Kratochvíl, Martin
Piano solo

  • Format: CD
  • Band: Kratochvíl, Martin
  • Title: Piano solo
  • Band's Origin: CS
  • Style: instrumental Jazz
  • Rating: 4
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Recording Year: 2011
  • Production Year: 2012
  • Record Company: Studio Budikov
  • Item's Number: SB 020
  • Color of the Label:
  • Edition:
  • Extras:
  • EAN: 8594159980204
  • Weight: 96 g
  • Visual: new
  • Acoustic:
  • Cover: new

Studio Budikov Release Information

What you are holding in your hands is an album of twelve compositions in the form of both sheet music and a CD featuring the author’s performances of the music.

The task of choosing the twelve most appropriate pieces from the large quantity of music recorded on LPs and CDs proved to be quite demanding. The main criterion was that the form of the piece should be simple, just like the form of any jazz standard. In order to become a standard, a composition needs to be simple, easy to play, and clearly characterized by a distinct melodic or harmonic idea. It also should be flexible and open to all kinds of remakes, re-harmonizations, rhythmic variations, etc. And, most importantly, it should be easy to remember and attractive enough to “lure” the musician, to invite him to play with it, to reshape and transform it, to project his own musical taste and his mood into the music.

Although I am not as conceited as to think that the selected compositions are, or should ever become, evergreens (Toledo might possibly be on the right track, though), I have chosen – together with Radim Kolek, the inspirer of the project – these twelve pieces with this criterion in our minds: and this selection is now trying to win your favour. Before you get started and the first tones come out of your piano, try reading the following few lines that should work as a “user’s manual” or a “cookbook” to help you prepare my music for consummation.

Firstly, the sheet music is a mere approximation; to get to the substance of the music, you have to get to know it and grasp it yourself. Don’t get distressed by the seemingly difficult rhythm and harmony. It is a good idea to start by listening to the CD and reading the music at the same time, which should show you that the apparent complexity is merely an unfortunate result of the necessary task of turning the music into notation. The musical idea, however, usually remains simple, clear, and comprehensible. It is also possible to start with the transparent chorus, and only then work one’s way forwards and backwards.

Secondly, don’t worry if you see that the notation differs from what you hear on the CD. For me, too, each new performance of a song is a unique expression of how I feel at the moment, of who is listening, so that each recording inevitably turns out different. You should also feel absolutely unrestrained about the way you play the piece – speed it up or slow it down, whatever pleases you. There is nothing like an absolute, ideal, and only possible form of a jazz theme.

Thirdly, the sheet music is intended to help the “prima vista” readers as much as possible. In stark contrast with the academically correct notation rules, the notation is intentionally simplified; it uses incorrect enharmonic substitutions in chord symbols, and is full of other atrocities in order for the musician to be enabled to read less and play more. To be frank, who would want to read the double sharps in the Dance Hall set in F sharp major? That is why it is written without key signature, which makes it easier to play on the one hand, but which also gives rise to serious doubts about the author’s musical literacy on the other.

As for harmony, I have applied the system of chord symbols used at the Berklee College of Music that I used to study myself. This system is gradually becoming the standard throughout the world of jazz.

I shall now, if you please, take a look at all the twelve pieces and comment on them individually in a way you might find useful while playing.

Valerie (Valeria)

Originally a song written for the vocalist Helena Vondráčková based on Pavel Vrba’s lyrics. The song makes use of the ancient model of Afro-American sacred music: the “call and response” form. These two parts repeat themselves after every four bars; while the call keeps changing, the response remains the same. Otherwise, the piece is a typical instance of the horizontal “line” harmony. In the call, the A descends by semitones to F sharp; in the response the F sharp rises. In the chorus, the F sharp goes down as far as E flat, and in bar 9 of the chorus the B descends to A only to be succeeded by a response again with a rising melodic line. The improviser should keep all this in mind.

Báryšnja (Baryshnja)

As the title reveals, this piece revolves around a minor-scale Slavonic harmonic progress that sometimes borders on the cliché. It is accompanied by a distinct rhythmic figure in the left hand. For the altered turn-around in the fifth bar G7 C7 try making use of the diminished scale. In the chorus (bar 13) there is a substitute dominant E7 that freshens up the otherwise standardized harmony.

