Top Pick: Mel Messengers: American soulman meets Czech and Slovak musicians

Drinking Budweiser and joking around with friends on Bratislava's SNP Square last Monday, Alabama-born singer Melvin Canady invited the first passer-by he saw to see the first concert of a group he and his Czech and Slovak friends had recently put together, the Mel Messengers.
"We were improvising together and somehow got the idea of forming a group and doing a tour around Slovakia," the band's drummer Cyril Zeleňák explained. Zeleňák, who also plays in the Czech Republic's renowned Gustáv Brom band, met Canady in Germany two years ago, where the American was directing the musical Mahalia, the story of the gospel queen Mahalia Jackson. Canady made Zeleňák the musical leader of his show, which was performed throughout Europe.
Later, Zeleňák introduced Canady to the Mel Messenger's three other members, Czech tenor saxophonist Štepán Markovič, Slovak guitarist Matúš Jakabčic and bassist Juraj Griglák. The quintet began jamming regularly, finally deciding earlier this year to put an official group together.


Mel Messengers' concert premiere at Hysteria Aug. 8.
photo: Ján Svrček

Drinking Budweiser and joking around with friends on Bratislava's SNP Square last Monday, Alabama-born singer Melvin Canady invited the first passer-by he saw to see the first concert of a group he and his Czech and Slovak friends had recently put together, the Mel Messengers.

"We were improvising together and somehow got the idea of forming a group and doing a tour around Slovakia," the band's drummer Cyril Zeleňák explained. Zeleňák, who also plays in the Czech Republic's renowned Gustáv Brom band, met Canady in Germany two years ago, where the American was directing the musical Mahalia, the story of the gospel queen Mahalia Jackson. Canady made Zeleňák the musical leader of his show, which was performed throughout Europe.

Later, Zeleňák introduced Canady to the Mel Messenger's three other members, Czech tenor saxophonist Štepán Markovič, Slovak guitarist Matúš Jakabčic and bassist Juraj Griglák. The quintet began jamming regularly, finally deciding earlier this year to put an official group together.

On their Slovak tour (times listed below), the Mel Messengers will perform main-stream jazz standards and some blues and soul numbers.

The jovial blues and soul singer has been living in Europe for almost 30 years, and has directed, written and starred in several musicals, including the famous musical Hair, in which he played the African American draft-dodger Hud. Today he is producing a new musical written by German Angela Altinger, and has a musical of his own cooking "in my head".

Canady says his music is a combination of head, heart and stomach. "If you play only from your head it's clerical, if only from your heart it's emotional and usually sad, and if only from your stomach it's primitive and loud," he said. His lyrics deal with things that hurt him, things he would like to see changed, or the things that have happened to him in the past. "But right now," he said of his most recent inspiration, "I'm in love."

The Mel Messengers will perform:

August 13, at 20:00, at Guru Clubland on Kuzmányho 6 in Žilina.

August 14 in the High Tatras

August 15, at 20:00. at the Smädný Mních Club on Dolná 20 in Banská Bystrica

August 16, at 19:00, at Kino Hviezda on Kniežaťa Pribinu 3 in Trenčín.

August 17, at 20:00, at Klub Calipso on Hlavná 17 in Trnava.

August 18, at 20:00, at Klarisky Church on Farská 4 in Bratislava.

For more information, contact Juraj Gergely at 036/622 6161

By Zuzana Habšudová

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