Vertigo Quintet is a Czechoslovakian group of young and very talented musicians. They come mostly from the „seedbed“ of the Jazz Conservatory of Jaroslav Ježek in Prague. As they stated, they got together to play the music that is close to their hearts in Vertigo group, even if they have been participating in many others interesting projects. The proof of a fact that they are an exact match is their very solid album. Their expression is undeniably influenced by T. Monk, M. Davis, O. Coleman or by the production of the ECM mark from Munich. Of course it is no plagiarism but their own manifestation where the music of the 50´s and 60´s is mingled altogether with subsequent progressive jazz interpretation. When listening to this album I can’t resist mentioning cool jazz from the turn of the 40´s and 50´s full of soulful seriousness and distinctive expression of a personal sublime sensation.
This recording brings fragile, serious and sensitive jazz that is played in easy tempo and emphasized by great disciplined performance of every single musician. There is no lack in interesting moments so the audience doesn´t have to be afraid of being bored to death.
The expression of the group is based mainly on the beautiful, bright and melodically imaginative soprano saxophone of Marcel Bárta. From time to time he replaces it by the bass clarinet which he masters with the same creative ability. Oskar Torok´s trumpet sounds a bit uncertain and torn, but I don´t feel an uncertainty of a musician, it is rather a frank manifestation of someone introverted. Nice moments are to be brought round by ubiquitous duets of the brasses which remind me of old mutual understanding between Ornett Coleman and Don Cherry but in much softer interpretation. Greatly coloured solos of Vojta Procházka change the mood and tempo in the passages of every piece. The percussion of Daniel Šoltis is very imaginative. His talent, technical qualities and fantasy complement the other musicians and participate in the final sound of this group. While expressing praises it is necessary to mention decent and smart performance of the bassist Rastislav Uhrík, who is a student of Jaromír Honzák. Uhrík modestly preserves the group spirit and provides a hint of tinge to the playing. Another interesting fact is the composing ability of all five musicians. Songs on their debut album come entirely from their own writing and it has to be said, that they really didn´t have to touch somebody else production.
First song “Rozprávka” absorbs you with progressively mounting, beautiful and emotive solo of Marcel Bárta´s soprano saxophone that is tinged by a catchy percussion of Daniel Šoltis. Marcel is replaced by Vojta Procházka and his soloing piano with rather strong blues feeling and accelerating tempo.
The first song is followed by one of the most beautiful pieces of this album called “Really sorry” which is a slow and touching ballad by Oskar Torok. It sounds as a sincere and submissive expression of a sorrow. Light soprano sax mingling with a hesitant trumpet brings almost pathetic atmosphere without being kitshy. The short piano soloing is wonderful indeed.
The exquisite and lyrical bass of Rastislav Uhrík is to be heard in the sad song “Tichý dům” where not even one note is denying the spirit of the whole album.
“Exhibicionista” represents one of the prettiest moments of this album because of the trumpet of Oskar Torok and his quite untamed solo. Even the solo of Daniel Šoltis and his percussion is not showed off too much, just neatly matching the whole thing.
In “El´ga” is Marcel Bárta changing the bass clarinet for soprano sax. The nice and melodic beginning is being passed on from bass clarinet to piano and it is really impressive.
The ballad “Dozvuk I” is strongly dramatised by percussion and courageous brass playing. The piano solo is in a romantic tone with “Jarrett-like” elements.
An impressive bass reef introduces the following “Dalasi”. There is also place for the bass solo which delights you with its inventiveness and discipline. A beautiful solo of the Bárta´s bass clarinet is added.
In “Předtucha” the trumpet is very uncertainly but gorgeously crying out its inner torn emotions. You can feel the expectation of something beautiful and maybe sombre throughout this piece.
“Poslepu” is much faster and frenetic represented by slightly palpitating percussion (which I have always liked in the music of Jack DeJohnette in the trio of Keith Jarrett). The striking soprano sax solo is again being replaced by rampaging piano. The song mounts steeply and finally falls down into a calm ending.
The very end of this album is marked by a short theme called “Dozvuk II (coda)”.
An impressive album this is. The important thing for me is that nowadays, when there are so many strongish motions and forced hypocrisy of these so called “superstars”, there are still some young musicians who do not hesitate if anything to produce archaically charming, serious and frankly emotional music.
I have to mention the production of this recording directed by Lucie Kukulová, the owner of a fresh publishing house Amplion that has provided the album with a great quality sound and a representative cover. These features are similar to those of the ECM that is rigorous on every occasion.
I surely don´t want to be an early and bad foreteller, but in my opinion this album is the best one of the year and what more, it is a real catch on the Czech jazz scene. It shouldn´t be lost in an international competition. If this is the case, I don´t know but I´ll definitely cross my fingers for them.
Personnel: Marcel Bárta (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Daniel Šoltis (percussion), Rastislav Uhrik (bass), Oskar Torok (trumpet), Vojtěch Procházka (piano).
Track listing: Rozprávka, Really sorry, Tichý dům, Exhibiconista, El´ga, Dozvuk I, Dalasi, Předtucha, Poslepu, Dozvuk II (coda)
Miroslav Romančuk, www.jazzport.cz
Veronika Piotrowská (translation)