Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jazz A La Czech

This contraction free post is brought to you by the Czech keyboard (and yeah, I am sure I could just ask, but where is the fun in that?)

Prague, as many know, is famed for music. Mozart was probably more popular here than in Vienna during his own time, and today there are nightly concerts put on largely for the tourist crowds at various historical churches and concert halls through the historical center.

But in addition to classical music, there is a smaller jazz scene, so I decided last night to deviate from the expected and give one of the most popular local jazz clubs, Agharta, a try. After surviving the rainburst that opened up no the crowds as I was crossing the Charles Bridge into Old Town, and reviving myself with a pizza for dinner, I wandered over to the Old Town Square, where the recent rain left the paving stones glistening in the lamplight as the unseen sun went down. Agharta was only a quick walk from from the square, down the stairs to a cozy cellar where local jazz groups perform.

Popular with locals and tourists, the club filled up as the evening wore on, with those who had reserved seating grouped around tiny tables and the rest of us packed in along the walls, and even sitting on the stairs leading up to the balcony outside the main room. For the equivalent of two bucks, I got a half pint of dark Czech beer to sip slowly during the first set.

The group of the night was a quartet featuring electric bass and guitar, piano, and drums. While I am generally not as into jazz that features electric guitars (I like the old school jazz trumpet players most of all), they were pretty good, and got more and more into it as the night wore on, to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience. The piano blew me away, though, with his flawless playing and utter immersion into the music as he bobbed to the beat, alternating between looks of intense pain and sheer joy. When he gave an impromptu solo performance after the guitarist broke a spring, the audience was completely taken in.

I left after the second break, an Agharta compilation CD in hand (the one the clerk at their shop claimed was his favorite). For many, I am sure the night was just getting started, but I while on tour I try to make sleep something of a priority. It was just a taste, but if I come back to Prague, I will be ready for more.

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