Kratochvíl, Martin & Tony Ackerman

  • Format: CD
  • Band: Kratochvíl, Martin & Tony Ackerman
  • Title: Zvukobraní
  • Band's Origin: CS
  • Style: Jazz
  • Rating: 3
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Recording Year: 1986-2008
  • Production Year: 2009
  • Record Company: Supraphon
  • Item's Number: SU 5966-2
  • Color of the Label:
  • Edition:
  • Extras: cardboard box, paper covers
  • EAN: 099925596620
  • Weight: 252 g
  • Visual: new
  • Acoustic:
  • Cover: new
Box containing the albums Stará známost; Ornament; Moravské koncerty; Spolu; Šerosvit; Duolog 1; Duolog 2; Zvukobraní

Supraphon Release Information

Following the well-received box set of recordings by the band Jazz Q, Supraphon is now serving up another large portion of Martin Kratochvíl’s music, this time produced in tandem with Tony Ackerman!

Kratochvíl and Ackerman combined their instruments (piano and guitar) back in 1986, when they made their debut album Stará známost (Old Acquaintance). This and another six discs – Ornament, Moravské koncerty (Moravian Concerts), Spolu (Together), Šerosvit (Duskiness) and Duology (Duologues) 1 + 2 – form the basis of this giant slab of excellent music. The seven CDs are supplemented by the bonus disc Zvukobraní (Sound Festival), containing 15 previously unreleased recordings from Martin Kratochvíl’s archive.

The two gentlemen also joined forces with the violinist Ivan Ženatý, the cellist Vojtěch Havel, the percussionist Imram Musa Zangi and the bass-guitarists Pavel P. Ryba and Přemysl Faukner, now and then under the moniker of the International Association for New Acoustic Music. In addition to the studio albums, the box set includes recordings made at concerts in Moravia, bearing witness to an attractive stage intimacy and virtuoso élan.

All the albums have been remastered, come in separate cardboard covers with reprinted original sleeves and are accompanied by sleevenotes written by Tony Ackerman and documentary photographs, all this in Joska Skalník’s graphic layout. Jazz fans are afforded yet another opportunity to add to their collections and savour the mastery of the two musicians, who are still vital concert performers.

Kratochvíl + Ackerman: more than seven hours of superb music in an 8 CD box set!

Kalemegdan Disk Additions

These three albums were originally released as LPs: Stará známost (1986), Ornament (1988 as “Mezinárodní Sdružení pro Novou Akustickou Hudbu” (International Association for New Acoustic Music) and Spolu (1990, recorded 1988). While Stará známost and Spolu were recorded with acoustic guitar and piano only, Ornament is a splendid kind of acoustic Jazzrock album including violin, cello and percussion.

Moravské koncerty (recorded 1989 live and released on CD in 1990) and Šerosvit (recorded 1990 and released on CD in 1993) were recorded with acoustic guitar, piano and cello.

Ten years later (in 2001) they released a double CD which is divided into two CDs in this box set: Duolog 1 (recorded 2001) is an acoustic Jazz-Jazzrock album with additional bass guitar, cello and percussion while Duolog 2 (recorded 1996) was again recorded with piano and guitar only.

And then the box set finishes with the newly recorded (in 2008) Zvukobraní which doesn’t exist as single CD at all (piano, acoustic guitar and party bass guitar).

Like the Jazz Q box the musical quality of all eight instrumental albums is on a quite similar high level. The CDs are packed in cardboard sleeves showing the original cover front pages and the booklet contains a long text by Tony Ackerman on Czech as well as on English language.

Musicians Information

I don’t know too many musicians who like to listen to their old music. I usually come home from a recording session enthusiastic, marveling at the new discoveries and rich sound that only a studio can produce. But after a week or so, I begin to hear only the inevitable mistakes and clichés, and question my wisdom of doing a recording at all. So you can imagine my fear when, to prepare for writing this, I put on a record (yes, I mean a vinyl record, that Martin and I made almost twenty five years ago) – our first “long-playing album”, Stará známost / Old Acquaintance. I was very pleasantly surprised; it still sounded great after all these years.

