One of the joys of reviewing is to receive a disc by a totally unknown group and have it just sweep you away. The music of the Vertigo Quintet is at once engrossing and unpredictable, yet its architectural features have such solidity and grandeur as to wash away any uncertainty.
In mentioning the influences of the group members, the Amplion website lists classical composers such as Debussy and Scriabin, as well as jazz musicians such as Ornette and Monk. The initials ECM come up as a way to describe the overall sound, but that just begs the question as to what the "ECM sound, or better, the ECM ethos, is. Certainly, the classical influence is obvious, and the music also does not swing in any overt way, yet I almost always felt a pulse, fed many times by the bass rather than the drums.
The architectural feel mentioned above is another feature that pushes the music into the ECM realm, and here the band really shines; the movement from section to section is handled so securely that everything feels organic and the music breathes as it ebbs and flows. There are few solos as such, but rather one of the players rising out of the band sound to emphasize a particular theme or motive, and hence the feeling of true group improvisation is emphasized. Drama and tension/release are present in abundance, rendering conventions of time meaningless.
The band has a carefully crafted sound. Vojtech Prochazka's piano many times reaches down to the depths, and he rarely ventures out of the midrange. His chords can be thick, sounding simple and not obviously altered, and yet float. Marcel Barta and Oskar Torok, on reeds and trumpet respectively, have two of the purest sounds I have ever heard, allowing them to mix colors rather than timbres. Many times they play in unison, creating a different instrument entirely, but they also split into harmony with either the soprano sax or trumpet on top, and then weave around each other; all of this is surrounded by a wash of piano. Stanko and Stenson are evoked (as on "Poslepu") but not copied, and I found the band's sound unique and refreshing.
Intense, introspective, brooding, joyous, very European, yet totally jazz, Vertigo Quintet scored a direct hit with me. As Lucie Kuklova, the contact at Amplion, said to me, "I am very happy for Vertigo Quintet and I would love to help them on their way into the world, because there are no higher opportunities in Czech area then to release a CD and play in clubs, and the boys are definitely above this! I must wholeheartedly agree, and if there is a jazz god, this band will be making a tremendous splash.