Communism and the Emergence of the Central European Jazz School

Communism and the Emergence of the Central European Jazz School

D Journal of Literature and Art Studies, ISSN 2159-5836 June 2012, Vol. 2, No. 6, 622-640 DAVID PUBLISHING Communism and the Emergence of the Cent...

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Journal of Literature and Art Studies, ISSN 2159-5836 June 2012, Vol. 2, No. 6, 622-640



Communism and the Emergence of the Central European Jazz School Yvetta Kajanová Commenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia

Central European musicians, as a consequence of the efforts of several important figures, have contributed to the development of jazz in the second half of the 20th century. Jazz pianists in Europe were a distinctive part of the world jazz scene and made significant achievements during the communist era. They were able to master the European classical piano school, becoming virtuoso pianists themselves, as well as acquiring self-taught jazz skills. Semi-isolated from the contemporary music trends abroad, Central European artists nonetheless made remarkable musical accomplishments that deserve to be called the Central European Jazz School. Between 1948 and 1989, the communist ideology controlled every country of Central Europe including East Germany. The careers of jazz pianists in these countries would have developed differently if they had lived under democratic conditions. This is evident in the lives of those who emigrated to Western countries and subsequently found a place in the world jazz scene. Using analysis of the Central European jazz musicians’ compositions and their professional careers, this paper aims to demonstrate the extent to which the Central European Jazz School has contributed to jazz music in Europe and the wider world. Keywords: Central European Jazz School, communism, jazz pianist, modernism, post-modernism, ideology, emigrant

Ideology and Central Europe Central Europe has always been the intersection of heterogeneous musical cultures. During different historical periods, in Slovakia especially, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, and German, as well as Gypsy and Jewish ethnic cultural influences had emerged. From the beginning, the diversity in Central Europe’s religious, secular and folk music stemmed from national and ethnic characteristics. Even now, divergent processes continue in the development of artistic, folk, and popular music (Zajacová Záborská, 2009, p. 42). The question of whether it is possible to include Czech, Slovakian, Polish, and German jazz pianists in the framework of universal jazz analysis can be answered affirmatively as long as we appreciate their divergent roots. Since jazz has a cosmopolitan character and is a platform for musicians of different nationalities and cultures, we have a basis for making consistent analyses about jazz pianists across Central Europe. The cosmopolitan orientation is also evident in the biography of many pianists; for example, Adam Makowicz, born in 1940 in Hnojnik in the Moravian-Sliezskian region of Czechoslovakia, also claims Polish-American ties. Yvetta Kajanová, professor at Department of Musicology, Faculty of Philosophy, Commenius University. VEGA 1/0728/11.



Another reason for emphasizing the jazz pianists of Central Europe is a political and artistic one (Pickhan & Preisler, 2010). Between 1948 and 1989, every Central European country, including East Germany, was controlled by the communist ideology. Since East Germany was affiliated with the Communist bloc, it also served as a transit point for a flow of German and Western culture into Central Europe. The German Democratic Republic became one of the information sources about Western countries, and hence, also provided news about jazz activities and events in the West. Simultaneously, the information about jazz was broadcasted by radio (Voice of America, BBC London, Radio Luxemburg, Austrian Radio, Blue Danube Radio, etc.) (Ritter, 2011), and direct musical experiences were exchanged through private contacts with emigrés, as well as between European countries in which the new phenomenon of European jazz was being created. Another factor which distinguished Central Europe between 1948 and 1989 as a major center for jazz events was the collaboration between musicians and their involvement in festivals and stage concerts. The first festivals started in Poland include: Jazzove zaduszky in Krakow (All Souls’ Day Jazz Festival, 1954) and Jazz Festival in Sopot. Later, the following festivals were particularly important as a platform for collaboration: Czechoslovak Jazz Festival in Karlove Vary (since 1962), International Jazz Festival in Prague (1964-1968, cancelled in 1968 and re-opened in 1976), Prague Jazz Days (1971), Berliner Jazztage (1964), Leipziger Jazz Tage (1976), the festival in Debrecen (Debreceni Jazz Napok, since 1971), Workshop Tatabánya, and Bratislava Jazz Days (1975) (Domurat, 2010, p. 117). Some jazz musicians worked together on specific international projects; for example, the German pianist Joachim Kühn collaborated in 1961 with the Czech ensemble Karel Velebný SHQ in Prague. Pianist Gabriel Jonáš performed with the Polish soul singer Czeslaw Nieman in 1975. Also well-known is Gabriel Jonáš’ project with the Czech pianist Emil Viklický; at the Bratislava Music Celebrations in 1980, they both performed the duet Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock, Stella by Starlight and Seven Steps to Heaven by Miles Davis. The Slovakian jazz pianist Ladislav Gerhardt collaborated with such musicians as Aladár Pege, Jan Wróblewski, and Duško Gojkovič. Significant also were performances at the Bratislava Jazz Days festival where, on the platform called The International Conclave, musicians from different states of the “East” and the “West” joined in a jam session showing their improvisational skills (Kajanová, 1999, pp. 6-10). At the same time, between 1956 and 1989, there was a strong focus on establishing and shaping jazz pianism. European jazz pianists of the time usually graduated in classical piano or composition, but they had to be self-taught in all the specifics of jazz. In the communist era, they had many common problems, such as acquiring information about jazz, obtaining sheet music, and recordings during the Cold War, or how to deal with unavailability of studio time for jazz recordings. Studios and music publishers were oriented towards classical music and they were only accessible to artists who were loyal to the regime (Motyčka, 2010, p. 215). Traditional European music education had certain limitations which were mainly in its focus on European rhythmic feeling and an opus-compositional approach versus improvisation. On the other hand, these limitations represented a great opportunity for musical creativity and discovery, since the Central European musician was forced to find his own way of confronting traditional European music with an American jazz pianistic style. However, Slovak musicians were also inspired by the interpretations of many pianists who made their careers in Europe and were also well-known abroad. The pianist Ján Hajnal recalls his beginnings:


