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Monday, July 23, 2018

The Avant Garde

Czech composer and band leader of Prague Jazz Quartet,Milan Svoboda is touring the country with idiosyncratic interpretations of jazz.

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published: December 7, 2013 2:50:06 am

Milan Svoboda’s fingers pull off teleporting acts on the keyboard,zipping through several planes of scales and harmonies in each of his ingenious compositions. His music trades in an open jazz-economy,trading with several influences that are distinct strands in the overall jazz embroidery of his compositions. In the past week Svoboda along with his quartet,the Prague Jazz Quartet,has played at the Kolkata Jazz Fest,to a transcendent audience at NCPA,Mumbai,concluding in a standing ovation; and in the city on Thursday at a prominent jazz club. His quartet comprises Milan Krajic on tenor and soprano saxophone,Filip Spaleny on bass,Ivan Audes on drums and Svoboda on the upright piano in the capacity of the band leader.

“I define my music as contemporary. I think we are living in an era of fusion and as musicians we draw from existing templates of music. One cannot help but be influenced and create several permutations and combinations of these existing forms,” comments Svoboda,adding,“To be original is very complicated and the attempt is to form a style at the centre of all the influences.”

A Svoboda composition,therefore,is a potpourri of sounds. “We like jazz of course. But our training is in music at large. We like to play bebop,standards,mainstream and jazz-rock. I am seen as a jazz-man playing the piano,but I am intrinsically a composer for several musical projects,theatre and movies. I also try to write some really serious music for symphony orchestra. I like being flexible and exhibiting my flexibility in my work,” explains Svoboda.

Svoboda’s musical ideology percolates through his quartet. “Prague Jazz Quartet’s music is undoubtedly different and bears conspicuous contrasts. We are always trying to articulate something and the music is like an anthology of several short stories.”

The quartet’s sets are generously peppered with surprises. Be it a sudden two-by-two rock groove or a heart-tearing classical solo during which Svoboda bleeds on the keyboard. Mind you,surprises are not only for the audience but also for fellow musicians. “It all depends on the feel I get from a venue and the audience. There are moments when even my colleagues don’t know what I’d do next,” says Svoboda,adding,“It is an attempt to provoke,not only the audience but also fellow musicians.”

To understand what he is now,Svoboda uses the rubric of his past. “Everything is a result of the times I grew up in. It was the ’70s and I was exposed to a blast of stellar jazz-fusion artists like Chick Corea,Herbie Hancock and Weather Report. It was probably the most important period in modern jazz,” remembers Svoboda,adding,“Fusion was the thing to do during those times and I was a young musician who started out in this vortex of sounds. It was a miracle for my generation.”

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