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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.

Solstice

2007-06-22

Jazz Q – Slunovrat
from album “Elegie”, 1976, Supraphon 1151983
produced by Hynek Žalčík & Jan Spálený

JazzQ_Elegie_a_128 JazzQ_Elegy_a_128 JazzQ_Elegy_RI_128
original LP sleeve designed by Karel Haloun, export album, export reissue

While I’ve been a bit behind my weekly schedule with my previous blog post – which has been delayed by a couple of days – today I’m almost on time with an actual astronomical event. And speaking of time, it’s truly about time to dedicate an entry to one of the most important Czechoslovak acts of the seventies, Martin Kratochvíl‘s Jazz Q. Despite the group’s name, their importance didn’t manifest only on the jazz side of things, of course. Like many other 1970s Czechoslovak combos oriented to jazz, at times they were able to supply a heavy dose of rock to the starving audience as well. And actually it’s not even the first time you’re hearing Jazz Q on this blog, they were already backing Helena Vondráčková last December.

Jazz Q was founded in 1964 by keyboarder Kratochvíl (1946) with flutist and saxophonist Jiří Stivín. In the beginning they inclined to free jazz. The group was even quite successful internationally, both Kratochvíl and Stivín won a couple of festival prizes in the late 1960s. But while Stivín wanted to continue with his free work, Kratochvíl decided to switch over to the progressive rock camp. After all, he spent the years 1967-1968 in England where he visited a lot of pop festivals, experiencing acts like the Doors or Jimi Hendrix.

Still with Stivín, Jazz Q recorded their first Supraphon LP in 1970, Coniunctio. That was a collaboration with Radim Hladík’s reduced Blue Effect who had just kicked their singer Vladimír Mišík out of the group. The album came out pretty weird. Jazz Q already tried to move closer to rock while Blue Effect were sort of searching for the way out of it. All at the same time. And though one might assume that both groups would meet somewhere in the middle, they didn’t. Stivín then left for a stellar solo career and Kratochvíl rebuilt his group from the ground up. His 1973 effort Pozorovatelna (The Watch-Tower) has been recorded for Panton with ex-Framus 5 Luboš Andršt on guitar and the young talented bass guitarist Vladimír Padrůněk (later with Mišík’s ETC, then again with Jazz Q). Only few months later Kratochvíl began to work on a new Supraphon album with ex-Flamengo blues specialist František Francl (1946) on guitar and his English wife and vocalist Joan Duggan: Symbiosis became one of the darkest reflections of the Czechoslovak normalization era and it’s definitely worth another “czech-in” in the future.

Slunovrat (Solstice) is the opener of Elegie (Elegy), Jazz Q’s fourth album. Clearly inspired by big names in funk-jazz and fusion, Kratochvíl excels on Fender Rhodes and Moog, Francl plays a sparse but effective rock guitar, while bassist Přemysl Faukner (1952) with drummer Libor Laun (1951) are cookin’ it tight and funky. The other seven album tracks also feature several special guests like ETC’s violinist Jan Hrubý, Impuls’s Michal Gera on trumpet or the ubiquitous Jiří Tomek on conga.

In 1977 Kratochvíl spent a year at the Berklee College of Music. Back from the States he continued to perform and record under the Jazz Q flag until 1984. Besides making instrumental albums he also used to work with various singers: Jana Kratochvílová, Jana Koubková, the aforementioned Helena Vondráčková, Martha Elefteriadu or with ex-Marsyas Oskar Petr.

Jazz Q reunited another 20 years later, in 2004, and they are still performing these days. The recent line-up features only one “new” member, the Impuls guitarist Zdeněk Fišer. (Francl had to give up playing guitar in the 1980s due to a hand injury. He’s still active as a recording producer though.) Faukner is back on the fretless bass, Jaromír Helešic already played drums on Zvěsti (Tidings) and Paprsky (Beams) in 1977-1978. And on vocals there’s Oskar Petr again who returned from his U.S. exile to the Czech Republic in the 1990s.

Regular Jazz Q albums are available as second hand vinyl only, so czech out your online sources. Some tracks from Elegie also appeared on several English and German funk-jazz/fusion compilations.

Rings on the water

2006-12-11

Helena Vondráčková & Jazz Q – Kruhy na vodě
from album “Paprsky”, 1978, Supraphon 1132350
arranged by Martin Kratochvíl, produced by Jan Spálený, Mojmír Balling & Květoslav Rohleder

VondrackovaH_Paprsky_a_128 VondrackovaH_Paprsky_b_128
original LP sleeve (front/back)

Helena Vondráčková is without doubt the number one Czech female pop star. With more than 40 years in the show biz she’s one of the few still active and still successful veterans from the early days of contemporary Czechoslovak pop music. The complete Vondráčková story is well documented on this English fan site, so I won’t go much into details here.

Although she had plenty of top hits in the 1970s with a lot of airplay and TV appearances, her regular albums were neither really great nor very popular, partly because they were too mainstream oriented while lacking obvious hit material. This may have been the reason why she teamed up in early 1978 with jazz-rocker Martin Kratochvíl to record Paprsky (Beams), an album without hits, too, but with lots of exciting and funky music. It wasn’t her first collaboration with jazz musicians though, ex-SHQ Luděk Švábenský and his Strýci (a.k.a. Šest strýců) used to be her live backing group in the mid seventies, recording a couple of pop 45s and a quite nice easy listening album in 1974.

Paprsky was recorded by Kratochvíl’s regular group Jazz Q with František Francl, Vladimír Padrůněk (1952-1991) and Jaromír Helešic, including a few guests: Michal Gera, Jiří Tomek, Vladimír Merta, Petr Kalandra and Oskar Petr, who also wrote most of the lyrics. Kratochvíl was responsible for all keyboards, arrangements and most compositions. A few songs were penned by Vondráčková’s younger brother Jiří Vondráček. Interesting fact in this context is the direct connection to the folk-rock group Marsyas, which I have featured on Funky Czech-In in October: Marsyas used to play live gigs with Jazz Q; Kalandra and Petr appeared on this album; Petr left Marsyas and became Jazz Q’s lead singer (until his emigration in 1979) while Helena’s brother Jiří Vondráček on the other hand joined Marsyas as Petr’s replacement…

Back in the days this LP was considered a very experimental project for a pop singer like Vondráčková. Today it may sound more conventional than originally intended, but compared to her other outings from the late seventies and from the eighties it’s still the one Vondráčková album that you might want to own. Paprsky is available as a double CD including the 1980 pure disco album Můzy (Muses a.k.a. Music) which is quite a logical choice. Get it e.g. on cdmusic.cz or on supermusic.cz, you can listen to Ogg Vorbis samples on this official discography page. For vinyl try eBay. Oh, by the way, a couple of her vinyl records from the sixties are available in my web shop, too (items no. 482, 964, 1194, 1197 and 1213).

Recent posts

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
2008-06-04: The best disco in town

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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.