Jana Koubková & Horký dech – Vikingovy sny
from 7 inch EP “Mini jazz klub 23”, 1979, Panton 81350005; also on export compilation “Jazz à la carte”, 1981, Panton 81151981
original EP sleeve (front/inside)
If I stated before that Vlasta Průchová was the 1st lady of Czechoslovak jazz, then Jana Koubková (1944) must be the female president, for in the meantime she’s a jazz “institution”. She began to sing with Kulínský’s Children Radio Chorus when she was six. From the early 1960s until the mid 1970s she was a member of possibly all important pop/jazz vocal groups that appeared on the scene: she co-founded the Linha Singers in 1963, she spent a few years with the Lubomír Pánek Singers & Swingers (alias Sbor Lubomíra Pánka) and she sang with the Inkognito Kvartet (a.k.a. Incognito Quartet). She quitted the latter shortly before their Mongolian tour with the Karel Duba Combo in August 1968, where the majority of both ensembles died in a car accident. Later she also briefly performed with Kučerovci, C&K Vocal, Jezinky and she worked at the Semafor Theatre.
Koubková came to “real” jazz quite late though, when she began to sing with Luděk Hulan’s Jazz Sanatorium in 1975. Then she was a member of the Jazz Half Sextet and she also co-founded the female vocal trio/quartet Hot Tety (Hot Aunts). With both bands she recorded several 7″ singles for Supraphon and Panton. After Hulan’s tragical death in 1978 a group with the pun name Horký dech Jany Koubkové (Hot Breath Of Jana Koubková) came to existence. It was a relatively loose combo where Koubková’s role wasn’t that of a conventional lead singer, instead she used her voice as a further solo instrument. The nucleus of the group was made up of Ladislav Malina (dr), Ivo Durczak (b), Zdeněk Kalhous (p), Zdeněk Hrášek (g) and – surprise, surprise – Jiří Tomek on congas. (Really: if you hear any congas on a Czech record from the seventies, the chances might be around 90 % that it’s been Tomek playing!) The rhythm section was augmented by a variable horn section, e.g. Rudolf Ticháček (ts), Zdeněk Šedivý (tp) and Zdeněk Bártík (tb) on these recordings.
Vikingovy sny (Viking’s Dreams) was written by the future movie score composer Ilja Cmíral who also collaborated with Koubková on another track from the EP. It’s a relatively complex fusion tune with a brazilian flavour in a vein similar to early Mahagon with Zdena Adamová, not necessarily danceable yet still very funky. Koubková excels as an expressive soloist, towards the end Ticháček joins in on tenor sax.
In 1982 Supraphon released Koubková’s first solo album, a self titled LP under the Horký dech moniker. She reduced the line-up to a trio, however. She was backed only by guitarist Michal Pavlíček and drummer Jiří Hrubeš, who both joined Michael Kocáb’s Pražský výběr shortly thereafter. Aside from a brief intermezzo with Jazz Q, from the 1980s on Koubková worked independently on numerous projects: from duos like with the Japanese pianist Aki Takase over Alan Vitouš Trio up to big band recordings with Kamil Hála’s JOČR and others. And sort of stepping in Luděk Hulan’s footprints (who also often worked behind the scenes), in 1981 she iniciated and organized the first edition of the Vokalíza jazz/blues/rock festival which ran annually until 2000. These days Koubková still can be heard performing on Prague’s jazz stages regularly; a quick web search revealed that she plays at Jazzklub U staré paní (alias USP Jazz Lounge) tonight, for example…
As far as I know, Viking’s Dreams has been reissued on a Japanese “best of” compilation.
Besides, I still have the double LP Bratislava Jazz Days 1981 for sale in my web shop, which contains the live version of Fankuj fankuj vykrúcaj (Funky Funky Hop) by the late Horký dech trio.