Reduta Jazz Club

Geoff Tyson visits the renowned jazz venue Staff

Written by Staff Published on 13.03.2008 20:58:44 (updated on 13.03.2008) Reading time: 5 minutes

Written by Geoff Tyson

A short walk from the Narodni třida metro stop, the oldest, most legendary jazz club in Prague sits nonchalantly next to the Rock Club Café at Národní 20, Praha 1

Opened in 1958 during the Communist era, the Reduta Jazz Club was a bit of a sore spot for the Soviets. It was considered extremely subversive for its time when any non government-approved endeavor like this could have dire consequences for your personal life. But since jazz was considered an art form further away from the treasonous sounds of rock-and-roll and closer to traditional classical music, this club managed to avoid the fate of many soviet era rock-clubs and has stayed open all the way through till today.

Reduta is a legend. Apart from hosting the International Jazz Festival each year, everybody who’s anybody in the Czech jazz world has played in this famous pre-revolutionary joint.

The 300 Kč entrance fee is 100 Kč higher than many of Prague´s other jazz clubs – perhaps because of their historical relevance? I was curious to investigate.

In the entrance foyer, there is a CD store with an extensive collection of original live recordings made at Reduta, as well as some classic studio albums. There are many Czech jazz artists like Jiří Stivín and the Emil Viklicky Trio, as well as some classic albums like Simon and Garfunkel.

The pride of the Redutta Jazz Club is represented by a photo in their entry hall of President Bill Clinton sitting with Václav Havel and Václav Klaus watching a live jazz performance at Reduta in 1994. Apparently, while on a trip to Prague to discuss democracy, Mr. Clinton pulled out the old tenor sax and had a jam with Havel and the players on stage. I made a point of sitting in the exact spot that Clinton sat in, according to the picture. Now I can say that my ass has something in common with what was once the most powerful ass in he world.

The inside of Reduta is really well done from an acoustical perspective. They have combined lighting, photographic art, sound reinforcement, seating placement and acoustical ceiling treatments all into one functional package that works very well to deliver astounding sonic reproduction. The seats are laid out in an unusual, but very logical fashion so that every seat in the house has an unobstructed view of the stage. The band on stage sounds BIG without having to be loud and the bass-end definition and clarity is the best I have heard in Prague.

We waited and waited for table service but none came. I can´t think of many other Prague venues that do not have table service. I thought this was odd considering that when you go see a jazz show, the last thing you want to have to do is get up and go to the bar while the musicians are playing. It would be like getting up during a football game and missing the winning score. You never know what might happen with jazz.

And considering the prices they were charging for booze, I would think that they could afford a waitress. At 195 Kč for a horrible bottle of Monravian Chardonnay and 80 Kč for a glass of Pilsner, these are prices that I am happy to pay only if the service and entertainment is outstanding.

But unfortunately, this is where Reduta leaves you hanging. The room had the potential to astound you sonically, if there were astounding musicians on stage. And the whole experience would be more special if the service was better. And although the musicians on stage were all very skilled, my date and I were kept waiting for that elated sense of ‘jazz euphoria´ that never came.

The band, Vibes Fantasy, had an extremely talented line-up of Radek Krampl on the vibes, Tomáš Liška on the fretless bass, Martin Vondra on the sax, and Pavel Razim on the drums. However they never really gelled as a band and left me wanting something more intense. They played many covers, which made me feel a bit like I was on the Lido deck of a cruise ship.

And for some reason, the club was cold inside.

As I looked around at the small audience, I saw mostly tourists. It did seem like Reduta was going for the tourist crowd with the historic legacy, expensive entrance and drinks. And your average foreign tourist might not know to expect table service at most places in Prague. I got the feeling that Reduta was aiming too low- like a really pretty girl dressed in a potato sack.

With this combination of high prices and bad service, I feel entitled to be a bit of a jazz snob about it. I´m comparing it to evenings I had at Agharta Jazz Club and Akord where we had a thrilling evening of sensory delights, good wine, great service, amazing musicians, stunning architectural aesthetics – and we paid less to get in. Both of those clubs are run by extremely talented musicians who have an almost obsessive passion for their clubs as well as for their art. It really shows. Their presence had a dramatic effect on my enjoyment of the shows they put on. This passion factor is painfully absent at Reduta.

So the bottom line is that Redata is a world-class jazz club with world-class potential, but the management is poor. The end result is a very mediocre experience all around. It could be a lot more than just a tourist hang out if there was some passion infused into it, but right now, it is like a date that didn´t bother to shower and brush their teeth before they took you out. If they don´t care, why should I?

Did we have fun? At first, yes. But it faded quickly and we left before the second set. Would we go again? If Miles Davis returned from the grave, I´d want to see him here, but I´d bring my own wine and a jacket.

Reduta Jazz Club
Národní 20, Praha 1

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