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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.

Viking’s dreams

2007-07-21

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

KoubkovaJana_MiniJazzKlub23_aEP_128 Koubkova_Minijazz23EP_i1_128
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.

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.

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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.