In a series of articles in this year's issues of Czech Music Quarterly we have tried to outline the development of Czech jazz music from its earliest history to the present, with an eye to the social and political contexts in which jazz survived through two totalitarian regimes - the German Occupation during the Second World War, and the following forty years of communist rule. This defining experience created various problems in the development of Czech jazz, from the isolation of the domestic scene from world jazz in terms of performance, education and information, to the severing of contact with its own successful jazzmen who as emigrants were de jure "enemies" of socialist Czechoslovakia, some of them even being charged and condemned in their absence for leaving the republic. In this final installment of out serial we shall take a look at the most important current activities of contemporary Czech jazz musicians.
Who's Who in 2010
Since the times of the Jazz Section (1972-1986) and its regular periodical Bulletin Jazz (1972-1982) there has been no survey enabling readers or jazz specialists and critics to rate the contribution of established musicians and draw attention to rising talents in the Czech Republic. Nor currently does the Czech scene have any specialised magazine of the traditional American Downbeat type with its well-known and authoritative surveys. Jazz information, articles, interviews and reviews in this country are today scattered through a whole series of periodicals in which they have their own limited space as a minority interest. The main print media that regularly provide some space of this kind for jazz are the monthlies UNI (published by the UNIJAZZ association for cultural activities), which is musically more broadly orientated to alternative genres, blues, world music, and culture generally, and HARMONIE, which is primarily a classical music magazine enlivened with a certain amount of material on jazz and world music.
While there are no surveys-ratings of jazz musicians, there are two annual survey-competitions rating jazz recordings made in this country, and these give us an indirect view of at least a narrow selection of the important musicians. This year the Czech Jazz Society's "album of the year" (selected by survey), was the CD Little Things by the double bassist Jaromir Honzak, with the runners up being double-bassist Tomas Liska's CD debut Invisible World and the Infinite Quintet's CD debut Point. In another survey-competition, which is a genre offshoot of the Czech music academy of pop music, and involves award of the Golden Angel/Zlaty Andel after the gold figurine presented to winners, the specialist jury for the joint category "jazz & blues" also gave the accolade to Honzak's CD Little Things. We should add at this point that never before in the history of Czech jazz have there been so many new recordings - this year there were more than thirty. On one thing the jurors of these awards could agree: there was plenty to choose from.
Also interesting is the extent to which foreign musicians have been involved in the prize-winning recordings. The band led by the double bassist, composer and teacher at the Prague Jazz Conservatory, Jaromir Honzak has had a permanent international line-up since the beginning of the 1990s. The drummer Lukasz Zyta and pianist Michal Tokaj from Poland are among top-ranking European jazz musicians and the involvement of the well-known American soprano and tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek further enhances the musical quality of this particular line-up. In fact only one native Praguer is now playing with Honzak - and that is guitarist David Doruzka, who has long been a big name throughout Europe. The second outstanding recording last year, Invisible World from bassist Tomas Liska's trio, is comparably international. Its bandoneonist from Italy, Daniel Di Bonaventura, stands somewhere midway between tango nuevo and Italian Mediterranean folk, and his sound strongly influences the colour of the whole recording. …