The quintet which pianist Nikol Bókóva
rounded up for her third album as a leader can be regarded as a showpiece of the young and dynamic talents stirring up the Czech jazz scene. Featuring the crafty skills of contemporary guitarist David Doruzka
, French-horn player Radek Baborák
's exceptional lyricism, and a versatile rhythm section made up of bassist Jaromír Honzák
and Michal Wierzgon
presents a highly melodious program which blends timeless lyricism with modern soundscapes to an effect that weighs heavy on the melancholic side of the spectrum.
Large cataclysmic arcs and palpable emotionality draw through all-new Bokova-material, most likely owing some of its more dramatic tendencies to the passing of an unnamed person close to the pianist, just before this project's inception. Wistful cadences descending at mid-tempo pace, such as the ones introduced on the opener "A Star Trodden Way," are commonplace throughout the set, recurring on the title track, "Like a Boy," "Perseids" and "Two Peculiar Girls," inviting guitar and French horn in for embellishing solos, atmosphere and accompaniment. Embellishment is among the album's main mottos.
Much of the music on Prometheus
demonstrates slick production and beautiful musicianship which decorates the surface in sparkling delight, but more often than not, little compositional substance seems to lie behind that veil. Where "Prometheus" is marked by its dichotomous structure, rotating quietly spacious ensemble interplay with a rhythmically driven middle section which lights the sparks under engaged bass and drum interplay and sumptuous horn and guitar arrangement, other titles fall flat in comparison. "On a Meadow" is an atmospheric piano interlude which bridges between the swift title track and the meditative "Lightness of Space," another gentle sound-sketch that finishes on a breakdown of sorts, seeing the guitar shredding away in pure bliss. Both songs have pretty intentions but do not seem able to make lasting impressions
Other cuts come and go in a similar way, "Perseids" washing by with subtle brush work and a nicely developed guitar solo while "Peaceful Ride" introduces haunting Latin rhythm into the mix. However, "Like A Boy" and "Nunchaku" are cut from different cloth and are among the standout tracks of the set. The former is a nimble piano arpeggio exercise accompanied by hovering melodic lines on guitar and trumpet to a rapid percussion backdrop, while the latter sets the scene for an impressive French horn recitation by Baborak, performing a dreamy flight through playful eights and sextuplets in duo with Bokova, whose occasional right-hand flares point out the composed bits of the composition.
Occasionally Bókóva's part-through-composed, part-improvised musings show similarities to some of the developments in jazz on the other side of the Atlanticher peer Aaron Parks
' instrumental indie rock meets jazz outfit Little Big especially comes to mind. From a sonic point of view Prometheus
is pretty much as prolific as it gets and the leader's modern vision resonates powerfully throughout the set, making up for a slight lack of compositional character. At 30 years of age, that is not much of a hurdle to overcome for a pianist, whose style just might thrive in the current musical climate.
A Star-Trodden Way; Prometheus; On a meadow; Lightness of Space; Like a Boy; Nunchaku; Perseids; Two
peculiar Girls; Peaceful Ride; Heart of Gold.