COMMUNISM AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN JAZZ SCHOOL If I could enrich a general view of Central European pianists, my idol and the idol of Slovak musicians in the 1960s was Ianci Körössy. Although he is of Hungarian-Romanian origin, he very often had a stint in Budapest, Prague and also Bratislava. Another Romanian-German, Eugen Cicero, emigrated to Germany and was a great jazzman. In Germany, there were many great musicians such as Wolfgang Dauner. He was the winner of the world jazz competition held in Vienna in 1966, with the Czech pianist Jan Hammer as the second place getter… I was there as the only Slovakian. With another German pianist of the 1960s, Pepsi Auer, I knew him personally. Amongst Austrian jazz pianists, Fritz Pauer was well-know in our country. I knew many of them personally. (From the transcribed interview with the pianist Ján Hajnal, July 16, 2011)

Ianci Körössy, the Romanian pianist of Hungarian origin, was an interesting case. In the 1960s, he employed soul touches and improvisations of the thematic paraphrase, in which the original contours of the scheme and its crystal clear melody could be heard; later he gradually left both the structure and the melody though the original theme is still lingering in the background. Körössy started with one voice on the right hand, moving into chords in a close position (LP Yancy Korossy: Dentification, 1969). His first album, called Ianci Kőrőssy: Jazz Recital was recorded in 1961 by the Supraphon publishing house with several Czech musicians. Körössy’s recordings were also placed on the sampler Jazz in der Tschechoslowakei, where he appeared as a solo pianist in the band Studio 5 and with orchestras such as the Karel Krautgartner Orchestra, the Gustav Brom Orchestra, and the Karel Vlach Orchestra. Körössy also used Hungarian or Romanian versions of his name: Körössy Janos, Jancy Korossy, and Iancsy Korossy. He was born in 1926, in Cluj, Transylvania, but promoted himself as an American-Hungarian pianist quoting Willis Connover, the 1960s critic and editor of Voice of America radio, who called Körössy “the most authentic jazz pianist in Europe”. Körössy combined Romanian folk music with jazz and was the first in Romania to develop a free jazz style. He emigrated to West Germany and later to the USA. The experiences of musicians migrating throughout Europe, their collaboration with Central European jazz artists, and the well of memoirs and related stories demonstrate the seeding of the Central European Jazz School—a musical culture with new original elements—in the 1960s.

Jazz Pianists The author has made a selection of important jazz pianists who lived in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People’s Republic of Hungary, the People’s Republic of Poland, and the German Democratic Republic between 1948 and 1989. The selection has been according to their prominence in small combos (not just as sidemen in big bands), the length of their artistic careers, LP recording profile under their names or as soloists in bands, concert performances, and other artistic roles such as arranging or composing. For this reason, the author left out a large number of musicians from the Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, and German scene. One problem in identifying the top musicians is that of jazz division (Wasserberger, 2006, p. 46; Olajoš, 2006) since Europeans, especially, differentiate between artistic or coffeehouse jazz. The division becomes obvious for solo jazz pianists as this differentiation predicates their career and status outcomes. In Europe, jazz has been performed at festivals and in prestigious concert halls with acclamation, but in European jazz coffeehouses it has had a lesser standing. This is not the same for the European jazz club—restaurants where specialized jazz audiences meet to expressly listen to artistic jazz. Thus, in the European subconscious, there is a division of jazz pianists into two groups: the coffeehouse and bar musicians, and the artistic jazz musicians. The coffeehouse and



bar jazz pianists have no artistic ambitions and their music only fills breaks between food serves. The jazz pianists who belong to the artistic group also accept months of work in coffeehouses, especially in Western countries; however, in their home countries, they perform at festivals and concerts, seeing the coffeehouse jobs only as a compromise in order to make a living. This problem does not exist in the American scene where the division of jazz into the artistic and coffeehouse is irrelevant. American listeners do not differentiate between bar and concert musicians, because every jazzman in America began their career as a bar, hotel, or coffeehouse musician, or never left such an arrangement, while at the same time, performing at concerts. (For example, Erroll Garner, and also Dave McKenna who considered himself as a so-called “cocktail pianist”). The problem for European coffeehouse jazz musicians was that they were neither performing at concerts nor recording albums, and hence they could not establish themselves on the jazz scene. The pianist Ján Hajnal made the following comment: I cannot fail to mention Viktor Hidvégy, a great pianist between the 1960s and the 1970s, who used to play in Combo 4. I remember the series “To je náš rytmus” (This is our Rhythm) broadcast regularly between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Slovak radio. Combo 4 together with Ladislav Gerthardt’s Quartet played in it. Both were equally outstanding in our country. I think that Viktor Hidvégy did not have as much publicity as Ladislav Gerhardt, and therefore he was not fully appreciated. (From the transcribed interview with the pianist Ján Hajnal, July 16, 2011)

