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Slovak jazz singer wins over Prague

PRAGUE - While female jazz vocalists who can sing are not uncommon, few can really kick it. Miriam Bayle is one the few - watching her sing on a dusty stage in one of Prague's tiny underground, cellar-like jazz clubs will stand out in the memory of any jazz aficionado for many a show to come.
Bayle's musical career began in the unlikely locale of northern Slovakia's Liptovský Mikuláš, where the 24-year-old was born to a family with little musical background. But she began listening to jazz legends at an early age and formed her first band at 15. "Although I like all good music, it's always been jazz that most interested me," she says in her low and intoxicatingly smooth satin voice.
That voice led her from her home town four months ago to follow her heart by attempting to establish herself as a jazz singer in Prague. She had little money and no friends there, she says, but she still made up her mind to chance it. Two days later Bayle found herself in the Czech capital searching for gigs by simply walking up to respected local musicians and asking to sing with them.


Miriam Bayle from Liptovský Mikuláš performing with pianist and band leader Vojtěch Eckert in Prague.
photo: Vojtěch Špada

PRAGUE - While female jazz vocalists who can sing are not uncommon, few can really kick it. Miriam Bayle is one the few - watching her sing on a dusty stage in one of Prague's tiny underground, cellar-like jazz clubs will stand out in the memory of any jazz aficionado for many a show to come.

Bayle's musical career began in the unlikely locale of northern Slovakia's Liptovský Mikuláš, where the 24-year-old was born to a family with little musical background. But she began listening to jazz legends at an early age and formed her first band at 15. "Although I like all good music, it's always been jazz that most interested me," she says in her low and intoxicatingly smooth satin voice.

That voice led her from her home town four months ago to follow her heart by attempting to establish herself as a jazz singer in Prague. She had little money and no friends there, she says, but she still made up her mind to chance it. Two days later Bayle found herself in the Czech capital searching for gigs by simply walking up to respected local musicians and asking to sing with them.

Although at first she was roundly laughed at by local jazz cats, her deep alto voice and sexy on-stage stylings soon won them over. One night, Miriam remembered, pianist Zdeněk Zdeněk - known as the leader of fusion-jazz band Naima - scoffed at her entreaty as he saw her step nervously on the stage with a book of song lyrics. An English self-learner, she didn't know all the words by heart. But once she started singing, Zdeněk's amused grin disappeared and word began to get around town.

Now she's settled in with a band she describes as "wonderful and pure people with good vibes." Prague pianist and composer Vojtech Eckert, who in the 1980's played with one of Bayle's idols, the legendary Czech jazz diva Eva Olmerová, heads the jazz trio. With an occasional guest guitarist and drummer, the band plays an average of 12 to 15 gigs a month.

As fans are now discovering, Bayle's enthusiasm and love for her artistry pours out into her music, making for a stirring, unique and sensual performance. "Singing turns me on," she says. "When I sing, music is a treat for my soul. Songs are never the same, there's always something new that comes out of them on stage, even when you sing them hundreds of times."

Still, it's a safe bet that audiences enjoy the show even more than she does. As she walks slowly around the stage, with her long legs and slender hips undulating in rhythm, she resembles a model casually embracing the slow gait of the catwalk. She dominates the music and stage, yet she's a careful listener to her band-mates and a funny showman at the same time. "That girl can really sing," one passionate viewer gushed after seeing her perform in Prague's Marriott hotel.

And considering that she's been with the group for a mere four months, one can only guess how high her star will eventually rise. Three hour gigs melt away in minutes, leaving viewers sorry to see her leave the stage. No rough spots, no unreachable notes... just easy-going jazz.


Performances in June
June 1: Delux, Václavske nám. 4, Prague 1, 21:00
June 2: Blues Sklep, Liliova str. 10, P 1, 21:00
June 10: Delux, Václavské nám. 4, Prague 1, 20:00
June 15: U Malého Glenna, Karmelitská str. 23, P 1, 21:00
June 16: Barberina, Melantrichova 10, P 1, 21:30
June 21: Delux, Václavské nám. 4, Prague 1, 21:00
June 22: Jazz club Zele

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