Emil Viklický: Ballads And More

Emil Viklický, Ballads And More (ARTA).

Writing the other day about František Uhlíř triggered a search through recently arrived CDs for
Viklicky.jpgthe latest collection by Emil Viklický’s trio. Viklický is the pianist in whose group Uhlíř has long been the bassist. He has collaborated with his contemporary George Mraz, another virtuoso Czech bassist, on two albums combining their beloved Moravian folk music with the jazz forms of which they are masters.

I have been listening to Ballads And More all day and marveling at Viklický’s ability to fold into his thoroughly modern jazz conception the sensibility that originates in his Moravian heritage and is fed in great part by his adoration of the Czech national hero Leos Janáček. Viklický injects a suggestion of minor-key Moravian reflection even into major-key standards like “I Fall In Love Too Easily” and “Polka Dots And Moonbeams. There is much more than a suggestion in his own “Highlands, Lowlands.” The program includes pieces by Cole Porter, Richie Beirach, Keith Jarrett, Harold Arlen and Pat Metheny (the touching “Always and Forever”). Jimmy Rowles’s “Peacocks” follows Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing,” songs so suited to one another that I’m surprised musicians don’t regularly pair them.

Uhlíř is brilliant throughout. European bassists trained in the academy tend to have flawless command of the bow. Uhlíř’s arco solo on “Peacocks” is a stunning example. Drummer Laco Tropp’s melodic mallets solo on Sammy Cahn’s and Saul Chaplin’s seldom-played “Dedicated To You” leads into a Viklický solo in which for a few bars his dazzling technique gleams through the ballad relaxation. Tropp evidently doesn’t have an exhibitionist bone in his body. He settles for playing great time.

If your neighborhood is one of the few that still has a record store, Ballads And More may not show up in it. The Czech company ARTA’s physical distribution is not world-wide. The internet, so far, is.

If you’d like to see Viklický, Uhlíř and Tropp in action, go here.  

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