Frantisek Uhlir: Bass Devotion / BassSaga
Bass Devotion / BassSaga
In 2010, bassist Frantisek Uhlir is celebrating his 60th birthday with a double-disc CD release. Being an inventive person, he has combined a live quartet recording from earlier in the year, Bass Devotion, with a studio recording from 1984, BassSaga. Together, the discs illuminate a sonic spectrum that crafts subtlety as richly as it does sizzling energy.
Uhlíř embraces the quartet as the František Uhlíř Team. The program of five originals and two standards on Bass Devotion rove from facile swing to hard bop drive, with a nurturing lyrical focus on the ballads. The last quality glows on the poignant reading of "When You Wish Upon A Star." Uhlíř settles quickly into the grain of the melody with his bowing and from that vantage point draws in subtle shades of rhythm from drummer Jaromir Helešic. The magical lure expands on the gently blown breeze David Vrober's alto saxophone and on to a larger context as guitarist Adam Trvdý annunciates the melody and adds thick chords. It is a well-defined perspective that gives the composition its written due before letting it flow into soulful innovation.
"Just For Us" swings deliciously. Vrober locks the terrain and imbues it with a flow of fertile ideas. He is sharp and astute as he navigates the turns and crannies. Trvdý takes the texture into limber voicing with ripe turns of phrase that go on to assimilate bop. In the ever changing make-up of the tune, Uhlíř scopes the rhythm with a steady impulsive timbre. The distinct approaches combine for a seamless whole.
The final selection, "Lester Left Town," ends the concert in a dazzling blast of fireworks as the group turns on the heat.
The 1984 date chronicled on BassSaga is a classic. Uhlíř used a varying line-up, inviting his closest musical friends as well as four members of the Prague Chamber Orchestra to give expression to his music. They did so magnificently, testifying to the richness of Uhlíř's compositions in which the bass has a very strong voice. The music still resonates; time has not stilled its heartbeat.
Uhlíř is a minstrel who can beguile as he spins a dazzling array of notes or draws the listener into a cocoon with the warm intonation of his arco. The first trait is seen on "Střídavĕ Oblačno (Scattered Clouds)," where the arrangement sets up several encounters between the musicians. The understanding between them is the key as they create a seamless thread of invention. Pianist Emil Vicklický and drummer Tony Nahar set a scintillating pulse, letting the melody sink in before guitarist Zdenĕk Dvořak gives the tune a new luminescence. But surprise lurks and as the beat goes bop, Uhlíř sets up a walking bass line. Dvořak and he are soon engaged in a torrid conversation, spinning ideas with electrifying alacrity.
Uhlíř's arco tonality shines on the three tunes he plays with members of the Prague Jazz Orchestra. The strings are resplendent in the deep hues they weave as they enrich the fabric of the compositions. "Children's Dreams And Games" has an incipient beauty as the bass, violincello and viola air a classical refrain. Change comes not only in the melding of jazz harmony with classical music but in the surging tide and the calm of the tempo. The effect is stunning, something that can be said of the whole album.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Javor; Just For Us; When You Wish Upon A Star; Jaro; June In Prague; Father's Blues; Lester Left Town.
Personnel: Frantisek Uhlir: double bass; David Vrober: alto saxophone; Adam Tvrdy: guitar; Jaromir Helesic: drums.
Tracks: Navraty (Coming Home); Stridave Oblacno (Scattered Clouds); Children's Dreams And Games; Bossa Cosa; Bassaga; Ztracena A Nalezena (Lost and Found); Song For Jane.
Personnel: Frantisek Uhlir: double bass; Karel Velebny: vibraphone (1, 4, 5); Emil Viklicky: piano; Tony Nahar: drums; Zdenek Dvorak: guitar (2, 4); Josef Vejvoda: percussion (1, 4, 6); Zdenek Zindel: viola (1, 3, 5); Ladislav Dlouhy: viola (1, 3, 5); Jindrich Ptacek: violincello (1, 3, 5); Jaroslav Ondracek: violincello (1, 3, 5).