When Martin and I came together in the spring of 1985, we brought to our musical marriage two very different histories, personalities and styles, and immediately fused them to make a music that has kept its richness and freshness for a quarter-century of concerts and recordings. Take the first piece in Stará známost, the medley Ovocný trh / Magdalena. The seeds of all that came after are right there. First, two instruments, old acoustic ones – steel string guitar, with its American history of consonant chords to accompany ballads, bluegrass bass runs, bluesy bent and crying notes; and grand piano, with its rationality, percussive power and endless variations of complex chords. Then add the histories of the two players. Martin Kratochvíl, captivated in the early 70s by the powerful, electronic simplicity of jazzrock, had brought Jazz Q, Eastern Europe’s first jazzrock band, to its apex of stardom in the early 1980s, and had been totally immersed in the simple harmonies and powerful thrust of his Mini-Moog synthesizer and Fender Rhodes electric piano. I, having been through virtually all of the guitar styles the USA had to offer – blues, ragtime, country, folk, later refined by years of classical study and Brazilian bossa nova, was completely into acoustic and experimental music.

We met halfway: Martin returned to his earlier roots in the grand piano, and I adopted the forms of jazz; that’s how we “talked”. Now “jazz” is a problematic word, but one thing that has kept this genre alive has been its ability to absorb musical cultures from all over. I think you can pair down the spirit of jazz to just two things: improvisation, and that certain rhythmic drive we call a “groove”. This spirit, this dialogue, is everywhere in our music, explored through original melodies and compositions; of the 62 pieces in this collection, 59 are our originals.

Back to the opening piece of Stará známost: Ovocný trh / Magdalena is more of a suite than a medley; you’ll hear at least five different sections – some of my more pentatonic, country-consonant ones followed by Martin’s Latin, jazzy ones, connected by free improvisations in which we simply talk to each other through our instruments. We always start our concerts with these extended explorations; it’s how we warm ourselves up and get to know the audience. You’ll find more opening “suites” on the other albums: Ornament / To mrkáš na drát. (it turns up in three of the other albums); and Paloma, which you can hear on Duolog. These opening suites seem to contain all of our music in a nutshell: consonant melodies and harmonies, interweaving lines where you can’t tell who is soloing, who is accompanying, free improvisations that explore all the corners of our instruments, rhythmic grooves and peaceful spacious moments, pentatonic and whole-tone scales followed by bluesy bent notes.

In contrast to the “suites”, these albums contain plenty of pieces in stricter forms, exploring rhythmic grooves with jazzy, funky themes and joyful improvisations: Vinen je Vinohrad on Stará známost, Máta Peprná on Spolu, Spiknutí on Duolog. Next, Martin’s slow ballads have a special place in my heart; he is a master composer of this genre, combining simple, soulful melodies with rich and unexpected harmonies. Start with Zdálo se mi o Dvořákovi on Stará známost, then try Závrať or Nesnesnitelná křehkost bytí on Spolu, then settle into Báryšnja on Duolog. These ballads are all still in our concert repertoire, and I always look forward to these moments that open up a special intimacy between us and the audience.

A special mention should go to the “studio” pieces, those with several overdubs that we can never do live: the haunting Snář on Stará známost , the more funky, up-tempo Vekslácká lidová on Spolu, or the relaxed Gogi Gogi (the title comes from the first words spoken by Martin Kratochvíl Junior) on Duolog.

And then there are the straight-out invocations of other styles: Latin jazz (Maňana on Stará známost), old-time country (Úžasná milost as the bonus track – recorded much later – also on Stará známost) and blues: the sung covers on Moravian Concerts and the terse closing of the original Spolu: Blues jako řemen).

The six albums are presented in chronological order. After Stará známost comes a little pearl (?) (perlička; don’t know how to say it in English!), Ornament. Occasionally we welcome other instrumentalists into our secret “club”, and here we were joined by the classical violin prodigy Ivan Ženatý, alternative-music cellist Vojtěch Havel and all-around ethnic percussionist Imram Musa Zangi. The name we gave the group (Mezinárodní Sdružení pro Novou Akustickou Hudbu / The International Association for New Acoustic Music) was supposed to be a joke, but I never heard anybody laugh. Two extremes which could define this album are Stromořadí, a haunting, open-ended exploration of bowed, plucked and hammered strings, and Prťák, a cutesy, jazzy piece which you might hear in a Paris café in the 1940s, featuring Ivan Ženatý’s bright venture into jazz improvisation. My personal favorite on this album (and I don’t even play on this piece!) is Martin’s Jinotaj, which is inspired by one of our favorite 20th-century composers, Olivier Messiaen.

