The Hammond theme
Braňo Hronec Orchestra – Téma pre Hammond [sample]
from 7 inch SP “Žltá rieka (Yellow River)”, 1971, Opus 90430015
original SP in an Opus label sleeve
The subtitle of this blog indicates that I’m supposed to introduce you to funky Slovak music too, and it’s right about time to do so. Let’s start with an early obscure b-side from organist and composer Branislav “Braňo” Hronec.
Hronec was born 1940 in Hronsek and studied on the state conservatory in Bratislava. After playing in various jazz bands since the late 1950s, in the mid 1960s he established his own jazz sextet, pioneering the use of the (then rare and expensive) Hammond organ in Czechoslovakia. To get more gigs, since the late 1960s the group used to enhance its playlist with cover versions of most recent international hits. They began to tour frequently both Eastern and Western Europe where they often played in night clubs. In Slovakia they released a couple of singles with own compositions as well as popular songs like Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.
One of those 45s on Slovakia’s new record label Opus was a cover version of Christie’s smash pop hit Yellow River with Slovak lyrics. Hm, so what? Well, the actual subject of interest for us funk-heads is of course Hronec’s instrumental flip side “filler” Téma pre Hammond (The Hammond Theme). Based on a funked up basic blues scheme, with its pretty complex rhythmical patterns this one of the most authentic original raw funk tracks that have ever emerged from Eastern Europe; authentic in terms of sounding quite close to its afro-american roots. The Hammond, the horns, the thick bass, the wah-wah fuzz guitar – all expected ingredients are there. Shake yer booty.
The seven-inch doesn’t list the orchestra line-up, but I assume that it’s the same group which has also recorded the debut album Braňo Hronec uvádza (Braňo Hronec Presents) one year later: Hronec on organ, the ex-Beatmen Marián Bednár on bass, Gábor Koval on guitar, Ferdinand Szabó on drums, Igor Parma on trumpet and Pavol Paprčka on saxophones. Additionally, the female vocalists on Žltá rieka (Yellow River) were probably Eva Kostolányiová and Eva Máziková. Internationally the orchestra was also known as the Braňo Hronec Sound or simply Branjo Sound.
Braňo Hronec recorded three long-players in the 1970s before fading into obscurity as a conductor of the Slovak Television Dance Orchestra and a hotel-keeper: the aforementioned soulful Presents which includes a live Slovak version of Tony Ashton’s Resurrection Shuffle (Urob ten krok) (although they were most likely covering the more famous Tom Jones’ rendition), then there’s the 1974 Srdečný pozdrav (Best Greetings) with a pair of killer funk tracks and the ironical yet solid disco album Natrhaj mi dážď (Pick Some Rain For Me) as well as its export English version named I Wanna Dance Bump, both from 1977. And you guessed it, Braňo Hronec will return to Funky Czech-In soon…
As you might have expected, the Hronec records are rather hard to find and the “Best Of” CD mentioned on Hronec’s homepage seems to be actually nonexistent. Try the usual sources: eBay, Gemm or Google. Good luck.
P.S. I just arrived in Prague this morning and I’ll stay for one week. Going to dig for some more funky czech-ins, among other things to do… :) Three good news: My grandmother (83) is doing very well, my old school friend Ondra who is going to celebrate his 40th birthday on thursday is doing very well, too, and finally, the Prague 5 district has enhanced its public WiFi access points which means free internet at my granny’s house…