South Bohemian Jazz Festival – Saturday August 6, 2022

South Bohemian Jazz Festival – Saturday August 6, 2022

South Bohemian Jazz Festival ČEZ 2022, Piarist Square, České Budějovice, Saturday August 6, 2022

The second night of the main programme of this year’s South Bohemian Jazz Festival brought the Slovenian band Jazoo to the historic Piarist Square in České Budějovice as the first one. Their performance full of energy and harmony more than pleasantly surprised and delighted all the receptive audience. Jazoo sounded compact and convincing in the expanded line-up: Katja Stare – vocals, soprano and alto flute, tenor saxophone, percussion; Tomaž Pačnik – keyboards, accordion; Danijel Hartman – drums, darbuka, conga; David Novak – bass guitar; Matjaž Mlakar – tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, electronics; guests: Matevž Špegel Štaher – electric guitar; Gregor Šteharnik – alto saxophone; Luka Krof – trumpet; Žan Plohl – trombone.

A very successful opening of the evening, which was not significantly surpassed on Saturday, so I recommend the video sample below.

Michal Kratochvíl: Jazoo is celebrating 25 years and Jiří Grauer’s introduction got us excited for the performance. They have become a local favourite as they are playing in České Budějovice for the third time. We are sleepily brought into the concert by a sympathetic Pink Floyd introduction on synths, joined by bass and a broken drum rhythm. On top of that, the brass kicks in and the singer indulges in a gymnastic warm-up before taking up the saxophone. Everyone goes all out and a decent ride ensues. The music has some serious drive and the band is clearly on fire. The woodwind section favours the soloists, the rhythm section keeps it all together expertly and provides a solid rock bottom end. The singer vocalizes beautifully when she’s not playing flute (or sax) and some passages are downright prog rock. Then again, it „stinks“ of the Balkans in the infectious repetitions, and they calmly cram in a chardonnay. I’m enjoying this incredibly much and this infectious mix and the great musical flavour is the highlight of the whole festival for me. Again, I have no choice but to note that the order of the bands should have been completely reversed today. Here comes another whirlwind from the Balkans, Floyd’s psychedelia and they still manage to incorporate Smetana. Bravo.

The international big band Cotatcha Orchestra brought the spectacular sound of a jazz orchestra to Piarist Square. The original repertoire from the award-winning album Bigband Electronica, a unique fusion of compositions combined with electronic music, captivated most of the attendees with its originality and the great performances of the individual players:

Trumpets: Jiří Kotača – bandleader; Jan Kozelek; Jan Přibil; Jaroslav Konečný;

Saxophones: Marek Kotača; Radek Zapadlo; Petr Smékal; Ivan Podhola; Radim Hanousek;

Trombones: Matthias Zeindlhofer; Jan Galia; Ivan Melin; Michal Motýl;

Martin Konvička – piano; Peter Korman – double bass; Kamil Slezák – drums.

Cotatcha Orchestra enriched the Saturday jazz evening.

Michal Kratochvíl: I finally managed to see Cotatcha Orchestra live, almost two years after the release of the exceptional Bigband elektronica album. It still forms the backbone of the orchestra’s program and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed their live performance. The electronica is not so hot in the songs, there could be more of it. Rather, it just adds a different colour and touch to most of the compositions and serves as a background to the orchestra playing, which adds layers to the sound and I very much welcome this extra dimension. Kamil Slezák is an extremely imaginative drummer and a toy drummer, and he downright caresses the compositions. Each of his cymbal strikes has its place and meaning. The track is also great, in which he almost exclusively uses electronic drums. On the Czech scene, an orchestra has been born that, at least on a European scale, can withstand comparison with its competitors, which it proves not only with its music, but also with its presentation.

A successful culmination of this year’s South Bohemia Jazz Festival was the performance of the quintet of legendary saxophonist Bobby Watson and Czech guitarist Libor Šmoldas. It was a really beautiful reminder of the be-bop phase of modern jazz, which was shaped by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, whose saxophonist and musical director at the turn of the 70s and 80s was Bobby Watson. His bandmates Petr Beneš – piano, Tomáš Baroš – double bass and Jesse Simpson – drums perfectly complemented the two main soloists. We were also delighted with a great interpretation of Art Blakey’s immortal song Moanin‘ and the closing blues, see video sample.

Michal Kratochvíl: In České Budějovice, Liboš Šmoldas remembered his collaboration with the legendary Bobby Watson and his quartet ably followed the legend, and what is more, was Bobby’s equal partner. They performed standard jazz, or jazz full of standards, which among other things Bobby himself wrote a few, as Libor also wittily commented. When someone asks him what they will play, he answers: „Standards, originals that Bobby wrote“. Bobby paid tribute to John Coltrane and his Giant Steps with the successful song Side Steps, and all the fans were also in for a treat with the vintage hit Moanin‘. Both Bobby Watson and the Czech quartet played with gusto and especially in the moments when Bobby had the lead and pulled the band through his solos, the performance was a joy to watch and listen to.

The two-day main programme of this year’s South Bohemian Jazz Festival once again fulfilled the expectations of a very interesting international jazz showcase, which was confirmed by the large audience, gratefully appreciating every band.

Michal Kratochvíl: This year’s weekend in České Budějovice was a nice addition to the holidays and I believe that next year Harold López-Nuss will be able to make it and arrive in full force!