Tag Archives: Emil Viklicky



That’s the much-missed Czech novelist Josef Skvorecky, who died in 2012, and the happily-with-us multi-instrumentalist and deep thinker Scott Robinson.  I don’t know how I first found my way to Skvorecky’s work, but perhaps thirty years ago I picked up THE BASS SAXOPHONE, a novella — recommended on the back by Graham Greene (!) and was entranced in the first few pages.  Skvorecky was wry without being broad (although he indulged a taste for slapstick in several of his books), whimsical without being silly, political without being overly didactic.

Skvorecky Bass Saxophone

And he wrote beautifully about jazz — how it felt to play it (he had been an amateur tenor saxophonist in his teens), what the music did for listeners and dancers . . . in the Forties world where having a Chick Webb record was both a radical act and a life-affirming one.

I found out that he was teaching at a Canadian university, and (acting on impulse) I sent him an admiring letter and a cassette tape which had Joe Rushton (the bass saxophone master) on one side and and Art Tatum on the other.  He sent back a very gracious handwritten note of thanks which I still have — it’s tucked into my copy of THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS.

I just found out about a wonderful concert that I know JAZZ LIVES readers in the New York area would find very rewarding.  I will still be in California, so you’re on your own here.  It’s taking place this coming Wednesday. January 9, 2013,  at 7 PM, at Bohemian National Hall on the east side of Manhattan.

From Scott Robinson himself:

This special event, a “jazz and literary tribute to Josef Skvorecky,” is co-sponsored by the Czech Center and the Dvorak American Heritage Association.  Readings from the great writer’s work, including excerpts from his famous novel The Bass Saxophone, will be interspersed with the music.  I will play bass saxophone exclusively, along with my dear friend pianist Emil Viklicky – who knew Skvorecky personally – plus Martin Wind on bass and Klaus Suonsaari on drums.  All the details are here.

It’s not an overstatement to say that this is a rare opportunity to enjoy the best intersection of literature and music — with great improvisers in each realm.  I urge you to be there!  Admission (at the door) is $20; students, senior citizens, Czech Center Club Members $10.

May your happiness increase.


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.