The Hungarian jazz scene publicists speak of a similar situation. The jazz pianist Pleszkán Frigyes (1959-2011), for example, emigrated to Switzerland in the late 1980s and exchanged his great concert career for that of successful bar pianist in Western Europe. The division of jazz pianists into the two groups is the reason why the statistical data in this paper, their evaluation, as well as the analysis of jazz pianists’ artistic concepts, do not have a larger sample of pianists. However, the selected jazz pianists do include those who are featured in the Grove Music (online) encyclopeadia. The author has chosen a proportionally representative sample from each Central European country (dates of birth and death are in brackets): (1) Czech pianists: Jan Hammer (1948), Martin Kratochvíl (1946), Karel Růžička (1940), Milan Svoboda (1951), and Emil Viklický (1948); (2) Slovak pianists: Juraj Berczeller (1914-2008), Ladislav Gerhardt (1937-1993), Ján Hajnal (1943), Gabriel Jonáš (1948), Juraj Szabados (1941-1995), and Viktor Zappner (1936); (3) Hungarian pianists: Attila Garay (1931), László Gardony (1957), Kornel Kertész (1911-1983), Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos (1943), György Szabados (1939), and György Vukán (1941); (4) Polish pianists: Andrzej Kurylewicz (1932-2007), Wojciech Karolak (1939), Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), Adam Makowicz (1940, since 1978 v USA), and Andrzej Trzaszkowski (1933-1993); and (5) German pianists: Theo Schumann (1928, or 1935-1990), Joachim Kühn (1944), Reinhard Lakomy (1946), and Ulrich Gumpert (1945).

Statistics The total number of Central European pianists between 1948 and 1989 is 27 (100%) and the number of emigrated pianists is six (22%), for illustration see Figure 1. The investigated sample is represented by five Czech, six Slovakian, seven Hungarian, five Polish, and four Eastern German pianists. From this sample, the folowing pianists emigrated to these countries: Jan Hammer left for Munich in 1968 and lived in the USA since 1970, László Gardony lived in the USA since 1983, Juraj Berczeller lived since 1969 in Sydney, Australia until his death in 2008, Viktor Zappner emigrated to Devonport,



Australia in 1979, Adam Makowicz lived in the USA since 1978, and Joachim Kühn left Hamburg in 1966 and lived in Paris since 1968.

Figure 1. Number of pianists in Central European Jazz School and percentage of emigrants.

In order to clarify the statistical data, it is necessary to mention the Polish pianist Krzysztof Komeda. During his stay in Hollywood in 1969, when working on film music for the director Roman Polansky, he had a car accident, resulting in a coma, and died during transportation to Poland. Had he survived, Komeda would be included in the list of emigrants. If the total number in the sample of pianists had been extended, the number of emigrants would have also increased and the proportion of emigrants would have been little different. The inclusion of Hungarian pianists, Pleszkán Frigyes (emigrant to Switzerland), and Gustav Csik into the sample group named above will increase to 29 (100%). In this case, the number of émigrés (now seven) will represent 27%, which extends the representation from wider national cultures, but still provides similar proportions.

“Music of the East”: Jazz Pianists in Central Europe Central Europe did not make significant contributions to the development of jazz until the second half of the 20th century. The causes were World War II and Nazi intervention, followed by the Communist regimes which stifled the reception of American jazz. Between the two major wars, some European countries already had a noticeable head start in jazz music development with public renown of their prominent artists. In fact, by the commencement of the 20th century jazz had already been established in Eastern bloc countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. After 1948, Communist controls slowed the development of jazz through strict measures that limited free enterprise (e.g., releasing LPs, requiring permits to organize concerts, censorship of the press, limitations on or abolition of music work in nightclubs). In discussing jazz in Central Europe, we emphasize the geographical and historical aspects. However, for Eastern Europe, jazz is perceived from a political point of view as emphasizing the Cold War situation. Eastern art has been associated with conservative, traditional, and conventional art (Fukač, 1998, p. 43). In contrast, Western European art usually has connotations such as avant-garde, experimental, and alternative. The basis for these preconceptions most likely stems from the past historical and political divisions between Western and Eastern Europe.



