Jazz Goes to Town is an international music festival in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, about an hour by bus or train, northeast of Prague. This year will be the 22nd edition of the festival, between the 18th and 22nd of October. And the line-up is fresher than any other in this country for jazz, this year.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18th, the opening night’s headliner at Studio Beseda is NOCZ featuring Iva Bittova. Iva Bittova is from Moravia (eastern Czech Republic), but mostly residing in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York these days, and she is renowned as an avant garde vocalist and violinist. She’ll be teaming up with NOCZ, which is an avant garde-jazz quartet of two Czechs and two Norwegians, led by the trumpeter Didrik Ingvaldsen. Their sound is eclectic.
On Wednesday, Oct. 19th the headliner at the Dragon Theatre is Mike Parker’s Trio Theory, led by the American bassist Mike Parker, who is based in Krakow, Poland, with Frank Parker (from Chicago) on drums, and Siawek Pezda from Poland on tenor saxophone. This is a tireless, young and hungry modern jazz trio.
On Thursday, Oct. 20th, the night’s headliner at Bio Central is once again another internationally-mixed trio, but of a higher order. Brotzman/Swell/Nilssen-Love features the free jazz and free improvisation heavyweight from Germany, Peter Brotzman on saxophones and clarinet. Brotzman is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, and for this show, he’ll be performing with American trombonist Steve Swell, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love from Norway. This is wake-up music for any and all generations.
On Friday, Oct. 21st, there are three noteworthy groups on the same bill at Bio Central. The Jaromir Honzak Quintet, led by the veteran double-bassist Honzak with guitarist David Doruzka is a leading modern jazz trio from the Czech Republic. The Live Foyn Friis Quintet led by the young Norwegian jazz avant-pop-rock vocalist Live Foyn Friis with a back-up band of young Czechs and Slovaks. This night’s headliner is the New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra with guitarist Anton Gouldsmit. This is a neo-fusion youth orchestra, not at all imitating the 20th century swing orchestras, and that with a vengeance.
The closing night, Oct. 22nd is the overall highlight of the festival, as well, with an international flair. The groups for this evening include Made to Break, led by American saxophonist Ken Vandermark with Christof Kurzmann (from Austria) on electronics, Tim Daisy (from the USA) on drums, and Jasper Stadhouders (from Holland) on bass guitar. Merging progressive jazz improvisation, classical, electronics and a taste of reggae or funk grooves on their own composed material, this group is onto it.
On the same bill, at the Hradec Kralove Philharmonic Hall, Hildegard Lernt Fliegen is a young Swiss acapella men’s group, harking back to the age of dada cabaret, Kurt Weil, and true freedom in general.
Jazz Goes to Town concludes in an industrial space (Novak’s Garage) with the highly-acclaimed Sons of Kemet from the UK. Led by tenor saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings (born 1984), the Sons include Seb Rochford, drummer and leader of the alternative jazz phenomenon Polar Bear, along with Theon Cross on tuba, and Tom Skinner also on drums. Sons of Kemet are a force of raw energy with relentless West African and Caribbean rhythms and melodic to wild horns ala marching bands or Rashaan Roland Kirk with the aim to turn the audience into a hypnotic dance frenzy. Some songs also have a political edge, like “In Memory of Samir Awad” dedicated to a teenage boy in the West Bank shot by Israeli soldiers in 2013. Jazz stopped being political in the 70s, but our own chaotic times are begging for a return to a new form of protest jazz; one that ignites the audience, but in celebration rather than destruction, and Sons of Kemet are at the forefront of this new direction in urban trance/dance jazz.
Text: Tony Ozuna
Images and video courtsey of:
Jazz Goes To Town Festival Website