Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jazzová KLAUSura 4 - Deczi & DePino

The fourth concert in this new series under the patronage of former President Václav Klaus featured Slovak-born trumpet maestro Laco Deczi and the latest formation of his Cellula New York band, bringing their electric mix of jazz, Latin funk and blues to the ordinarily more genteel surroundings of Prague's Autoklub. Just to make sure they got the place really rocking they also brought along Chris DePino - a chromatic harmonica player, singer and larger-than-life character - who would effectively front the band on this unique night of Deczi's extensive homeland tour.

It was encouraging to see the Autoklub floor packed and rows of faces peering down from the balcony on a night when competition came not only from the usual jazz clubs but also Wayne Shorter, who was playing down the road. With the lights down, audience seated and Mr Klaus occupying his usual front row centre position, Cellula New York (minus dePino) opened with "Plostica", a live favourite and typical of Deczi's writing and arranging; fast and intricate with flowing lines and Latin beats and the band very, very together. Michael Krásný's mastery of the six-string bass is one of the defining features of this current Cellula formation. A phenomenal young (and loud) player, his speedy fingers allow him to lead from the back and push the band through countless changes of direction.

It was starting to seem like the Krásný show when the second song opened with his new-agey played and sung solo, until it merged into the slower "Atlantic" and DePino joined the band. In an evening of frenzied instrumentals it was pleasing to hear Cellula occasionally playing a moody ballad rather than just setting off the fireworks, and they also dug out the jazz standard "Lover Man" for a few minutes of aesthetically immaculate reflection.

DePino brought with him not only his chromatic harmonica but also the showmanship and stage presence of an American performer, interacting with the audience and paying as much attention to balcony as the front rows. As a singer he delivered the meaty "American Blues" convincingly as well as showing his instrumental agility;  it is no small achievement for a harmonica player to handle the lines required by this demanding music and this demanding musician, Deczi.

Drummer Vaico Deczi (Laco's eldest son) was working overtime for most of the night, maintaining perfect precision while rattling through his father's high-speed originals, including the test of physical and mental stamina that is "Poison Bird". Together with Krásný and keyboardist Jan Aleš he created the pulsating Latin sound that got some of the ladies of the balcony dancing and rattled the windows of this intimate hall.

At first glance you'd expect 75 year old Laco Deczi to be knocking on the door asking for the noise to be turned down rather than being the key noisemaker himself. Showing little regard for the calendar he's still an excellent trumpeter, capable of playing big, fast music without a stumble. His new incarnation of Cellula, packed with young talent, has settled in and  buzzes with energy. Received with loud applause from the full house, this popular Jazzová KLAUSura concert proved this is a series that can bring electric entrainment as well as more traditional acoustic-oriented jazz to the refined music fans of Prague.

Many thanks to Chris DePino for his insight and thoughts on the concert and their setlist. 


Anonymous said...

It was an awesome concert. Great review.

leo said...

I've seen and heard Chris and found him to be an astounding Harmonica player. In addition to his virtuosity, he has a talent for connecting positively with the audience - the likes of which I have never seen!