The oldest generation of Central European pianists played a pioneering role in the dissemination of fundamental jazz elements. They preferred natural musicality and drew from mainstream jazz. Some built upon swing, enriching it with components of modern jazz. Often they were multi-instrumentalists (Wojciech Karolak, Theo Schumann, and Juraj Szabados—all three played the piano and Hammond organ), ensemble leaders, arrangers, and composers (Krzysztof Komeda, Andrej Kurylewicz, Andrej Trzaszkowski, Ladislav Gerhardt, and György Vukán). Their desire was not only to promote jazz and foster a following amongst audiences, but also to influence contemporary popular music. They contributed to the quality of popular music both directly, through its arrangement and commissioned compositions (as did, for example, Theo Schumann), and less directly by the application of their musical knowledge and craftsmanship to arrangements, mostly in swing (for example, Wojciech Karolak and Juraj Berczeller). They considered the mastering of jazz standards to be the foundation of jazz naturalism. These musicians deserve our respect, because they transcribed the jazz standards from hearing them on the radio or they obtained them through private overseas channels as American sheet music editions. Between 1948 and 1968, they moved from the progressive Duke Ellington style of swing to the post-bop directions of modern jazz (Theo Schumann and Wojciech Karolak were examples). The transitional period in modern jazz was represented by pianists rooted in the bop era who developed the inspirational elements introduced by the creators of American bop, cool jazz, and hard bop. Their approach built on discovering musical structures that embraced the aesthetics of modernism. This generation included musicians such as Karel Růžička (b. 1940), Ladislav Gerhardt (1937-1993), Ján Hajnal (b. 1943), Juraj Szabados (1941-1995), Wojciek Karolak (1939), Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), and György (George) Vukán (1941). They saw their role as seekers of a melodic-rhythmic idea, and also as developers of improvisational techniques (thematic and modal types of improvisation) and new harmonic sequences (harmonic structure and tension). They aimed to prepare the listener for the assimilation of jazz rhythms and creative improvisation. The 1970s brought forward the real masters of the post-modern jazz solo piano school. They included a younger generation of pianists who, emerging after 1969, focused on combining unusual inspirational sources of jazz and rock with folk and classical European music. The three American stars, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea were followed by the post-modern generation of pianists which included such outstanding musicians as László Gardony (b. 1957), Ulrich Gumpert (1945), Ján Hammer (1948), Gabriel Jonáš (1948), Jaochim Kühn (1944), Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos (1943), Reinhardt Lakomy (1946), Adam Makowicz (1940), György Szabados (1939), and Emil Viklický (1948). Most had already had a direct contact with American jazz as performers either in the USA or in study programs at Berklee College of Music in Boston (Ján Hammer in 1969; Emil Viklický in 1977; Gabriel Jonáš won a scholarship, but played in New York jazz clubs, 1972-1973). Other pianists gave performances in Western countries. Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos performed at festivals in Montreaux in 1970 and in Rio de Janiero in 1972; György Szabados played at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival in Spain in the same year and his quintet won the Grand Prix; George Vukán toured the USA for a month in 1983. Their approaches represented the post-modern movement in jazz, for they combined jazz with folk elements, transferred bop rhythmic phrases into jazz-rock electric sound, and built themes on rhythmic groovy fusion music. They also incorporated the new sound discoveries of free jazz into their musical structures (e.g., Joachim Kühn, Ulrich Gumperts, and Gabriel Jonáš). All tried out electric keyboards in the spirit of contemporary trends. Joachim Kühn, for example, transferred from acoustic piano to keyboards and he collaborated and recorded with



such musicians as Don Cherry, Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mike Mainieri, and Eddie Gomez (for an overview of pianists in Central European jazz school, see Table 1). Table 1 Principal Contributors in the Central European Jazz School Country Central European coutries East Germany

Classical era

Modern style era

Post-modern era (1) Characteristics: Characteristics: Influences of three modern American pianists, Characteristics: swing jazz—bebop, west Chick Corea, Herbie coast, cool, east Hancock and Keith coast jazz Jarrett Theo Schumann

Reinhardt Lakomy


Juraj Berczeller (Slovakia)

Karel Růžička Ladislav Gerhardt, Ján Hajnal, Juraj Szabados, Viktor Zappner (Slovakia)


Kornel Kertész

Attila Garay, George Vukán


Andrzej Kurylewicz, Wojciech Karolak, Andrzej Krzysztof Komeda, Trzaszkowski Adam Makowicz

Post-modern era (2)

Jazz avant-garde

Characteristics: Influences of American jazz pianists, Characteristics: historical periods, folk free jazz traditional music, European classical music Ulrich Gumpert, Joachim Kühn

Gabriel Jonáš, Jan Hammer (member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra), Emil Emil Viklický Viklický, Martin Kratochvíl, Milan Svoboda Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos, György Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos, Szabados, György Szabados György Vukán, László Gardony Adam Makowicz

European jazz pianists, in contrast with their American counterparts, subconsciously carried the tradition and background of the European classical masters, and they embraced the virtuosity of the 19th-century piano tradition. Adam Makowicz, for example, was influenced by Frédéric Chopin, and Emil Viklický took from Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů. Others brought the dissonance of the Darmstadt School into their improvisational thinking (Joachim Kühn), or tried radical experiments in free jazz (Ulrich Gumpert); they later created modern soul in Central Europe (Ulrich Gumpert, LP Klaus Lenz Big Band, 1975). Others, in the spirit of the 20th-century classics, followed the music of Leoš Janáček and Béla Bartók by cultivating folk elements in jazz (Emil Viklický and György Szabados, for example).

