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Alternate Reality

Alternate Reality by Pavel Wlosok

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Pavel Wlosok

Label: New Port Line
Released: 2014
Duration: 56:15
Views: 175

Track Listing

1. Hopeful Fool (by Pavel Wlosok); 2. Little One (by Pavel Wlosok); 3. Cullowhee Blues (by Pavel Wlosok); 4. Speak Like A Child (by Herbie Hancock); 5. Inner Urge (by Joe Henderson); 6. Prelude To A Kiss (by Duke Ellington); 7. Moonglow (by Hudson/ Mills); 8. Alternate Reality (by Pavel Wlosok); 9. Memphis Redux (by Donny McCaslin).

Personnel

Additional Personnel / Information

Pavel Wlosok - piano Mike Holstein - acoustic bass Marián Ševčík – drums Donny McCaslin - tenor sax

Album Description

When asked by producers Pavel Wlosok and Petr Marek about writing a few paragraphs for this album, I was a little hesitant at first, because I felt that the music should speak for itself. Beyond that, I have known Pavel for over twenty years, and anyone could suspect of me of not being objective enough. Yet at the end of the day, I accepted the challenge, primarily because Pavel’s album has “spoken” to me on several levels. For one, it’s great that Pavel has been developing both as a composer and as a performer. Secondly, Pavel invited one of my all-time favorite saxophonists, Mr. Donny McCaslin, to share the stage with him. Finally, I find it very appealing that Pavel also invited Slovakian drummer Marian (Majo) Ševčík, whose musical career I’ve been following since the very beginning and whose communicative and intuitive style of playing has always been fun to listen to. Many years ago, a smiling world-class bassist Victor Bailey said about Majo’s playing, “he’s got that swinging thing.” It was then that I started to appreciate Majo’s approach even more. We all know that “It Don’t Mean a Thing if…” Pavel Wlosok has lived in the USA for over twenty years now. He’s led the jazz program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC since 2002. Before that, he studied at the University of North Texas in Denton, where we used to meet as students and where I was able to witness his relentless drive to be successful in the world of jazz. In addition to his achievements in music, Pavel’s passion for other art forms, such as photography and recording, has helped him approach his personal productions from several different perspectives. He had the entire production process of this album under his control, from the selection of the music and the placement of microphones, to the mixing to tape, and finally, the digital mastering. While recording equipment can help the sound overall, the foundation of all musicians is in the way they project their own unique sound. All four musicians have already become masters of their own sound. Donny McCaslin’s signature sound is apparent after just the first few measures of his playing (this is a dream of all jazzmen), and it is not just the color of his sound but also his unique and original phrasing and the development of his melodic lines. Just listen to the final track “Memphis Redux,” where you can hear a domination of a very strong and down-to-the-earth bluesy melody so typical of Donny’s writing. However, the majority of the material on this album was composed by Pavel, who selected four works of his own and added four infrequently played standards. It’s not an easy task to combine music from the standard jazz repertoire with original modern pieces, as the author himself has mentioned: “Conceptually speaking, this must have been the most difficult albums I’ve ever put together.” One of Pavel’s compositional advances is his ability to combine modern elements into a more traditional approach without either element clashing with the other. Take notice when you listen to the title track, “Alternate Reality,” where a very consonant introduction (sonically reminding me of the purity of Christmas carol melodies) is quite naturally and organically followed by a rather complicated, intertwined web of rhythmic and harmonic ideas, only to end the composition in the way it originally started. The first track, “Hopeful Fool,” on the other hand – according to the composer’s own words – captures the art of Thad Jones’s legacy, although I must admit that I’m also hearing a modern American approach, which I’ve heard previously in both Donny McCaslin’s and John Ellis’s compositions. The swinging, medium tempo of “Hopeful Fool” would give any rhythm section an opportunity to show how well they can swing and both Mike Holstein and Marian Ševčík deliver. On this song, Pavel demonstrates his vast knowledge of the jazz idiom, delivering a pleasantly phrased solo, which prepares the listener’s ears for what is to come on the rest of this album. The next piece, Pavel’s “Little One,” connects a high-energy ostinato with a light melody dedicated to Pavel’s first-born daughter, Victoria. “Cullowhee Blues” (also composed by Pavel) mixes a straightforward modal yet bluesy harmony with a lightly avant garde melody, whose unorthodox style is that much more emphasized by the unison arrangement between the piano and the saxophone. After multiple listens, I can’t help but notice that the band’s most relaxed tracks are indeed standards without overly complicated arrangements. All the musicians on these tracks show spontaneity and unrestrained energy. Listen, for example, to “Inner Urge” and you’ll agree with me. McCaslin’s solo is exceptional and sets a very high bar, although Pavel’s solo is not far behind, especially with the addition of the rhythmic and melodic storyline elements that are typical of his approach. We may as well notice Mike Holstein’s virtuosic bass solo, which sounds almost as if Mike wanted to remind Pavel about the strong heritage of the “Czech” school of jazz bass. Even the more lyrical and slower songs by Hancock (“Speak Like a Child”), Ellington (“Prelude to a Kiss”), and Hudson/Mills (“Moonglow”) fit nicely into the mood of this group. These musicians are simply not afraid of playing ballads at very slow, yet swinging tempos. It’s on these songs where the true level of their musicianship is demonstrated and where the excellent timing and phrasing become apparent. I’ve been puzzled by the title of this album. After listening to it I still could not figure it out. Especially when the natural sound of this album and the way it has been produced shows an experienced, organic group of players and gives impression that they all have played together for a long time. Therefore I went ahead and asked the leader: “Alternate Reality is of course the title track of the entire album, composed specifically with Donny McCaslin in mind. The album itself has two sides to it. The first is lyrical and tonal, while the second is complicated and abstract. In a way, it represents an escape from today’s overly complicated and corrupted world, where negativity and the drive for power and control seem to be on the winning side. Hence the title.” So don’t hesitate: transfer yourself into the alternate reality... Vilém Spilka


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