George Mraz and Emil Viklický ‘Duo Art: Together Again’ (ACT) 4/5

george-mraz-emil-viklickýAs part of the Duo Art series on ACT, this third duet encounter between two Czech musicians (following on from ‘Moravia’ in 2002 and ‘Moravian Gems’ in 2007) is a real treat. Bassist George Mraz hardly needs an introduction to an international audience, such is his presence among the crème de la crème of musicians. He has, among others, recorded with Tommy Flanagan, Stan Getz, the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis orchestra and a whole lot more. Pianist Emil Viklický is highly regarded in his native Czech Republic, but has a much less visible presence outside the country and has consequently gone under the radar of the international jazz press thus far. The compositions comprise adaptations of Czech folk numbers, including classical composer Janácek as well as originals by the pianist. A calm, relaxed atmosphere greets the listener from the start and it is immediately apparent that there is a telepathic understanding between the two. They excel on pieces such as ‘Theme for the fifth part of Sinfonietta’, which is adapted from a Janacek orchestral piece, with beautiful use of space and this features some impressive soloing from Mraz while Viklický is content to comp. Memorable hooks linger in the mind on ‘A Bird flew’ while ‘Dear Love’ is a deeply lyrical number. The two first met in the former Yugoslavia in 1976 and the idea took place after a second meeting in 1997 to fuse Moravian folk music and jazz. In this respect there are parallels with the Scandinavian jazz scene which has regularly drawn up its own folk tradition. Tim Stenhouse