Prague's Jazz Dock brings international stars to the Vltava

Sax player Joe Lovano, singer Gretchen Parlato, and jazz-funk band The Bad Plus are among the highlights of the Jazz On5 festival.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 02.11.2022 15:31:00 (updated on 02.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague's Jazz Dock is hosting a packed new edition of its Jazz On5 festival, featuring stars such as Joe Lovano, Gretchen Parlato, and the American band The Bad Plus. The festival runs from Nov. 3 to 9.

It opens with composer and pianist Aaron Parks and his project Little Big. Parks started to make a name for himself at the turn of the millennium as a sideman for trumpeter Terence Blanchard. He achieved real success thanks to his fifth album “Invisible Cinema,” released on the Blue Note label.

Tender vocal jazz will be brought to the festival first on Nov. 4 by Czech singer Marta Kloučková, who will christen her latest album “Stopa Snu,” and then again a day later by U.S.-based vocalist Anna Kolchina. Her elegant and seductive voice promises an evening full of emotion.

Energetic funk and soul will be brought to Prague on Nov. 5 by the renowned Brooklyn band Huntertones. Its members use a New Orleans jazz style carried by the sousaphone, funky guitar riffs, and brass rhythms. They often perform with different vocalists and this time they Akie Bermiss on the tour. His charismatic vocals are somewhere between Donny Hathaway and Tom Waits.

The final three days of the festival will be incredibly busy. One of the most influential saxophonists of modern jazz, Joe Lovano, will take over the stage on Nov. 7. You can look forward to a cross-section of Joe Lovano's repertoire as well as some brand new compositions performed by an elite jazz band.

A day later, on Nov. 8, the original American singer and songwriter Gretchen Parlato will perform. Since around 2000, this award-winning artist has earned a reputation as one of the most inventive singers of her generation. She is bringing an all-star line-up for her first concert at the Jazz Dock.

The end of the festival will also be one of its highlights. The unique band The Bad Plus will return to Jazz Dock after a long time but in a completely changed form: a quartet with saxophone and electric guitar. Their hard-to-classify music constantly looks for ways to end the rules and bridge the boundaries of genres and techniques.

 You can find the complete program on the Jazz Dock website.

Jazz has a long history in the Czech Republic. It first became popular during the First Republic era in then-Czechoslovakia, with big bands playing swing music at Lucerna and other clubs, and also providing music to Czechoslovak films in the 1930s.

It mostly went underground during the Nazi occupation in World War II, though a few bands could still perform openly if they followed some stylistic restrictions such as no scat singing and no syncopation. Jazz was seen as having influences that were in opposition to the Nazi's racist notions of art.

Things got a little better in the communist era. While rock music was frowned upon, jazz was better tolerated by authorities. Instrumental bands had the best luck since there were no lyrics to censor for subversive content. The jazz club Reduta opened in 1958 and is still in operation. Malostranská Beseda also had the occasional show.

Performers needed a state license in the communist era, and after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion it was impossible for a rock musician to get one. But jazz musicians still could, and there were even state-sanctioned jazz festivals, some with notable visiting acts from the west. On the other hand, many Czech jazz musicians went to the west and often stayed abroad.

The situation didn't change until the end of the 1980s when the occasional rock act such as Depeche Mode could finally visit again. Jazz, on the other hand, remains popular to this day both with locals and foreigners.

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