"Absolutely great - Overnight!
There's no need to look for superlatives and endorsements from world-renowned names
because music created by Balzar - double bass, Macha - piano, Slavicek - drums leaves no doubt.
I'm known as a sensible person, very judicious and critical, and also quite bored by jazz. However, the guys play fantastically!!!
The solos! The sounds! This is timeless well-mastered mainstream, which oozes with jazz like the spring with new life. It also draws handfuls of beauty from classical music. This is the finish line in a long-distance race."
Petra Konrádová (Reflex 02.06.2005)
* * * * *
ROBERT BALZAR was born in Nachod in the Czech Republic and graduated from the Brno Conservatory in double bass and piano. He has been performing in Prague since 1985, beginning with TV bigband.
Since then, he has performed and recorded with some of the greatest names in jazz: Gabriel Jonas; Jazz Face; Emil Viklicky, Q.; Karel Ruzicka, Q.; David Friedman (USA); Allan Praskin (USA); Larry Porter (USA); Joe Newman (Count Basie Big Band); Benny Bailey (formerly with Quincy Jones); Tony Scott (formerly with Bill Evans, John Coltrane); Hal Galper Trio; Benny Golson; Wynton Marsalis; Lew Tabackin; Tony Lakatos; Victor Lewis, and most recently, John Abercrombie.
He was also a member of elite group that played with U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Reduta Jazz Club during Clinton's 1994 visit to Prague.
Robert has performed at a number of international festivals, such as the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Prague International Jazz Festival and the Karlovy Vary International Jazz Festival. He has also toured Norway as a member of The Benny Bailey Quartet, as well as the United States and Canada.
In 1996, he formed a group under his own name—The Robert Balzar Trio—and recorded their first CD called "TRAVELLING," which was voted 1998 CD of the Year by Czech Radio "Jazz Test".
In 2000, The Robert Balzar Trio recorded their second CD titled "ALONE," which was voted the Best Czech CD of the Year, and the group was voted 2000 Best Group of the Year.
In 2005, they recorded "OVERNIGHT" on the SonyBMG label, and in the Spring of 2008, The Robert Balzar Trio will release their latest CD, "Tales" featuring John Abercrombie.
"....he [Balzar] sounds great, his solos are thought through, he's got unerring rhythm, he creates just the right sound for the band." -- George Mraz
STANISLAV MÁCHA - piano
Stanislav Macha was born in 1971. He graduated from the Secondary Art School in Prague and has studied music privately since childhood. In 1992, he won the International Jazz Festival in Karlovy Vary with his group The Four. In the next few years, he performed with a number of prominent Czech jazz combos. He was a member of the Czech Radio Big band. He has also performed with several inernationally renowned musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, Piotr Baron, Nicholas Simion. Macha has performed in Germany, France, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland. In 1994, he was a member of the band that accompanied Bill Clinton at the Reduta Jazz Club. He has been a member of the Robert Balzar Trio since 1996.
JIŘÍ SLAVÍČEK - drums
Jiri Slavicek was born in 1969. He graduated from the Ostrava Conservatory. He has been performing in prague since 1992, beginning with the critically acclaimed group The Four. With that group he won the Karlovy Vary Jazz Festival competition. He has performed with many bands and recorded several albums. He has performed with such international stars as Wynton Marsalis, Art Farmer, Piotr Baron, Kuba Stankiewicz and Sandy Lomax. He joined the Robert Balzar Trio in 2000
* * * * *
Czech bassist Robert Balzar has put together an intriguing collection of contemporary but very accessible jazz on his 2005 release, Overnight. This is the trio’s third release under the bassist’s name. Piano trios notoriously have little aural variation. That is not the case here.
With some creative arranging and intelligent programming, there is a wide spectrum of mood and approach. From the gentle ‘Lady Behind the Window’ to the frenetic undertaking of John Coltrane’s ‘Moment’s Notice’ there is plenty of variety. Balzar employs the full range of the instrument and his tasteful arco playing at times soars above the others. The natural woody character of the bass is clear and propels the trio throughout the CD.
Balzar comfortably moves between his supportive roles of playing solid bass- lines to leading the charge with inventive, melodic solos. There are three standard tunes and all are arranged with rhythmical devices in mind, playing in odd time signatures. These are the more sprightly of the nine tracks. However, it is the original compositions where this group shines. Balzar is as talented a composer as he is a double bassist.
There is a decidedly classical influence on the music as well as the obvious jazz influences such as Keith Jarrett’s groups of the 1970s. There is also a sense of purpose in the original music that isn’t shared in the standards. The players become more attuned to one another, which is evident in the performance.
All in all, a good outing for the trio.
* * * * *
One busy double bassist
The versatile Robert Balzar keeps on the move
Robert Balzar is one of the best and busiest jazz bassists in town. His acoustic group, the Robert Balzar Trio, recently released a new CD of acoustic jazz originals and covers called Overnight. He also plays and records with a number of vocalists.
Unlike his previous two CDs with his trio, this one was recorded in Warsaw, Poland. "I met a great sound engineer who works for Polish Radio," Balzar says. "In an acoustic trio, you really need a good sound engineer to create a space and make clear sound."
Working with Tadeusz Mieczkowski — who made a hit CD with Pat Metheny and Polish singer and pianist Anna Marie Jopek — wasn't the only reason for crossing the border. "In Polish Radio they have eight Steinway pianos," Balzar says.
Of the nine songs on the new CD, three are covers and six are originals. While there are no lyrics, the original songs all have a meaning. "Ben in Jam" is inspired by his son Benjamin. "Lady Behind the Window" is dedicated to his girlfriend.
The covers, including "Moment's Notice" by John Coltrane, feature new arrangements. A new perspective on the songs is important when you are living in 2005, Balzar says. "It's different than it was in 1950." He borrows ideas from heroes such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis but also works in influences from rock, funk, soul and world music. "Today you can feel more ethno music because the world is brought closer by the Internet and everything else," Balzar says.
Live shows with his trio, which includes Stanislav Mácha on piano and Jirí Slavícek on drums, feature songs from the new CD along with his previous two. While the shows aren't jam sessions, they generally aren't planned beyond the first three songs, after which Balzar tries to sense what the audience wants to hear. "We feel what they want, like more swingy stuff, more classical stuff," he says.
Balzar and his trio also back vocalist Yvonne Sanchez. "It is really a different sound when you play with singers," he says. That show consists mostly of standards like "All of Me" and "The Way You Look Tonight."
Balzar adopts a different style for his performances with chanson singer Hana Hegerová. "I play with the bow, more classical style, because this group doesn't use a drummer. That means the rhythm is on me."
Balzar also plays with Dan Bárta's groups Illustratosphere and J.A.R. He likes the interaction between jazz and rock, although the big shows are less intimate and spontaneous than playing in a jazz club.
One of Balzar's claims to fame is playing at Reduta with then-President Bill Clinton in 1994. "He's a nice person, very friendly," Balzar says. "He knows jazz standards by ear because he's an American and this is American culture." Not surprisingly, Balzar was more impressed by his opportunity to jam with Wynton Marsalis. "He takes you to a little bit of a different kind of rhythm."
Balzar plays a restored 150-year-old double bass that his father found in a church in a badly damaged state. "It was totally crushed, you know, a thousand pieces," Balzar says. Still, it was easier than finding a new double bass. "Now, the violin makers make [strictly] violins because for one violin they get the same money as for one bass. So nobody is making double basses anymore."
But Balzar is quick to note that while an old instrument often adds a distinctive flavor, it's not the key element. "The instrument is important," he says, "but you have your own sound inside you."
The Prague Post - 31. 08. 2005