Frantisek Uhlir: 60 (2011)
Prague Castle is the premier performance venue in the capital of the Czech Republic. It has held a monthly Jazz at the Castle concert since 2004, with the largest number of performances coming from bassist František Uhlíř. He has performed eight times at the venue, including September 8, 2010, to celebrate his 60th birthday. The cast of nine international musicians he assembled for the occasion establish their credentials right from the time they set "Expectation" up, following the customary introduction from President Václav Klaus.
The program consists mainly of original material, with two standards. Uhlíř not only writes with a sense of development, he also has a fine ear for arrangement, using the musicians to advantage and changing the size of the ensemble to add deeper pith.
"Expectation" is a fine choice for the opener, as it sets up an impressive range that moves from vibraphonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid's cool to trumpeter m: Eddie Severn = 1201}}'s drive. Later, Uhlíř also uses the saxophones and piano as juxtapositions for ensemble lines, into which he inveigles his limber bass lines. The arrangement enlarges the scope and dimension of the composition to telling effect.
Uhlíř sets up a magnificent document with the depth and resonance of his bowing on "Song For Jane." His depth is abetted by the chord work of pianist Mark Aanderud, who adds luminous lines, augmented with flowing clusters. It's a lovely elliptical performance as, together, they make this tune one of abiding beauty.
Severn's atmospheric "Castles in the Air" has the trumpeter playing some of his most inspired lines, infusing a great degree of sensitivityand later, some fiery permutations that make the pulse of the tune race. Between his solo outings, harmonically compact guitarist Adam Tvrdy re-imagines the melody without losing lyrical focus, while Lackerschmid gets the tune to prance delightfully. Lackershcmid's a gentle yet radiant "Sarah's Bande" is unveiled in soft layers, along with Tvrdy and Uhlíř. The vibraphonist later drenches the tune in an array of color, with Tvrdy sweeping across in an expanse of juicy notes.
Music, when played with feeling and finesse, stirs the soul, and Uhlíř and his band do just that.
Track Listing: Uvod; Expectation; Father's Blues; Castles in the Air; Wabash; Sarah's Bande; Nenazvana; Song For G. Mraz; Let's Go On; Song For Jane; Softly as in the Morning Sunrise.
Personnel: Frantisek Uhlir: bass; Eddie Severn: trumpet; Michal Wroblewski: alto sax; Pius Baumgartner: tenor saxophone; Premek Tomsicek: trombone; Wolfgang Lackerschmid: vibraphone; Mark Aanderud: piano; Adam Tvrdy: guitar; Wolfgang Haffner: drums.