First of all, some basic information: described as “music beyond normality” and “controlled improvisation”, TRANSCEND is an edited (to 93 minutes) recording of the band’s performance at the Music Marathon at Brno’s Ponava Café in August, 2022. Stylistically the music veers between funk, free jazz and opera. The 300 limited cassette was launched on October 6th, 2023 and an afterparty podcast can be viewed on https://ponava.radio/ep/122. Saxophonist/ clarinettist Pavel Zlámal is the director of the project; Tomáš Vtípil is the sound engineer/ violinist/ multi-instrumentalist and is a producer of chamber and choral music whose musical directions vary between ambient, jazz and alternative. There are orchestral players, singers, flutes, saxes, trombone, trumpet, violin, keyboards, bass, electric guitar, drums, electronics and turntables.
First of all, I think I would have really enjoyed this concert. There is so much going on and, despite the disparate elements within the music, well-choreographed. In the funkier parts I was reminded very much of MILES’ DAVIS “On the Corner”. The more spontaneous parts reveal the enjoyment of the participants and, like all great improvised music it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, humour does belong in music to mention FRANK ZAPPA, who, to my ears, is a touchstone for the raison d’être of the music. The 55 minutes or so of the first piece passes very quickly. The music is haunting and provocative with some mystical eastern flavours in the vocalisations. The wah-wah guitar 12 minutes from the end provides a rock phase, in a HENDRIX/ McLAUGHLIN way (I could have foreseen Hendrix, had he lived, getting more and more into jazz), but quickly subsides to a lachrymose electronic section before operatic vocals and trills and strained violin appear. Naturally, at this point my thoughts turned to the classic Italian prog of BANCO as a rattling drum break and syncopated percussion herald a funky brass fuelled Afrobeat vibe as a trumpet fanfare takes us out.
And so to the second side: infectious rhythm and brass figures once again permeate the free jazz with a distinct ‘carnival’ Latin vibe this time, some wispy flute, before a drum and bass led ‘rock’ section, a MAGMA-like section for sure, with scratchy violin, ferocious rhythms and sax soloing; then a change of pace as the sax continues to extemporise to some scattered piano chords, a jagged brass conversation; sustained organ chords, a repeated piano motif as trumpet feels its way into a new groove, building expectation; the music goes into a ‘hibernation’ period. A jerky fuzz bass riff is the awakening as the massed percussion kicks in, trombone, very Magma-like off-kilter riffs again; three notes of piano; a frantic denouement seemingly, but a false one as the music peters out; a weird assemblage, not as engaging as the first piece perhaps, but very, very intriguing.
If you enjoy free “conducted” improvisational music “Transcend” is a prime example.