Tomáš Liška & Invisible World have won the Best Jazz Album in the Czech Music Awards (the "Andel" Award or in English the "Angel" Award) for 2021. Released in December 2020, the album is presciently titled Hope, and appropriately so for our still uncertain times.
Liška (born 1979) is a composer and accomplished acoustic, electric and piccolo bassist with jazz and world music groups; his Invisible World is a swaggering and refreshing mix of jazz meets chamber music, with a multicultural setup; besides the Czechs Liška and Kamil Slezák (playing drums, cajon and other percusion instruments), there are three Vienna-based players, the Serbian-Austrian Nikola Zaric on accordian and voice, Turkish Efe Turumtay on violin and voice; and Kurdish Sakina Teyna, though she is listed as voice on only two of the tracks.
Although the album lists all of them as vocalists (or voice) and Teyna as solely a contributor for voice, the voices are only noticeable as chants on the end of their most uplifting track "Dunga Runga." Otherwise, voices exist more like extended hums and whispers into the wind on a few tracks. And so, Invisible World's charm is a mesmerizing and subtle concoction as each musician blends improvisational finesse within the worlds of Slavic folk music (Czechs meeting with Mediterranean-Baltic Southern Slavs) and with lingering Ottoman or Anatolian sensibilities.
Such cross-cultural pollination of improvisation, jazz and world music has been prevalent in West European jazz, but jazz players bridging Bohemian and Moravian folk with Serbian (Balkans) and Anatolian influences is new terrain. They weave these melodic folk influences impressively with an exotic flair, due to the Latin American touch of a pounding cajon (Latin American percussion box) or a lulling accordion, with hums and sudden explosive interludes.
The accordion as a centerpiece on a few tracks recalls the mood of Gato Barbieri's "Last Tango in Paris" especially on the opener "Mafioso" which begins like an Argentinian tango of Astor Piazzolla's under the virtuosoity of Zaric, then passes to Turumtay for a weaving of classical then Gypsy-stomping violin work. Meanwhile, Liška, who studied at the Jaroslav Ježek conservatory in Prague and at the Jazz Institute in Berlin, is not an ardent soloist, yet he steps out most impressively for the opening on "Para Virgi"; otherwise, he is the anchor of the unit and, with his deep and steady basslines throughout, he guides the optimistic spirit of his group on this award-winning jazz-meets-folk or, more specifically, an expanded European ethno-jazz recording.
Hope is not at all a typical-sounding jazz recording; or, putting it in a different way, when Coltrane adapted the Iberian folk song "Olé" he created a modern jazz classic; Liška & Invisible World are instead and at once embracing and recreating a noteworthy blend of regional Slavic and Anatolian folk music, and it is performed by progressive top-notch jazz and classically-trained musicians with an ear for contemporary music while creating a new wave in jazz.
Another Thing To Think About;
Hope (Radio edit).