The Czech Republic can boast about their well-documented representation of accomplished bass players (Miroslav Vitous, George Mraz) within the International jazz community. Here, Czech bassist Robert Balzar along with fellow countrymen pianist Stanislav Macha and drummer Marek Patrman pianist perform as a Trio. In 1998, Travelling was touted by many, as the best jazz album emanating from the Czech Republic. We won’t or could not argue that point here but based on its merits, Travelling is a very fine piece of work which most assuredly deserves some widespread recognition.
The opener, “The Patriot” tips the listener off as these musicians can swing in harmonious fashion, while keeping in mind the classic piano trio format. Here, these gents perform a cool and sleek mid-tempo swing, which from the onset rekindles memories of the Junior Mance Trio. Balzar is a strong bandleader or within this format a darn good traffic cop. Mr. Balzar possesses a fleet-fingered attack on his deep, resonant sounding acoustic bass; however, Balzar most always maintains the rich melodies, which are resident throughout most of these pieces. “Thanks To Isidor” is an upbeat Bop style composition as Balzar turns in a straight up and groovin’ bass solo. On many of these pieces, Balzar and the fine pianist Stanislav Macha up the ante with harmonically rich themes stated in unison. The title track, “Travelling” is 10 minutes in length and the highlight of this recording. A gorgeously affable melody featuring lyrically rich, textural soloing from Macha, charming bass work by Balzar and a particularly inventive drum solo from Marek Patrman make “Travelling” an extremely engaging listen. The key here is the bouncy melody and deterministic straight four beat which at times emits the feel and aura of a Military March yet less austere than one would surmise. Additional highlights are Macha’s delicate and passionate single note leads on the piece titled, “B.E.” also featuring a joyful melody (Balzar is a fine composer) and Balzar’s adept bowed-bass work on the finger-snapping, “Willy Nilly”.
Travelling is fun, amiable and demonstrates Balzar’s fine bass technique along with focused and communal support from an obviously pumped-up rhythm section. If marketed correctly here in the States, Travelling would most certainly enjoy some radio airplay and generate some excitement. * * * *
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