Here is an interesting keyboardist deserving of wider recognition. Born in 1948 in the then-Czechoslavakia, Emil Viklicky made his album debut in 1975 in the middle of the jazz-fusion/rock period internationally and the album sold over 30,00 copies within the country. During 1977/1978, Viklicky was awarded a one-year scholarship to study at the prestigious Boston Berklee College of Music, and here he came into contact with a number of fellow students who would go on to become established jazz musicians, most notably guitarist Bill Frisell
This excellent value (just a shade under eighty minutes) compilation selects from Emil's 1970s and 1980s LPs as well as 45s. An additional bonus is the inclusion of a couple of duets with Czech jazz singer Eva Svobodova. One of this is the enchanting A Land Full of Love" (sung in Czech) which vocal fusion fans will love while the classic bossa Chega de Sudade" is retitled Kam s Tim Blues."
Viklicky's influences, from a pianistic viewpoint, include Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul with the former's Headhunter's period being evoked on They've Left the Window Open Again" with subtle use of electronic keyboards while the excellent title track The Funky Way hints at the latter from his Weather Report days with former Berklee alumni Frisell on electric guitar, Kermit Driscoll on bass and Vinnie Johnson on drums.
From a more general perspective fellow Czech and ace bass player Miroslav Vitous has clearly influenced Emil's outlook. Born just a year before Viklicky, Vitous left Czechoslovakia for good during the 1960s and preceded Viklicky studying at Berklee by a decade. As in other former eastern bloc countries, jazz has played a vital psychological role in promoting political and social freedom.
However, Viklicky is no mere impersonator and is both a gifted arranger and composer as illustrated on the big-band piece Boston" with Latin undercurrent that could be either an impressive MPS recording, or even a Thad Jones/Mel Lewis outing. Excellent inner sleeve notes from Lukas Machata (aka DJ Lou Kash) follows the progress Viklicky made in his career and features original album sleeve photos, one of which could be right out of the ECM album cover design. To this day, Prague continues to be a city where home-grown jazz flourishes in myriad styles. [Tim Stenhouse]