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Half Czech-in, part 1

Emil Viklický – Trochu funky (The Funky Way)
from album “Okno”, 1980, Supraphon 11152754
composed & arranged by Emil Viklický, produced by Antonín Matzner
ViklickyEmil_Okno_a_128 ViklickyEmil_Okno_b_128
original LP sleeve (front/back)
Welcome to the Half Czech-In, an irregular “sub-series” of Funky Czech-In posts, devoted to international funky outings with some sort of Czech or Slovak participation – or vice versa. There are quite a lot of records to choose from, so aside from less known or even absolutely obscure names (Gyulli Chokheli, anyone?) you can also expect to meet renown artists like Jan Hammer jr. or Miroslav Vitouš as well as a couple of their even more famous international colleagues.
This first example comes from the second solo album by jazz pianist Emil Viklický. You might have already seen that name on this blog, he was the keyboard player on Energit’s first record. He played with Karel Velebný’s SHQ and was a member of the legendary Klávesová konkláva (The Keyboard Conclave); both groups will be covered in future posts. For more details check out Viklický’s English biography. That aside, he was also one of those few lucky guys who were allowed to study in the U.S. in the seventies, where he spent a year at the Berklee College of Music. Back in Prague, in the summer of 1979 some of his new friends from the States dropped by to say hello: guitarist Bill Frisell, bass player Kermit Driscoll and the ex-Stark Reality drummer Vinton Johnson. The result of that short visit was the album Okno (The Window).
“Trochu funky” actually means “A little bit funky”. But I’d say that the track is funky a lot, thus the English title The Funky Way seems more appropriate. One highlight is certainly Johnson’s extensive drumming. Watch out for two long breaks which should please all samplaficionados out there. On the other hand, Viklický’s melodies borrow a lot from Moravian ethnic music and that joyous nature fits quite well with the disco beat. And although I don’t find the tune arrangement and structure as exciting as it could have possibly been, this kind of fusion makes it still quite distinguishable from similar international disco-jazz productions of that era. The rest of album continues in a similar funky fusion vein, except for one ballad.
The record doesn’t fall behind if you compare it with its more famous western competition, although at some points it sounds slightly “underproduced” to me. You should check out this Bill Frisell discography page, it tells Viklický’s background story why the recording sessions had to be finished in less than two days; it may sound quite absurd to you, but those things that he’s talking about were typical for the era of normalized socialism… Anyway, some more clever arrangements or perhaps a horn section here and there wouldn’t have hurt. Because in fact, Trochu funky has been re-recorded by Kamil Hála with the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra (JOČR) in 1982, entitled Quasi opus pro big band č. 17, released by Panton on the obscure compilation series Matiné populární hudby (a.k.a. Týden nové tvorby). The big band arrangement definitely works, although in that tune the JOČR rhythm section sounds really tired in direct comparison to the original raw drive of the Johnson/Driscoll funk machine.
Okno is without doubt one of the funkiest original albums that ever came out on a Czechoslovak record label. The recordings have been reissued on CD in 1997, but as you might have guessed: deleted from the catalogues, not available for order, out of print. Sometimes it’s still available on eBay though. I’ve also seen second hand vinyl quite cheap from Slovakia.

Update 2016-02-23
Meanwhile, Okno & Dveře has been reissued by Supraphon in 2012 via Nextera Records’ owner and producer Kristian Kotarac (1970–2013), with modest participation by yours truly (cover layout and liner notes translation, and – if I recall correctly – actually giving the initial impuls while chatting in a Prague pub with Kristian sometime in 2010 or 2011). More details about the reissue on Discogs.
But that’s not all, see my subsequent article from September 2009.

Posted in Funky Czech-In, Half Czech-In

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