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Libor Smoldas: In New York On Time

Dan Bilawsky By

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Guitarist Libor Šmoldas is a known entity within the Prague jazz scene, but In New York On Time should help him to significantly expand his fan base beyond the borders of the Czech Republic. While Šmoldas has largely worked with Czech musicians in a variety of groups, including his trio and quartet which focus on his music, the Organic Quartet and vocalist Zeurítia's Brazilian project, he used a recent visit to New York to record with some of the finest jazz musicians that America has to offer. Bassist George Mraz, drummer Jeff Ballard, and organist-turned-reborn pianist Sam Yahel join Šmoldas on a mixture of the guitarist's original compositions and classic Frederick Loewe songs from My Fair Lady.

Šmoldas takes four compositions from this classic Broadway musical and makes each one his own. The album opens with "Get Me To The Church On Time" and the band serves up a grooving gumbo that mixes N'awlins second line with some joyous gospel music, and a hint of Country thrown in for seasoning. Šmoldas' melodic lines move gracefully and happily through the song and Ballard's off-beat cymbal eighth notes seem to take on the tambourine's role in a gospel church. Several tracks later, Šmoldas and company take on "I Could Have Danced All Night" and Ballard settles into a light-as-a-feather, up-tempo Mozambique-like groove to underscore things. The two remaining Loewe songs fall under the ballad heading. A lovely take on "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" begins with some guitar statements, shifts focus to Mraz's distant arco work, highlights Šmoldas' lovely electric guitar work—with supportive background work from Ballard and Mraz—and gives some solo space to Yahel. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" is the only track to feature Šmoldas solo—sans band—and he moves to acoustic guitar for this classically-tinged performance.

The original material that Šmoldas presents here touches on a wide range of ideas, but his sound and overall conception tie it all together. "Lydian Blues" begins with an unhurried guitar introduction from Šmoldas and Ballard's light, yet propulsive, cymbal work contrasts with the slowly floating nature of the music itself. Mraz and Šmoldas show a strong rapport on this performance. Mraz provides some frisky soloing on the waltzing "Autumn In Three," but he really lets loose with some dynamic, scene-stealing solo work on "Wes For Pres." Šmoldas gives a nod toward Wes Montgomery here, as he mixes things up between single note statements and chordal solo ideas, and the excitement from the musicians is palpable. Vocalist Zeurítia, who also happens to be Šmoldas' wife, helps change up the sound of the group on "Who's Got Rhythm"—a cheery song in five—and "Brazilian Impressions." From beginning to end, In New York On Time proves to be a masterful display of compositional creativity, group interplay, and musical integrity.

Track Listing: Get Me To The Church On Time; Lydian Blues; Autumn In Three; I Could Have Danced All Night; I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; Who's Got Rhythm; Wes For Pres; Tram Line; Wouldn't It Be Lovely; Brazilian Impressions.

Personnel: Libor Šmoldas: electric guitar and acoustic guitar (10); Sam Yahel: piano (1-8, 10); George Mraz: bass (1-8, 10); Jeff Ballard: drums (1-8, 10); Zeurítia: voice (6, 10).

Title: In New York On Time | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Animal Music

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