Mastership of the Jazz Standards The standards of the common American jazz repertoire were the starting point for the first and second generations of Central European jazz pianists. It was essential to master the harmonic relationships in the standards and to create a unique style of interpretation (Baron, 2010, p. 129). Pianists such as Theo Schumann, Krzysztof Komeda, Wojciech Karolak, and Ladislav Gerhardt could not avoid, in their compositions, close similarities with the music of their idols. For instance, Theo Schumann recorded Karawane (SP Theo Schumann Combo, 1964) by the American composers Juan Tizol, Duke Ellington, and Irving Mills (originally Caravan) as a rework in the hard bop style. Schumann, however, did not acknowledge Caravan’s authors on the recording. Neither did Ladislav Gerhardt on his first profile LP Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well) (1969) (see Figure



2) acknowledge its origins. It is not clear whether the reasons for not doing so were related to political, commercial, or ideological factors, but some assume that communist ideologues preferred Schuman and Gerhardt to appear as the original authors. Karawane is more interesting for its soul feeling and hard bop approach to rhythm and sound than for Schumann’s performance as a pianist. Despite this, Schumann can at times be compared with the American jazz organist Les McCann. When Wojciech Karolak (b. 1939) plays Stomping at the Savoy, his improvisation is rhythmically precise and the phrases contain different rhythmic accents of hard bop influence. In 1963, he recorded the album Go Right with the Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet. The album is regarded as the first Polish LP of modern jazz. In Slovakia, by comparison, the first LP recording of modern jazz Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well) by Ladislav Gerhardt, was made in 1969 and released one year later. In the song Satin Doll, when Karolak plays Hammond organ, the influence of Jimmy Smith can be heard but Karolak’s improvisational phrase is longer and more complex. Although he did not use the bass pedal board to play the bass line, Karolak was still able to harmoniously achieve rhythmic drive in the manuals with a harmonic basis for the soloist (for example in trio with the guitarist Jaroslav Smietana). Karolak was not an outstanding technician of modern jazz piano, achieving sensory effect instead. Krzystof Komeda, a lyrical pianist, turned from energetic phrasing of rhythms in order to express melodic artistic emotions. With his sextet, Komeda was the founder of the modern Polish jazz school in the 1960s. Being influenced by George Shearing, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett, he was already developing elements of cool and West Coast jazz. Komeda specifically used technically demanding passages to accentuate the mood of compositions (CD Krzysztof Komeda: Litania, 1997). However, Central European pianists succeeded in creating high-quality original compositions. The Slovak pianist Ladislav Gerhardt was artistically comparable with Wojciech Karolak. Gerhardt emphasized spontaneity and the evolution of thematic improvisation, with its starting point being hard bop and its inclination toward soul, as did Bobby Timmons and Bill Evans. Gerhardt, like Krzysztof Komeda, also wrote film and theatrical music. In compositions, Gerhardt inclined toward storylines, as in Svadba v puberte (Wedding in Puberty), Kedy prídeš domov (When Will You Come Home), Nervy (Nerves), Kde si bol tri dni (Where Have You Been for Three Days), Prečo sme sa oženili (Why Did We Get Married), and Kde je výplata (Where Is the Paycheque) (LP Prečo sme sa oženili (Why Did We Get Married), 1978). He used a suite form with composition titles which evoke married life situations. Through tempo, a contrast between melodic structures and dissonances, Gerhardt expressed storyline mood. Transcription: Erik Dimitrov, 2010. Composition is transcribed from LP Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well) 1969, Ladislav Gerhardt—piano, Laco Déczi—trumpet, Vincenc Kummer—double bass, and Laco Tropp—drums play on this album. Composition Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well) (see Figure 2) featured on the 1969 album with the same title. It is an exemplary composition in which a hard-bop phrase, with dominant blue notes (the first seven bars in the F major tonal center), combines with a soul melody containing a contrasting Mixolydian key (bars 8-10). In Dobre sme sa oženili two different themes based on an almost identical harmony follow each other; in the harmony it is possible to hear influences from such hard bop pianists as Bill Evans, Horace Silver, and Bobby Timmons.



Figure 2. Ladislav Gerhardt: Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well).

