Jitka Zelenková & The Gondolán Brothers Group – Já nechci mít
from 7 inch single “Čekej a neplakej”, 1969, Supraphon 0430818
original SP in a generic Supraphon sleeve
Jitka Zelenková was born in Brno in 1950. Her father was a symphony orchestra conductor, her mother sang with the Philharmonic Choir Prague. After winning several amateur singer contests, in 1968 she got an engagement at the renown Rokoko theatre in Prague where she performed with Waldemar Matuška or with Hana & Petr Ulrych. In 1973 she began to work as a background singer for Karel Gott. However, apart from recording a few singles as a solo artist and despite winning further awards at various Czechoslovak pop festivals, her solo career didn’t really took off before the end of the decade when Supraphon released her first solo album.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Antonín Gondolán was born in 1942 in Slovakia but his family moved to Bohemia two years later. At the age of merely 15 he got his first professional job with the Gustav Brom Orchestra. In the 1960s he studied double bass at the Prague Conservatory. In the mid 1960s he became a member of Prague’s Apollo theatre orchestra, Karel Gott’s backing band lead by the Štaidl brothers, with whom he also toured the USA in 1967. Back in Prague he founded a family combo with his brothers František, Jiří and Vojtěch, later joined by their teenage sister Věra on vocals (the Gondolán family were 12 siblings in total). In the late 1960s the group enjoyed big success at home and abroad, performing with major Czech pop stars like Gott, Waldemar Matuška or Helena Vondráčková. They played a unique blend of pop, beat and jazz with strong Romani folk influences. Apart from recording a couple of single sides on their own, they also used to back other singers on records. However, the family group disbanded in the early 1970s after most members with the exception of Antonín emigrated. He worked again as a freelance musician with Gott’s backing group (alias Ladislav Štaidl Orchestra), among others, until 1982 when he eventually exiled to West Germany as well. From then on he concentrated on playing jazz in general and double bass – his main instrument – in particular. In 1992 he returned back to the Czech republic. In 2004 he finally had the opportunity to release his long overdue first solo album with his folk-pop-jazz compositions.
If you are a regular reader, you might remember that I have a personal connection to the Gondolán family. One of Antonín’s sons, Roman, who unfortunately passed away last year, used to be a friend of ours in the mid 1980s while I lived with my family in Bern, Switzerland, and he also used to play drums in my band then. Additionally – and the reason why Roman came to Bern in the first place – his uncle Jiří (George), the original drummer of the Gondolán group, lived and still lives in Bern, too.
As a side note: Last week I’ve been in Prague (again!), so I’ve contacted Antonín Gondolán in order to do some research for this article. We met in the Reduta jazz club. He was supposed to have a gig with his combo that night, but his regular piano player has already left the country for studies in the United States. Thus Mr. Gondolán was forced to improvise in order to fulfill the contract. He decided to perform an ad-hoc repertoire of jazz standards as well as a medley of gipsy folk songs solely with his sister Věra Gondolánová, accompanying her on piano and on guitar. Well, to be honest, he’s not exactly a virtuoso on these instruments, yet Věra is such an outstanding and professional singer that she managed to turn this initially slightly chaotic jam session duet into a truly remarkable and unique event…
Já nechci mít (I Don’t Want To Have) was penned by Antonín Gondolán with lyrics by Pavel Vrba. According to Mr. Gondolán, it was recorded spontaneously during a session with Jitka Zelenková. It’s hard to place the tune inside a particular genre drawer – I’d call it perhaps “gipsy soul”. Whatever, in my opinion this is one of the most soulful original songs that has ever been written and recorded in former Czechoslovakia. The track appeared as the flip side of Gondolán’s biggest hit ever, Čekej a neplakej (Wait And Don’t Cry), which is more of a pop-beat tune sung by Antonín himself. The original single sold about 150,000 copies. Já nechci mít has never been reissued yet, but it’s planned that it should appear on a new Gondolán CD scheduled for release next year.