Friday, 22 August 2014

Review: Tom Zvardoň and Friends

By Kirsty Rigg | Prague Daily Monitor |
4 July 2013

Tomislav Zvardon and Friends, previously known as “Duende”, renders everything from tonic jazz to pollyannaish flamenco beats, which are enhanced mellifluously by an exotic Czech-Nigerian vocalist with a burst of energy – a clear breath of fresh air for the band and for the Prague music scene.

Czech composer, writer and guitarist ‘Tom’, who masterminded the band, told the Prague Monitor how he deliberately explores and combines world music as a fearless experiment that can’t go wrong – because despite vast cultural, language and preferential differences across the globe, “music is a language we can all understand.

“Each language has different rhythmical patterns and that inspires me a lot.” He said. “ I think that music, phrasing and rhythm are connected a great deal.

There is a clear passion for variety with this band. Each song sucks you into a trance and keeps you floating there on exotic, foreign beats. “Afrika lullaby” sung in African and coated beautifully by Tom’s guitar, is so melodically captivating that it tells a story of its own – and the need to understand the lyrics goes right out of the window.

Other songs, such as “Song About Nature” and “Fire in the Sea” fill the room with a spicy, latino energy that, combined with guitar melodies and outstanding saxaphone solos, makes it hard to stay in your seat. Even the crowds that were sitting down to a meal couldn’t help but strain their necks to get a glimpse of the musical fireworks coming from the stage.

Alongside Tomislav on guitar, the show featured Adrian Ševeček on drums, Madla Vyhnálková on double bass, guest saxaphonist Jan Karez, and the cherry on the cake, singer Mariana Wesley, who deserves utmost credit for adding that special touch to the band’s persona. The Czech-born singer was brought up in Nigeria where she spent the first 12 years of her life, but came back after the African economy showed to not be doing so well. Since then she has been back in the Czech Republic and now, luckily for us, is an up and coming performer in and round the cobbled streets of Prague.

Guest saxaphonist Jan Karez, who is known for his part of another popular Prague band, Kaia Brown and the Tonny Blues Band, added swirls of colour and magnitude to the air with his consuming solos. Jan plays intensely and thoroughly, and occasionally comes out of the shadows to show that his talents are not limited only to his instrument – as Mariana stepped back, Jan took the limelight and showed that he is also a capable vocalist.

“This is such a different experience from that I had when playing with the acid-jazz or ethno-pop groups such as Plazma, The Fizz, or Amirante.” He said.

“Having enough space for insane improvisations upon a groovy background and opposite to that just delicately supporting the beautiful vocal lines of Mariana makes me feel good during my performances with this band.”

After the concert, Tom spoke of his desire to explore more African music: “Most of our songs are in English, one song is sung in African. We used to have some songs in Georgian, because our former singer was originally Georgian. Now our singer is half Czech and half Nigerian, so we would like to write a song in Nigerian.”

He added: “I like being inspired by many different musical genres coming from different countries of the world and then I like to mix them together. Jazz gives me freedom and enables me to improvise; via rhythmically interesting Latino-American and African music to flamenco, which I find to be full of expressions and tension.”

“Together in our band we are trying not to miss so important “duende” – it means the magical harmony between musicians, performers and audience. The best thing would be to join our concert and to make your own opinion.”

Tom Zvardon and Friends will appear next at Prague’s U Konička on Old Town Square on Saturday 31 August.