Emil Viklický & Pavel Hrubý – Between Us
(Amplion, AMP 202001. CD review by Mike Collins) Between Us is a duo set of jazz with its roots deep in European soil. Pianist Emil Vicklický and reeds man Pavel Hrubý share the writing credits and the duo format gives them space to conjure a rich and resonant sound together.
Viklický has a deserved international reputation and is often referred to as a father figure in Czech jazz. Having followed a path to Berklee, trodden by Jan Hammer and Miroslav Vitous before him, Viklický returned to his homeland. As well as being a formidable improviser having absorbed the Berklee tradition, he’s carved a distinctive niche for himself, fusing Moravian folk music with jazz as well as composing for full orchestras. This set is infused with that sensibility, and Hrubý, another formidable presence on the Czech scene, is a perfect match.
On this set Hrubý confines himself to bass clarinet and conjures a huge range of sound and moods from the instrument. His first entrance is a low rumble under resonant chiming piano chords on Forlorn Pear Tree, at first a growl that could be arco basses in an orchestra, then a reedy snarl, before unfurling a plaintive singing melody in the upper registers. Viklický’s touch on this piece has a classical air. On the title track, the piano provides a driving percussive barrage, tustling with assertive phrases from Hrubý. There’s a conversation and exchange going on throughout the set, even in the written passages. Sometime titles are descriptive of the shape and mood: Enigmatic Poem, Cool With Emotions, Exaggerated Message. in others there’s lyricism and expansive solos. Each contribute a solo piece. Viklický’s is the only standard in the set, a delicious gospelly take on I can’t stop loving you and Hrubý a meditative piece, beautifully recorded giving full rein to the resonances of the instrument and his beautiful tone. They close with a richly harmonised Viklický original, Overflown Bird, a ballad that could easily pass as a classic standard.
Between Us is an evocative, compelling outing for two consummate writers and performers.