Band leader Ondřej Havelka, with a look straight out of Jeeves and Wooster, has just reached the age of 65. The singer, actor (he has appeared in several movies), theatre, opera and music video director and tap dancer is the most recognizable proponent of interwar jazz in the Czech Republic and has a repertoire jammed with both domestic and English-language classics. He started out in the mid-1970s with the Original Prague Syncopated Orchestra before in 1995 launching a new group, Ondřej Havelka and his Melody Makers, with whom he continues to regularly
One of the most accomplished Czech Jazz guitarists, Rudy Linka, first gained fame abroad after moving to Sweden in 1980 and later learning from jazz titans such as John Scofield and John Abercrombie in the USA. Today he lives mainly in New York, but has also become a popular music personality in his native Czech Republic, founding one of Europe’s biggest summer jazz festivals and hosting his own shows on Czech Television and Radio. We caught up with him in Prague, while he was preparing this year’s Bohemia Jazz Festival.
Bohemia JazzFest, one of the largest summer music festivals in Europe, gets
underway on Monday evening in Prague.
Headlining on Monday at the Old Town Square is the Stefano Bollani Quartet from Italy. Also on the programme is Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and his quartet and the Lorenz Kellhuber Piano Trio from Germany.
Bohemia JazzFest was launched in 2006 by acclaimed jazz guitarist Rudy Linka. It now draws nearly 100,000 jazz fans to historic town squares throughout the Czech Republic.
All the concerts are open-air, free of charge, and feature headline performers playing in medieval settings.
Dr. Miloš Krajný is one of a number of people who have just received the Gratias Agit, the Czech Foreign Ministry’s award for those who have promoted the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. A highly successful expert on allergies and immunity in his professional life, he has also devoted a lot of energy to advancing Czech music in Canada, the country he has called home since 1968. Dr. Krajný was born in 1941 and when we spoke I first asked what, if any, were his recollections of the war.
Thomas Zaruba, author of the best-selling jazz album Slow Down, is a pianist of Australian-Canadian-Czech origin living in France. Although he was born into a cosmopolitan family of musicians and started playing the piano at the age of two, he opted for a career in advertising and it was a tragic incident that made him turn his life around and devote himself exclusively to music. When Thomas visited Radio Prague this week I asked him what had prompted him to drop everything and pursue his life’s passion.
Ondřej Pivec plays organ with one of the biggest stars in world jazz, singer Gregory Porter. This makes Pivec, who is in his mid-30s, perhaps the most successful non-classical Czech musician of his generation. When we met at a café in his Brooklyn neighbourhood, the conversation took in his struggles to establish himself in New York, the specific nature of performing in churches and his live baptism of fire with Porter. But first Ondřej Pivec explained how a stay of several months in the Big Apple 10 years ago turned into a long-term move that tranformed
Steamboat Stompers are one of the legends of the traditional Czech jazz scene. The Prague Dixieland band was established 50 years ago, in 1968. Steamboat Stompers have captured audiences with a distinct music style, which was defined by the late founder and band leader Jiří Kadlus. After his death two years ago he was replaced by trombone player Pavel Janík.
Drew Petersen is a prodigious pianist who is the winner of this year’s American Pianists Award. He is pursuing a Masters at the Julliard School of Music and recently completed a tour of the Czech Republic as part of the American Spring music festival. He and the president of APA, Joel Harrison, stopped by Czech Radio as the concert tour wrapped up, to discuss the American Spring and much more.