Lucid Culture


A Wild, Gorgeously Surreal Jazz Mass From the Czech Republic

You have never heard anything as surreal or triumphantly outside-the-box as the B-Side Band’s performance of Jaromír Hnilička’s Missa Jazz, streaming at Spotify. Structured in segments that follow a traditional liturgical sequence, it’s a jazz symphony, the Chamber Orchestra Brno and the Ars Brunensis chamber choir bolstering this large ensemble from Brno in the Czech Republic. Its ancestors seem to be Mary Lou Williams’ gospel suites, but also Pachelbel and Tschaikovsky…and the unhinged psychedelia of the Electric Prunes’ Mass in F Minor, maybe. This is an amazing piece of music, obviously recorded live in a big space with generous natural reverb.

After a brightly crescendoing quasi-baroque intro, the kettledrum announces the jazz ensemble, who launch into a theme that would play well behind the opening credits of an adventure movie. They swing it hard at the end.

The introit has shiny, resonant trumpet over suspenseful strings, up to a slinky, noirish groove with distant echoes of 19th century African-American gospel. The choir enter in the epic, almost twelve-minute kyrie, strings and winds approximating an organ prelude. From there the group shift through bluesy baritone sax over a slithery swing, a sedate hymn-like interlude from the reeds and then a stormy, brass-fueled march of sorts.

After a stately choral introduction, the racewalking, brassy gloria has New Orleans tinges and lively trumpet and trombone solos.

The group go back to suspense for the graduale, with desolate trombone set to starry strings and a sotto-voce, deliciously Ethiopian-tinged pulse that hits a jaunty bit of a march and then makes a lowdown return.

Omnis Gentes Jubilate Deo, a minimalistic chorale, sets up the similarly terse credo: Hnilička’s voicings, where together the groups effectively mimic the textures of a pipe organ, are spot-on. After a bit of a Sanctus and a Pater Noster, a windswept suspense returns in the “interludium.”

The choir make a final entrance for the momentary, stately agnus dei followed by a communio which bristles with unexpected contrasts and persistent unease as the strings rise from a brooding tone poem of sorts. The saints jubilantly swing their way out in the concluding postlude.

May 20, 2021 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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