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Grammy nominated saxophonist, composer and producer Karel Ruzicka Jr. was born in
Prague, Czech Republic, into a very musical family. His mother was a member of the Czech
opera and his father, Karel Ruzicka, is a well-known jazz pianist, composer and educator.
His first exposure to jazz was from his father’s extensive record collection. Karel studied
piano and flute from age 5, then went to the Prague Conservatory and the Conservatory of
Jaroslav Jezek. Since emigrating to the U.S in 1997, he has studied piano with Barry Harris
and Charles Blenzig, saxophone with George Garzone, Rick Margitza and Grammy Award
winners Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano.
Karel Jr. began performing professionally at age 16 as co-leader of “The Four,” at clubs,
jazz competitions and festivals in Europe. He was a featured soloist with Big Band Radio
Prague and recorded with the prestigious European Broadcasting Union Big Band. Karel Jr.
also performed with the Karel Ruzicka Quartet all over Europe and the U.S.A. In 1996 he
performed with the Roy Hargrove Quintet on their European tour, plus many other famous
performers, including concerts with Wynton Marsalis and members of the Lincoln Center
In the United States Karel Jr. has performed with the Brooklyn Sax Quartet and toured the
United States with Voice of the Dragon,” produced, created and led by Fred Ho. Recently
he toured with the R&B legend Ben. E. King and with the great drummer/composer Jeff
Tain Watts. He continues to perform and record with such esteemed artists as George
Benson, Ravi Coltrane, Roy Hargrove, Ben E. King, Ron Affif, John Benitez, Rodney Jones,
Jason Lindner, Gavin Degraw, Joe Locke, Nellie McKay, Jeff Tain Watts, Benny Reitveld and
Karel’s debut album as a leader, “You Know What I Mean,” (Arta Records, 1997) was
nominated for the Czech Grammy and was voted Jazz Album of the Year. In 1998, he
recorded the Jazz Album Of The Decade, “Spring Rolls Quartet,” for European label
Cube/Métier. His latest recording, Brooklyn Moods, was released in 2004 and features
Bruce Barth on piano, George Mraz on bass and Brandon Lewis on drums.
Other prominent albums include a collaboration with trombonist extraordinaire Fred
Wesley, of the legendary James Brown Horns, on the Columbia release, Monkey Business.”
In 2005 Karel returned to the studio for more “Monkey Business,” featuring saxophonist
David Sanborn, guitarist Hiram Bullock and bassist/vocalist Glen Hughes of Deep Purple.
Karel has won many awards beginning with international jazz competitions in Carlsbad and Prerov, Czech Republic in 1991 and1992. He also won Talent Of The Year in 1993 from the Czech Jazz Society. 1998 saw twin wins for Tenor and Alto Saxophonist of the Year. When not touring, Karel is performing as both leader and sideman at B.B. King's, Birdland, Blue Note, Fat Cat, CBGB’s Gallery, Cornelia Street Café, Crash Mansion, 55 Bar, Jazz Gallery, Jazz Standard, Joe's Pub, Kavehaz, Knitting Factory, Lennox Lounge, Smalls, Swing 46, Showman’s Lounge, Smoke, Sweet Rhythm, Tonic, Zinc Bar and other great NYC venues.