Pianists and Their Compromises in the Communist Era In the socialist societies, music was dominated by pop hits, ideologically supported political songs and mass socialist songs. Since jazz pianists were professionals who lived off their artistic activities, the preferences of audiences, together with the diminished status of jazz in communist society, forced a shift into pop music. Popular music was considered to be a loyal genre, whilst jazz, rock, and folk music bore the stigma of opposition. For example, the German pianist Theo Schumann decided for big beat in the 1960s, although he became a successful composer of pop songs, big beat was a mid-way compromise between jazz and pop music. In pop music, Schumann blended in jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul and rock. In 1968, when the Slovak pianist Ladislav Gerhardt’s quartet performed in Bratislava, their repertoire was made up of songs by the Russian protest singer Vladimír Vysockij. Guitarist Karol Ondreička, a member of Gerhardt’s quartet, wittily and ironically commented on this performance: “So what, you self-proclaimed hard bop advocate, if Miles Davis attended the concert, what would you tell him, would you admit to playing Vysockij?” (Kajanová, 2000; Lábska-Kajanová, 1991, p. 2). Many of the communist era pianists balanced between public commercial requirements, their own artistic ambitions, and winning music commissions. Sometimes, however, they managed to satisfy such conflicting interests, as did Krzysztof Komeda in his film music for Roman Polanski. Musicians compromised not only between art and viability, but also in the relationship between ideologically supported music and the ear of the listener. One of the requirements of communist ideologues was to write appealing children’s songs, or politically related songs in chanson genre (as did Reinhard Lakomy).



Approaches to Improvisation A thematic paraphrase of the main chorus and re-development of the motive provided the musical foundation of the first and second generations of Central European pianists. The third generation of modern jazz introduced independent pianists, who emphasized their performances, not only in bands, but also more particularly in solo concerts. The third generation focused on the use of modal improvisation and its combination with a melodic intonation of traditional Moravian folk music (in the early years Jan Hammer, later Emil Viklický), on Ugrian metro-rhythm and melodies (György Szabados), and the melodic structures of Slovak folk music.

Folk Inspirations in Czech Jazz In 1965, the Jan Hammer Trio’s recordings of such folk songs as Ej vyletel fták (Oh, a bird flew out), U Dunaje (At the Danube), and U Prešpurka (At Pressburg) (LP Československý jazz 1965, Supraphon 1966) are some of the first instances of the blending of Central European ethnic music into jazz. Even in the early 1960s, the Jan Hammer Trio was demonstrating the concept of modal jazz music incorporating Czech and Moravian folk elements (Jan Hammer emigrated to Munich, and later, to the USA where he has lived since 1970. He was a member of the Sarah Vaughan Trio and the Mahavishnu Orchestra). The concept of combining jazz with ethnic music was further developed by the pianist Emil Viklický. His ideas developed over a long period of time, borrowing from Moravian folk songs, mostly love songs, but also songs about nature. Viklický emerged on the jazz scene in 1978, when his album V Holomóci městě (In Holomoc Town) was released by Supraphon. He took folk songs from the region of Olomouc and also post-bop style as the foundation of this album. After the album’s release, Viklický began a long journey of discovering the nuances of jazz harmony in bop mainstream without using folk intonations. By the late 1980s, Viklický’s approach appeared to be more narrowly focused, technical, and erudite, but still with success in Europe and America. Viklický’s last period, from the release of his album Bohemian Nights (1993), was a synthesis of his previous work but was accompanied by a combination of jazz spontaneity, compositional maturity, and pianistic dexterity. Moravian Gems (CD, 2007) is a project that shows the same qualities. In Viklický’s musical imagination, historical jazz and traditional folk music were being re-transformed. Folk, together with a thoroughly worked out structure, provides the basis of Viklicky’s sophisticated compositions which utilize his knowledge of harmony, frequent rhythmic changes of rhythmic models, and modal improvisations. The principal themes in Viklický’s compositions are rather slow and melodic folk songs such as Jedna sestra bratra měla (A Sister Had a Brother), Ej lásko, lásko, ty nejsi stála (Oh, Love, Love, You Are Not to Be Relied on), Nečarovala som (I Did Not Do Magic), Ani moja mati (Not Even My Mom), Islo děvče po vodu (A Girl Went for Water), and Zelenej vieneček na hlavě mala si (A Little Green Wreath Was on Your Head). In the middle of Moravian Gems, Viklický inserts changes in tempo (double time) and metre and complex poly-rhythms. The same characteristics are present in his reworking of Leoš Janáček’s Sinfonietta into a third stream jazz elaboration. Here, not only are Viklický’s pianistic concepts again present, but there are magical improvisations in the dialogue between Viklický’s piano and the double bass player George “Jiři” Mráz; Viklický also follows the charming improvisations of Karel Velebný’s Czech Jazz School, adding further tone colour and inventive detail. The Czech jazz school was based on the art of delicate improvisation where the collective environment stimulated musicians to their own distinctive extemporizations.



Figure 3. Emil Viklický: Lullaby for Thea, 1977.