Next in order came Moravské koncerty, our live album, documenting a tour of the region that always supported our music most in those interesting 1980s. Vojtěch Havel joined us on the tour with his innovative, exciting cello playing, contributing also one of his own minimalist pieces, Luční harfa. It’s always an act of courage to release live albums, with all their warts; we even included a medley of blues songs (River’s Invitation and Going to Chicago Blues) and a ragtime number from the 1930s: Somebody Stole My Gal. Šumperské překvapení belongs to its own genre, which we explore more deeply in Duolog II and Zvukobraní: the “free” improvisation – no set themes or progressions, just play, talk, communicate, explore.

I consider Spolu as the chronological and musical centerpiece of this collection. It contains all the types of music mentioned above – and, locked up there right in the center of the album, comes one of my favorites of all our output, Třináctá komnata. It’s fittingly titled: not only is it in 13/8 at a breakneck tempo; it is also not playable live because of all the overdubs. It’s in a terribly awkward meter and has the best of Martin’s esoteric harmonies; when it came time to record my solo on that piece, I just closed my eyes and said, “don’t think about any notes, scales or chords – just play”.

For our next album, Šerosvit/Chiaroscuro, we asked cellist Vojtěch Havel, again, to join us for a New Age experiment: an album for meditation and relaxation. From the first piece, Desert Bird, which was another of our free, unplanned improvisations, the album seems to slow down time and breathe deeply at an other-worldly pace, all the way through to the last piece, our acoustic, minimalist version of Martin’s haunting Madonna – which had been a popular mainstay of his Jazz Q group years before.

A gap of several years, and a Velvet Revolution, occurred before our next album: Duolog. This double album has a little of everything. We asked some other musicians to join us: Pavel Jakub Ryba on fretless electric bass, Vojtěch Havel again on the cello, and, by the time we were recording this album, Imram Musa Zangi had become a stable member of our team – he still plays with us at most of our concerts, forever adding to his eclectic collection of ethnic percussion instruments from all over the world, centered around three Afro-Cuban congas. The second CD of Duolog is a total contrast to the first: one day in the mid-90s, Martin and I, fresh from a few days’ tour in Moravia, decided to sit down in his basement studio and just play for an entire day – no themes, no rules, nothing said in advance. For the CD we chose five segments to keep; all but one of them fade out at the end because we had just kept on going during the session – a lifelong conversation, one thought leading to the next. On the original sleevenote for Duolog I wrote the following:

User’s Instruction Manual

CD 2 needs special care and attention. Please handle in the following manner:
Make sure you have at least 30 minutes of undisturbed time before you. Then:
1. Pour yourself a glass of good wine.
2. Switch off all telephones, buzzers and beepers.
3. Sit in your favorite chair, right between the speakers.
4. Light a candle.
5. Breathe deeply and listen. Falling asleep is permitted, but not required.

The same instructions could apply to the final, “bonus” CD of this collection: Zvukobraní. For years, Martin has been making films of his travels throughout the Himalayas and other parts of Asia and the Middle East, and for each of these films he has invited me to join him in making music. On this CD, we have collected some of the most evocative musical scenes, with new colors not heard on any of the other recordings: 12-string guitar, mandolin, prepared piano, and occasionally the fretless bass of Přemysl Faukner.

I have loved every minute these last twenty five years of playing together – in intimate, smoky jazz clubs, marble Communist culture houses of the 1980s, churches, museums, outdoor festivals in Moravia, Finland, Israel, Germany, USA. It’s a continuous stream of ideas, grooves, colors, wide open and yet obeying its own unspoken rules peculiar only to the three of us continuing on this path. Now sit back and enjoy; we only hope that you will get half as much pleasure out of listening to this collection as we did in making it.

