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Funky Czech-In

An introduction to Czech and Slovak pop music from the sixties, seventies and eighties with a touch of funk, soul, disco and jazz.

Interlude: Even Joe has already wrapped it up

2007-09-21

Back home in Basel with access to my record collection, I can finally post my little homage to Joe Zawinul who passed away last week. Zawinul’s life is well documented all over the world wide web, so I’ll refrain from repeating what others already might have written much better. Just to create a clearer connection to this blog I’d point out a less known fact that Zawinul, born in Austria in 1932, also had Czech roots: his grand father hailed from Moravia. The origin is also obvious if you look at the literal meaning of the surname Zawinul. “Zavinout” means in Czech “to wrap up” or “to swathe” which is pretty well illustrated by the Czech word for the @ symbol: “zavináč” (zavináč is actually a rollmops).

So, after this small lesson in etymology let’s move on to music. I don’t think it’s necessary to upload yet another rip of Birdland, Country Preacher or Mercy Mercy Mercy, although from the latter there exist at least two nice renditions on records by Czech artists: a live instrumental from Šest strýců and and the brilliant vocal version Nechci (I Don’t Want) from Marie Rottrová’s first solo album, both from 1972. Nevertheless, the following instrumental tune has nothing to do with Joe Zawinul whatsoever except for its pun title, making it sort of a perfect requiem…

Combo FH – Asi to zabalíme, i Josef už to zavinul
from album “Věci/Thing”, 1980, Panton 81130184
produced by Daniel Fikejz and Antonín Matzner

ComboFH_Veci_a_128
original LP sleeve by Miloš Jirsa

“Asi to zabalíme, i Josef už to zavinul” translates literally as “perhaps we shall pack it up, even Joe has already wrapped it up”. But since the connection to Zawinul would get completely lost in the translation, on the album the official English title for this tune was Weather Report For Tonight, Let’s Call It A Day. Nice try, but not nearly as funny as the Czech one. The other tracks from Věci have pretty funny pun titles as well (Second Best Mousetrap or Dried Strawberry’s Dream), reminding of songs by Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa. That’s not a big surprise, of course, since the composer and band leader Daniel Fikejz has been known as quite a fan of Zappa.

For more info on Combo FH you might want to revisit my article from September 2006.

A yoghurt not until another time

2006-09-25

Combo FH – Jogurt až jindy
from 7 inch EP “Mini Jazz Klub č. 11” a.k.a. “Kopytem různě”, 1977 , Panton 330415
produced by František Horáček

ComboFH_MiniJazzKlub11EP_128
original 1977 EP sleeve

Combo FH, originally known as Combo Franty Hromady (Franta Hromada Combo), appeared on the Czech amateur jazz scene in 1974. The members were young students aged twenty and their music sounded fresh and humorous, not always following the usual jazz-rock conventions of that era. Combo FH was conceived and lead by keyboard player, composer and Frank Zappa admirer Daniel Fikejz, son of the well known Czech pop lyricist Jiřina Fikejzová. The original line-up included Bořivoj Suchý on saxophone, Milan Sládek on bassoon, Oldřich Svoboda on flute, the bass player Peter Hájek, Richard Mader and Jaroslav Hönig on guitars and the drummer Vít Ondráček. Franta Hromada never was a real member of the combo though, most likely due to his physical non-existence…

Combo FH debuted on wax in 1977 with an instrumental three-track EP, the release no. 11 from the Panton Mini Jazz Klub series. Panton was, besides Supraphon, the “other” Czech record label, starting in 1967 until the early 1990s with focus on less commercial releases. With the Mini Jazz Klub series on 7 inch records Panton tried to document – within their possibilities – the active Czech jazz scene from 1976 until the mid 1980s while covering all possible facets of the genre; get ready for more Mini Jazz Klub examples here on the Funky Czech-In blog, like Jana Koubková’s Hot Breath (no. 23) or the legendary Luděk Hulan’s Jazz Sanatorium (no. 2).

After Fikejz’ reggae excursion on another 7″ featuring the vocal group Yo Yo Band (obviously the very first Czech reggae record ever), in 1980 Combo FH recorded their ultimate scurrilous album Věci (Things), which even came to distribution in Western Europe, becoming at that time one of the very few Czechoslovak jazz/rock records known to at least some music collectors in front of the Iron Curtain. Thanks to their rather unobtrusive look and apolitical message the group was permitted to appear on Czech TV a couple of times. They were also the first Czech group to experiment with laser weapo…, er, lighshow on stage. Through the 1980s Fikejz continued to record sporadically as Combo FH with ever changing personal line-ups. However, he dropped the jazz entirely, switching to a more “commercial” vocal new-wave-pop and initially adopting slight ska influences, documented on a few single sides. He then released the synth laden second Combo FH album Situace na střeše (A Situation On The Rooftop) in 1985, which actually was a pretty good pop record. But one year later Fikejz disbanded the group for good, concentrating on his work as a scenic music composer.

Jogurt až jindy (A Yoghurt Not Until Another Time) is the b-side track from the first EP and one of the rather “conventional” Fikejz compositions from their weird 1970s repertoire. After a bluesy prelude (edited out from this MP3) it takes off with a fast modal fusion groove full of funky Fender Rhodes riffs, blubbering synths and Caravan-alike slide guitar and soprano sax melodies leading into a straight guitar solo, followed by a moody intermezzo borrowing from medieval music. For the last one and a half minutes the group slows down to a melancholic jazz-rock tune and a brief epilog repeats the prelude blues theme as a duet for double bass and a whistler with background noises of someone crumpling a snack wrapping paper (hence the yoghurt reference in the song title).

As far as I can tell, none of the Combo FH recordings have been reissued on CD yet. A few not-so-cheap vinyl records are usually available online, e.g. via gemm.com, or they appear on eBay occasionally. This particular EP is now also for sale here or there. Much cheaper copies can be found in second hand stores in the Czech Republic, of course.

Recent posts

2017-07-08: In memoriam Dr. Gui, the funky drummer
2017-02-12: In The Game Preserve
2016-02-17: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7
2009-09-19: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1
2008-08-31: Mercy Mercy Mercy

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Disclaimer

The audio samples are presented as a “specimen” to encourage readers to buy the artists’ albums. Many of the tracks presented herein are available for purchase in MP3 or FLAC format at supraphonline.cz.

Copyright

All written content is © 2006– by Lukáš Machata (Lou Kash). Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. If you’d like to use portions of my articles, please contact me first.