The music is taken from Jazzový kaleidoskop (Jazz Kaleidoscope). Piano solo. Album deseti skladeb pro klavír (The Album of Ten Pieces for Piano), Panton, Praha 1980. LP Emil Viklický: V Holomóci městě, 1 15

2233, Supraphon 1977, on LP play Emil Viklický—piano, Jan Beránek—violin, Luboš Andršt—guitar, František Uhlíř—double bass, and Milan Vitoch—drums. Ukolébavka pro Teu (Lullaby for Thea) (1977) (see Figure 3), written in B minor, is a composition in which Viklický used the modes (Mixolydian, Lydian, and Aeolian). Demonstrating the originality of Czech jazz, the piece also reflects the progress of the improvisational approach, dominant in world jazz at that time, by using modality and a new delicate chamber sound. This new sound, the so-called Manfred Eicher ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) sound (Ernould, 1999), appeared on Chick Corea’s and Keith Jarrett’s LPs in the early 1970s. As an acoustic sound, ECM, with its emphasis on the gentle nuances of aliquot tones, provided a sound



quality that could compete with the electronic musical instruments in jazz-rock where the electric piano, synthesizers, guitar, and bass guitar had been preeminent. In Ukolébavka pre Teu (Lullaby for Thea), Viklický respects the chords’ harmonic functions, their consonant and harmonious sounds, and allows the chords’ sonic character to fade away (for example, C11+ in bar 10, and B min 9th in bars 12-13). In contrast with Ján Hajnal’s Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream) (see Figures 5-7), where six chords appear in a single bar, in Viklický’s composition, most bars contain only one chord which is heard throughout the whole bar.

Folk Inspirations in Hungarian Jazz György Szabados (b. 1939) is regarded as the father of the Hungarian jazz avant-garde; he was inspired by Béla Bartók and brought elements of Hungarian folk music into jazz. The Hungarian folk features in his compositions, according to Igor Wasserberger, are mainly rhythmic base, some keys, and melodic elements (Matzner, Poledňák, & Wasserberger, 1987, p. 377). His 1975 LP Az esküvö (Wedding) is considered as a pioneering recording, as he managed, for the first time, to synthethise folk elements and free jazz. Although Szabados attempted a synthesis of folk music and jazz in his 1960’s concert performances, credit for the first such Hungarian jazz recording falls to the pianist Béla “Szakcsi” Lakatos whose Variations on Folk Motifs appeared on the sampler Modern Jazz Antology VI (Qualiton, 1967). Lakatos, a pianist of Romani origin, returned to his roots in the 1990s when he combined traditional Romani music with jazz ingredients (Havadi, 2010). His approach produced a fine balance between world music and jazz with ethnic elements.

The Universality of European Pianists For some Central European pianists (for example, Gabriel Jonáš and Martin Kratochvíl), it was important to maintain a supranational character in their style. In their individual approaches, rather than using original folk song passages, they developed modal improvisation after the Hancock-Jarrett-Corea style or the jazz-rock phrase following Joe Zawinul from Weather Report. This middle generation is represented by versatile jazz artists who are able to move from folk songs to jazz-rock and fusion music (e.g., E. Viklický, LP Okno (Window), 1980, B. Lakatos, and J. Hammer), and from hard bop to compositions which typify and inspire the search for national identity. Examples of the latter are Viklický’s adaptation of Janáček’s Sinfonietta (CD Moravian Gems, 2007), Makowicz’s fusion of the Harlem (Art Tatum’s) piano school’s ornamentation, and syncopated rhythm with Chopin’s exquisite ornaments, harmony, and arpeggios. Some others moved from jazz to classical music, as did, for example, Ulrich Gumpert in his piece Trois sarabandes et six Gnossienes (2007), which was based on Erik Satie’s original composition. Even others, like György Szabados and Ján Hajnal, were inspired by Béla Bartók’s modality. Another group from this generation including Jonáš, Viklický, Makowicz, and Lakatos exhibited skills and innovation in the jazz standards from the traditional acoustic mainstream as well as in the 1980’s jazz-rock and fusion genres. Their skillful versatility has established them as mainstays of contemporary world jazz where a post-modern synthesis of the early stages of jazz, jazz-rock, and pop music, as well as European classical and ethnic music, has been proceeding.

Post-Modern Synthesis and Polystylistic Music Jazz Romance by Gabriel Jonáš is but one example of a polystylistic composition. Jonáš, a pianist and