Tony Ackerman


CD 1 Stará známost / Old Acquaintance – ℗ 1986

1. Ovocný trh / Fruit Market 10:35
2. Magdalena 6:39
3. Mañana 5:32
4. Přijel Tony z Arizony / Here Comes Tony from Arizony 4:33
5. Snář / Dreambook 4:52
6. Vinen je vinohrad / It’s the Vineyard’s Fault 4:03
7. Stará známost / Old Acquaintance 5:27
8. Zdálo se mi o Dvořákovi / I Dreamed of Dvořák 3:04
9. Úžasná milost / Amazing Grace 5:12

CD 2 Ornament – ℗ 1988

1. To mrkáš na drát (a on je to špagát) / Now You See It, now You Don’t 5:06
2. Ornament 6:05
3. Zazněj / Echoes 3:33
4. Úžasná milost / Amazing Grace 2:50
5. Prťák / The Nerd 2:44
6. Baribal & Brtník / Baribal and Brtnik 2:59
7. Stromořadí / Down a Tree-lined Lane 5:21
8. Jinotaj / Allegory 5:24
9. Věčná touha / Eternal Longing 4:47
10. Tečka / Period 0:48
11. Ornament II 3:34

CD 3 Moravské koncerty / Moravian Concerts – ℗ 1990

1. Ornament – To mrkáš na drát (a on je to špagát) / Now You See It, now You Don’t 17:06
2. River’s Invitation – Chicago Blues 7:27
3. Šumperské překvapení / A Surprise from Šumperk 13:39
4. Kalypso / Calypso 9:20
5. Luční harfa / Meadow Harp 5:57
6. Somebody Stole My Gal 4:28
7. Toledo 11:38

CD 4 Spolu / Together – Recorded 1988, ℗ 1990

1. Kalypso / Calypso 5:54
2. Závrať / Vertigo 5:23
3. Vekslácká lidová / Shyster Folk 1:32
4. Spolu / Together 2:46
5. Tančírna / The Dance Hall 4:43
6. Máta peprná / Peppermint 4:01
7. Treperenda / The Tattler 3:57
8. Třináctá komnata / The Thirteenth Chamber 5:08
9. Nesnesitelná křehkost bytí / The Unbearable Fragility of Being 4:39
10. Blues jako řemen (krátký) / The Real Blues 1:16
11. Ornament 7:24
12. To mrkáš na drát (a on je to špagát) (Now You See It, now You Don’t) 7:18

CD 5 Šerosvit / Chiaroscuro – Recorded 1988-1990, ℗ 1993

1. Pouštní pták / Desert Bird 5:02
2. Tůň / Pool 11:40
3. Samotář / Man of Solitude 5:35
4. Prosvítající hladina / Transparent Surface 7:45
5. Šerosvit / Chiaroscuro 6:17
6. Luční harfa / Meadow Harp 6:47
7. Madonna 8:33

CD 6 Duolog 1 – Recorded 2001, ℗ 2001

1. Spiknutí / Conspiracy 5:31
2. S námi to dokážete / Just Go for It 4:41
3. Báryšnja 4:26
4. Paloma 4:43
5. Zlaté časy / Good Times 4:58
6. Margherita 4:11
7. Sambira 4:37
8. Gogi, Gogi 3:04
9. West Coast Lookout 4:16
10. Stará moudrost / Ancient Wisdom 2:17
11. Toledo 7:49
12. Falcon Flight 5:11

CD 7 Duolog 2 – Recorded 1996, ℗ 2001

1. Duologue 12:53
2. Negotiation 23:21
3. Whose Blues 7:57
4. Chit-chat 6:22
5. Exchange 3:38

CD 8 Zvukobraní / Sound Harvest – Recorded 2008, ℗ 2009

1. Tónorod / Soundbirth 4:43
2. Po srsti / Warm and Fuzzy 3:01
3. Mezi tichem a zvukem / Between the Silence and the Sound 6:56
4. Modré ráno / Blue Morning 3:45
5. Hašteření / Bickering 6:59
6. Na hraně / On the Edge 1:29
7. Obnažená / The Little She Shows 3:56
8. Vážné úmysly / True Intentions 4:08
9. Loskuták / Water Bird 2:01
10. Šumaři / The Fiddlers 2:42
11. Globální ochlazení / Global Cooling 3:32
12. Zakřivený prostor / Curved Space 4:40
13. Horizont v nedohlednu / No Horizon in Sight 2:46
14. Potěšení / Pure Pleasure 5:34
15. Lesky a třesky / Sparks and Quarks 4:24