Čundrácké blues (The Tramp’s Blues)

This blues seems at first sight to conceal its tonality under the extremely expanded harmony. Once you have (easily) discovered its tonal centre, however, you have also found the key for improvisation: Simply start with the C blues scale and just keep playing regardless of the pitfalls of the seemingly complicated harmony. The result is what a proper improvisation should look like: consonant passages (e.g. bar 1 through 4) will take turns with sections of higher tension between the melody and the harmony which then gives way to the former again, making the whole piece interesting and attractive. Make sure you don’t follow the chord symbols too doggedly.

Vinen je vinohrad (It’s the Vineyard’s Fault)

An undemanding optimistic swing piece, easy to improvise on. The chorus can be played with repeated quarter notes in the left hand. It can also be played a bit faster.

Zdálo se mi o Dvořákovi (I Dreamed of Dvořák)

A beautiful ballad inspired by gospel music and negro spirituals (that Antonín Dvořák “copied” in his Symphony from the New World). Just as in the case of the Rambler’s Blues, it is possible to improvise in F sharp major pentatonic scale over the gospel harmony regardless of the changing harmonic progress. This will not work as well in the chorus, though. In fact, I didn’t even try it on the recording. The piece can also stand on its own without improvisation.

Toledo (Toledo)

Toledo has been recorded many times in various forms ranging from solo piano – which appears on this album – to a jazz big band version. It’s sometimes heard in jazz rehearsal rooms, maybe simply because it consists of a single jazz riff that keeps moving both vertically and horizontally (the latter can hardly be heard on a solo recording, but all the other versions contain a canon progression). The intro as it appears in the sheet music without rhythmic unification represents just one of the infinite number of possibilities. This music is open to anything; and I mean anything. You can let your fantasy flow quite freely here.

Nesnesitelná křehkost bytí (The Unbearable Fragility of Being)

A classical jazz ballad, inspired by reading Kundera and listening to Joe Zawinul. The ample harmony of the piece is limited to only two chords in the improvisation passage, but despite that, it can be interesting in the way it contrasts with the harmonic progression in the verses and in the chorus, where numerous hybrid chords are used. The compositions ends in the deceptive tonic C.

Přijel Tony z Arizony (Here Comes Tony from Arizony)

The only one out of the twelve compositions based on a distinct rhythmical figure which, however, turns into swing quarter notes in the chorus. Throughout the first eight bars of the chorus, the harmony contains the unifying common tone E that changes into F in the following eight bars. The harmonic progression of the improvisation chorus is repeated as many times as appropriate. If there are more instruments available, the soloists can take turns on and on.

Tušení souvislostí (A Touch of Serendipity)

This piece is the most recent composition on the album, and shows where the author’s feeling is headed. The standard jazz harmony gives way to modern harmonic structures taken from classical music. Here, however, both the elements are set in contrast. You can improvise either on Fm7 – E flat 7 or follow the harmonic progression of the composition.

Tančírna (The Dance Hall)

A playful piece set in F sharp major but written without key signature for the sake of easier reading. The accidentals appear before each note and remain valid only for the single note. Verses can be played in plain F sharp pentatonic scale (the black keys on a piano) but the chorus should follow the harmony as written out. It can be played faster.

Závrať (Vertigo)

A reverent ballad full of silence and contemplation. The harmonic complexity gradually rises on the way from the consonant verses to the chorus, where it gets ever denser until it reaches its climax between bars 9 to 12 in clusters that – unfortunately – cannot be written down without the use of double sharps. This is again followed by the repose of the verse. The improvisation can make use of the whole harmonic progression or it can be based only on the chorus chords.

Boogie pro Fantýnu (Boogie for Fantyna)

A twelve-bar boogie that instead of a subdominant makes use of a seventh chord built on the lowred VI (C7). What might be interesting is the rhythmic positioning of the licks always towards the end of the four-bar phrases. If more instruments are available, these can be played also in thirds. Apart from that, this is a simple earthy boogie in dotted rhythm.

Enjoy the music!

Martin Kratochvíl


1. Valerie 3:03
2. Báryšnja 3:20
3. Čundrácké blues 4:07
4. Vinen je vinohrad 3:01
5. Zdálo se mi o dvořákovi 2:57
6. Toledo 5:55
7. Nesnesitelná křehkost bytí 4:06
8. Přijel Tony z Arizony 5:05
9. Tušení souvislostí 3:49
10. Tančírna 3:49
11. Závrať 3:42
12. Boogie pro Fantýnu 3:18