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Frantisek Uhlir Trio: Jazz at Prague Castle 2006

Jack Bowers By

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With the possible exception of guest trumpeter Dusko Goykovich, chances are you've not heard (or even heard of) these gentlemen before—and if that is indeed true, as I suspect it is, perhaps it's time you were introduced. Frantisek Uhlir, who leads this excellent trio, is a truly phenomenal bassist, and his colleagues—guitarist Darko Jurkovic and drummer Jaromir Helesic—are no less accomplished. Any time a jazz group is introduced to concert-goers by the president—not of the local musicians' union, but of the country—there can be little doubt that it has something special to offer.

The trio has the first half of the concert to itself, and plays marvelously on a pair of original compositions by Uhlir ("June in Prague," "From Heart to Hearts") and two more by Jurkovic ("Fly Time," "Banana Split"). The breezy "Fly Time" is especially delightful, soaring easily skyward behind nimble solos by all hands. Durkovic, who embodies the trio's melodic nature, brings to mind Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel or Tal Farlow, Uhlir the late NHØP or Ray Brown, while Helesic could easily be mistaken for Roy Haynes, Jeff Hamilton or Ed Thigpen. Everyone swings buoyantly on "Prague" and "Split" before slowing the tempo on "Hearts," whose opening passage is embellished by Uhlir's gently bowed bass.

Goykovich joins the trio for the last four numbers, and what was already a memorable concert becomes even more so, as the veteran trumpeter is absolutely awesome on "Secret Love," Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive," Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow!" and another standard, "I'll Close My Eyes." There's no letdown by the trio, which lends Goykovich unwavering support as its members craft admirable solos on every number.

Goykovich, who has performed with world-class musicians and groups all over the world and logged time in bands led by Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman, not to mention France's legendary Clarke-Boland band, has a clean, lyrical style that for purposes of comparison may be likened to that of Bobby Shew, Marvin Stamm, Joe Wilder or the late Blue Mitchell, among others. Here he's as cool, confident and creative as ever, whether playing open, as on the first three numbers, or muted on "I'll Close My Eyes."

Thanks to the trio's expertise, and its dexterous interplay with Goykovich, the Prague concert is impressive from start to finish, an opinion that is reinforced by the album's first-rate sound and generous playing time. I am left with only one more thing to say—I wish I'd been there.


Track Listing: Introduction by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic; Fly Time; June in Prague; Banana Split; From Heart to Hearts; Secret Love; How Insensitive; Ow!; I’ll Close My Eyes (64:01).

Personnel: Frantisek Uhlir: bass; Darko Jurkovic: guitar; Jaromir Helesic: drums. Special guest: Dusko Goykovich (6-9): trumpet, flugelhorn.

Title: Jazz at Prague Castle 2006 | Year Released: 2006

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