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TRUMPETER LACO DECZI AND HIS JAZZ CELLULA BAND FROM NEW YORK HEAD TO ŽILINA.

Top Pick: Jazz legend returns home

LACO Deczi, a cornerstone of the Slovak jazz scene in the 1950s, was eventually forced to flee Slovakia after refusing to compromise with the communist regime. Ending up in America, he has spent almost two decades across the ocean, issuing one CD after another and continuing to make musical waves.
The energetic jazz trumpeter now tours Europe every year with his jazz band, Cellula New York. Having twice played at the Jazz Days festival in Bratislava, this year he will appear at the Rondel club in Žilina (north-west Slovakia), whose jazz scene he helped form in 1996.


DECZI, Khu and Clarke, clockwise from top.
photo: Courtesy of Jazz Centrum Levice

LACO Deczi, a cornerstone of the Slovak jazz scene in the 1950s, was eventually forced to flee Slovakia after refusing to compromise with the communist regime. Ending up in America, he has spent almost two decades across the ocean, issuing one CD after another and continuing to make musical waves.

The energetic jazz trumpeter now tours Europe every year with his jazz band, Cellula New York. Having twice played at the Jazz Days festival in Bratislava, this year he will appear at the Rondel club in Žilina (north-west Slovakia), whose jazz scene he helped form in 1996.

"Somehow it all worked out that we got this big-format musician to start jazz concerts here," said Ľubomír Plešinger, the Žilina club's owner. "He has a rebellious spirit, but despite his 'size' he's an ordinary, easy-going, physically small person. The energetic, progressive jazz he and his band play simply loads people with positive energy."

Deczi will perform with his lifelong musical partner, bass guitarist Steve Clarke, along with American Indian Art Khu on keyboards and Deczi's oldest son, Laco "Vaico" Deczi Jr, on the drums. Deczi Jr recently won a percussion competition in the US state of Connecticut.

While Deczi started out playing traditional west-coast jazz, he switched to a hard-bop style under the influence of the Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s, evoking wide interest in his music in Prague. After moving to the Czech capital, which also offered more opportunities to play, he founded his Jazz Cellula band in 1967.

In the early 1980s he began to bring younger musicians into the group, adding a rock flavour to the band's music, a jazz innovation started by Miles Davis.

After leaving Czechoslovakia in 1984, he spent two years in Germany with his oldest son (issuing the LP Jazz Cellula 5 - Der Profi) and then moved to America, where they soon brought the Jazz Cellula project back to life.

While the 64-year-old Deczi is married to an American of Chinese descent, and likes to spend his free time fishing in the nearby ocean, a luxury he could not afford in his home country, it is still obvious he was born in western Slovakia once he arrives on his home turf, Plešinger says.

"Once he ordered halušky [the local specialty, potato dumplings with cottage cheese] for his guys, offering it to them with words: 'Well, you American guys, chomp on some halušky, it's a great Slovak meal, so stuff your faces."

Cellula New York takes the stage at 20:00 on May 13 at Rondel klub 23, Závodská 6, Žilina. Tickets: Sk120 in advance (on sale in the club) and Sk150 at the door. Tel: 041/7641-929 or 7003-173.

By Zuzana Habšudová

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