Review: Jazz comes out of hiding

With techno and pop music dominating Slovak radiowaves, and classical ensembles and cover bands almost the only live music options around town, one may be led to believe that jazz has no place on the Slovak music scene.
But while the art form may not be thriving, if one looks hard enough a few purveyors of the style can be found in local nooks and crannies. One group doing jazz proud for the Slovak crowd is the Vlado Vizár Jazz Quartet, whose musical prowess and upbeat take on the genre can get even the most timid of wallflowers tapping their feet and clapping along.

Vlado Vizár Jazz Quartet

Playing:The Jazz Café, Ventúrska 5
Tel: 5443 4661
Next performance: May 19
Starts at: 8:30

With techno and pop music dominating Slovak radiowaves, and classical ensembles and cover bands almost the only live music options around town, one may be led to believe that jazz has no place on the Slovak music scene.

But while the art form may not be thriving, if one looks hard enough a few purveyors of the style can be found in local nooks and crannies. One group doing jazz proud for the Slovak crowd is the Vlado Vizár Jazz Quartet, whose musical prowess and upbeat take on the genre can get even the most timid of wallflowers tapping their feet and clapping along.

The quartet could be seen getting in their licks at one of the old town's most popular jazz haunts, the Jazz Café, on May 5; for many customers, what had been planned as a one-drink-and-run experience ended up as a full-on jazz encounter that lasted late into the evening.

The Vlado Vizár Jazz Quartet is fronted by band leader Vlado Vizár on trombone and vocals, while Andrej Šebo does the bass work, Karol Sucháň provides the backbone on drums, and Pavol Bodnár rounds off the ensemble on the keyboard.

Bodnár's keyboard talent was perhaps the highlight of the evening. When he took the solo spotlight, even those audience members engaged in deep conversation would interrupt themselves to take a look at the man whose dextrous fingers wrought the melodic and rhythmic sounds filling the room.

Not to be outdone, drummer Sucháň took advantage of his time to shine during the famed jazz staple "When the Saints Go Marching In." During this tune, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy on his tiny drum kit - such a frenzy, in fact, that the group played "Saints" twice that evening (although this may have been due to a short set list).

Although not as notable talents as their counterparts, trombone player Vizár and bassist Šebo still had the goods to keep the crowd going. Not many of the tunes were accompanied by lyrics, but when occasion demanded, Vlado Vizár's vocals were free of the awkward edge that can occur when a singer is not using his native tongue.

But what really endeared the Vlado Vizár Jazz Quartet to the crowd on this particular evening was the band's willingness to share the stage with the audience. Some half-dozen (ostensibly) professional singers were in the crowd, and all chipped in with some scat work on the mic during two songs as the band improvised in support. This interaction firmly established the band members' talent, and added a pleasant Bratislava twist to a fine evening of jazz.

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