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George Mraz: Morava

Bassist George “Jiri” Mraz returns to his musical roots here in company with two fellow Czech musicians-pianist Emil Viklicky and vocalist Zuzana Lapcikova , who also plays the cymbalom on several songs-and drummer Billy Hart, a frequent Mraz collaborator. Although born in Bohemia, as a schoolboy Mraz spent summers in neighboring Morava (better known to us as Moravia), which is where he came to appreciate that region’s folk music; music that uses, as Viklicky observes in the liner notes, “all these interesting old modal scales.” These 12 pieces are reworkings of various versions of traditional songs with lyrics similarly reshaped by Lapcikova , whose cymbalom (a hammered dulcimer) gives this music an ethereal edge. Sung in Czech, the songs are full of references to the natural world (trees, birds, lakes and mountains), which form a backdrop to the ages-old litany of love-lost and found-filtered through Mraz and Viklicky’s jazz sensibilities. Thus, while some songs have a folk-dance feel to them (e.g., the charmingly intricate “She Walks in a Meadow”), others move right along in 4/4 with “Wine, Oh Wine” (the only instrumental) being the best example. This intriguing CD is sure to grow on the open-minded listener.

Originally Published