mainstream, as on "Joachim is Our Friend," the quintet spins a tight web. Stivin swings with controlled abandon on the alto saxophone and adds several delectable ideas as well as deep, hard phrases while blistering the melody. Velebny then sideswipes into the mix with Svabnesky and calms the waters on the vibes over a pliant rhythm bed.
Velebny shows how imagination and artistry make compact bedfellows. His discography is sketchy and his music is not easily available, which makes this CD one to treasure.
Track Listing: The Uhu Sleeps Only During the Day; Joachim is Our Friend; Beetles on the Head; Waldi on the Castle Steps; Andulko Safarova.
Personnel: Jiri Stivin: alto sax, flute, recorder; Karel Velebny: tenor sax, bass clarinet, vibes; Ludek Svabensky: piano; Karel Vejvoda: bass; Josef Vejvoda: drums.