composer, combined West Coast jazz with the modality of contemporary music, which means the traditional, early 1950’s jazz with contemporary melodically rich modal feelings. Jazz Romance is included in the repertoire of the group Foortet. Compared with Viklický’s modal approach in Ukolébavka pro Teu (Lullaby for Thea) (see Figure 3), not only is the modality heard through its ethnic elements, but further ethnicity is achieved by using traditional folk motives that evoke the ethnic character of a particular region. In Jazz Romance (see Figure 4), Jonáš uses a melodic structure that is strongly universal by virtue of modality. In this piece he works in 3/4 time signature, evoking slow waltz with ballade atmosphere, non-typical in jazz history, in which four beat feeling (4/4 time signature) dominates, although it is in contemporary modern acoustic jazz (straight ahead or mainstream), in which different parallel metric spectra in one composition are commonly used. The introduction has eight measures (which is a part of B section as well) starting with Cmaj7 with minor character, which is immediately broken with two chords in the first and second measures (Gmaj7/9, Amaj7/9—not marked in music), therefore introduction shows more character of the Major key, which is definitely embodied in minor key (key signature determines C minor in section A with precisely resolved functional harmony confirming minor key without centralizing the note “C”). After the introduction comes section A (mm. 9-12 including seconda volta measure) in Aeolian mode, after which comes Phrygian mode (mm. 13-20). In the improvisation, a pianist first uses broader tonality enriched with chromatic notes and later combines with modes. Harmony gets richer in m. 21, in seconda volta measure (C-7, B7+5, and Bb-7) based on examples of hard bop pianists. Another post-modern Slovak pianist, Ján Hajnal, won the first prize in the Slovak Music Fund’s Year of the Slovak Music 1996 competition. His winning composition Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream) is recorded on the album of the same name (1998). It is based on Hajnal’s theory and idea of Slavonian roots that, within every jazzman including himself, subconsciously resonate the intonations that they grew up with. Hajnal’s message and dedication to bebop pianist Thelonius Monk is based on the fusion of harmonic dissonances, delicately used by Monk, with typical Slovak melodic intonations that might sound dissonant to a non-Slovakian listener. The melodic intonations Hajnal used in Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream) have their origin in Slovak folk songs from the Central Slovakian regions of Orava, Liptov, and Gemer; they use the Lydian mode or the combination of Lydian and Mixolydian modes creating the so-called Podhalanska scale, which is typical of the Polish-Slovak region of Gorals in the Tatra mountains. The Podhalanska scale (C-D-E-F#-G-A-Bb) is characterized by using the augmented fourth and the diminished seventh intervals. Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream) consists of two fundamental and precisely composed parts A and B. Lesser connecting parts are improvised passages with another harmonic structure. The exposition of the thematic content in part A (bars 19-27) (see Figure 5) shows a connection with Monk’s bebop musical style and uses chords of different structures in bar 19 (the F9+, E9-, Eb9+, D9-, Db9+, C9-, and B9+). These chords also

contain blue notes, some being on the third and some on the seventh; in the E9-, D9-, and C9- chords the blue notes on the major and minor seventh are used together. A tension in the F9+ chord is achieved by simultaneously using major and minor third (A-Ab) which as well applies to the Eb9+, Db9+, and Bb9+ chords. The composition also contains a coda (bars 40-45) (see Figure 6) which is played twice; first time after the second repetition of part A where it transitions between parts A and C (see Figure 7), second time at the very end of the piece as a proper coda. Part B is a blues march in the spirit of hard bop (bars 30-38) and reminiscent of Benny Golson’s Blues March (1958).



Figure 4. Gabriel Jonáš: Jazz Romance; Software transcription: Gabriel Jonáš, 2003.

The composition Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream) is also well-known abroad, for example, being played by the Australian radio station ABC Classic FM in 2001. Although the Mixolydian and Lydian modes, as typical folk intonations in the Central European region, are used in Viklicky’s Ukolebávka pro Teu (Lullaby for Thea), Gerhardt’s Dobre sme sa oženili (We Married Well), and Hajnal’s Monkov tatranský sen (Monk’s Tatra Dream); each composer presents these modes in a different and original way.



Figure 5. Ján Hajnal: Monk’s Tatra Dream.


Figure 6. Ján Hajnal: Monk’s Tatra Dream.




Figure 7. Ján Hajnal: Monk’s Tatra Dream.

Conclusions The lives and careers of Polish, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian, and East German jazz pianists, especially the



older and middle generations, would have developed quite differently if they had lived under democratic conditions. It is evident that those jazz musicians who emigrated and subsequently found a place in the world jazz scene were advantaged by the ready opportunities of a developed musical environment nourished by clubs, concerts, festivals, music publishers, and agencies. On the other hand, it is also true that, in the first half of the 20th century, the European listener was not amenable to new musical ideas and unable to adapt to jazz poly-rhythms and improvisation. At the same time, European societies bore a prejudice in their perceptions of classical music as the only “serious and artistic” genre. Therefore, an important role for the emergent Central European jazz pianists was, at that time, in jazz appreciation and creating a jazz foundation in their countries. Recent sociological research has shown that the value preferences of higher socio-economic classes embrace a wider range of music styles than lower ones and are not merely limited to the symphonic genre, but include broader cultural interests. Pianists in the new millennium are no longer exploring their concepts behind the Iron Curtain, nor is world jazz divided into European and American schools; they are now a part of the global development of jazz (Pietraszewski, 2010, p. 150; Motyčka & Sudzina, 2007, p. 70). The emigrant musicians helped to create world history in a universal jazz idiom without the connotations “Eastern—traditional” and “Western—experimental”, which proved to be irrelevant to the musical enterprise of the Central European jazz pianists. Those who remained in their mother country were, after 1989, able to demonstrate their standing as great European jazz artists. This foundation phenomenon is what the author has termed the Central European Jazz School. The middle and post-modern generations of pianists paved the way for their successors in the new millennium who have created a new synthesis from the blending of the European jazz with American jazz music. Their generation includes such pianists as Kálman Oláh, Leszek Możdżer, Mikuláš Škuta, Klaudius Kováč, and Tomáš Gajlík.

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