I’ve always thought of the multi-instrumentalist and improviser Scott Robinson as a great explorer.  He is sweet-natured and mild-mannered, so it might be difficult to imagine him at the helm of a ship five hundred years ago, sighting a new land . . . I have less trouble imagining him as galactic traveler, coming and going in between gigs. 

Scott is also exceedingly loyal to his friends, musical colleagues, and family . . . so he was extremely excited that the Czech composer-pianist Emil Viklicky was coming to New York City for a brief visit and that they would have a chance to perform together in concert. 

I had heard Emil and Scott on their 2003 compact disc, SUMMERTIME, so I looked forward to what they would create in tandem.  I knew that Emil would have a few of his own compositions, as would Scott, and that they would offer a few jazz standards.

Here’s what I captured that night, in the informal setting of the Czech National Center on East 73rd Street — stirring music by not one but two bold explorers — and dear friends who go back to 1977. 

Emil’s approach mixes the lyrical with the percussive: he is rhythmically strong, although choosing not to emphasize a regular 4 / 4 in his left hand.  He didn’t need a bassist or drummer.  And his compositions, some of them based on traditional melodies, never bogged down in a self-conscious sentimentality: he built his own glistening structures on these “simple melodies”.

Scott brought only three instruments (two saxophones and a euphonium) and captivated everyone.  He, too, is a great “singer,” although he refused to vocalize at one point in the concert, but he loves the entire range of whatever horn or reed he is playing, sometimes pushing the sound to its outer limits but never losing an essential beauty.  But if you closed your eyes and listened to his saxophone playing, for instance, and forgot that it was coming from a metal tube, you would hear the cries of a solitary seabird; you would hear opera as well as rhythm and blues.

Here are nine performances from that mighty, dreamlike performance.

EAST OF THE SUN, tender yet intense:

Scott’s THE MIGHTY ONES, which certainly lives up to its title:

Emil’s evocative PORTHCAWL (and a dark story of a theft):

FANOSHU (OH, FRANKIE), composed and explained by Emil:

Scott’s lovely new-yet-old invitation, STEP INTO MY DREAMS:

Emil’s BAZALICKA (SWEET BASIL), which begins assertively and then turns pensive:

Something familiar, although Scott said he “tinkered with it,” Louis’s SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, explored in a mellow way:

Emil’s composition, based on a Moravian folk song, BEZI, VODA BEZI (GONE WITH WATER:

And an encore: TOUHA (DESIRE) — a fitting conclusion to a concert of sweet explorations of realms both familiar and new:

Eloquence, bravura playing, and rare intimacy throughout!

To hear more of Scott and Emil, check out THE MAGIC EYE here: http://home.earthlink.net/~smoulden/scott/magiceye.html#getthecd.  SUMMERTIME is harder — but not impossible — to find online.  And well worth the search.


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