Magic Eye

Scott Robinson - Emil Viklicky Quartett
Bliss 1993


The Music

  1. The Mighty Ones (Scott Robinson) (4:24)
  2. Emil (Scott Robinson) (6:10)
  3. Fanòshu (Emil Viklicky) (5:04)
  4. Malà Strana (Scott Robinson) (6:18)
  5. Inevitable (Emil Viklicky) (5:25)
  6. Walkin' in San Francisco (Emil Viklicky) (6:25)
  7. Dr. Pivo (Scott Robinson) (4:17)
  8. Who's Got the Blues? (Emil Viklicky) (6:48)
  9. Highest Flights (Scott Robinson) (4:31)
  10. Magic Eye (Scott Robinson) (5:34)
  11. Porthcawl (Emil Viklicky) (5:39)
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The Artists

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Liner Notes by Scott Robinson


In August of 1992 I travelled to Prague under the sponsorship of the American Embassy in Prague to be a guest instructor at the Czech Jazz Society's Summer Jazz Workshop.

While there I was able to renew a musical partnership with my old friend Emil Viklicky, who is now one of the foremost jazz musicians in his country, as well a respected film composer and president of the Czech Jazz Society. Emil and I had not played together since his Boston visit of 1977-78, when we had been members of a group know somewhat facetiously as "Medium Jazz". Our bassist and co-founder in that endeavour, Julian Thayer (who is now a professor of psychophysiology at Penn State), made our reunion complete by spending a few days in Prague while on his way to a conference in Berlin. Our first performance together in 14 years, at Prague's Reduta Jazz Club, was a night I'll not soon forget. Shortly thereafter, this album was recorded, and I'm thankful that Jules was again on hand to make a contribution.

Many of the compositions heard here were written especially for this recording.

The Mighty Ones is a blues if F#, played on an old Czech rotary-valve euphonium described by Emil's son Robert as "a mighty one".

Emil brings just the right spirit to the next tune, his namesake, which I wrote in 1977 and updated for this occasion.

The great Czech composer Leos Janacek sometimes used folk dialects and speech patterns as a source of melodic ideas, and this tradition is continued in Emil's Fanòshu, which derives its melodic motif from a way of calling out to someone named Frank or Frantisek, as overheard in a small Moravian town. The three syllables of the title can be heard in the opening three-note phrase.

Malà Strana is the name of a very old and beautiful part of Prague, the first that I explored. I fell in love with the sound of its name, as well as the place itself. The band really captures the right mood, and Emil plays a very moving solo.

Inevitable is a fast and fiery piece that Emil wrote for his former drummer Cyril Zelenka, "to show off his chops". Josef Vejvoda does the honors here.

Walkin' in San Francisco combines challenging harmonies with a lilting, buoyant melody. "This piece", Emil tells us, "is about my impressions of my first visit to this incredible city in 1978. Scott is the first musician who didn't find these changes too difficult to play on!"

Dr. Pivo was written as a bass feature for Frantisek Uhlir, and I must say he astonished me by playing the difficult melody line nearly flawlessly on the first run-through. His solo is on an equal high level.

Emil wrote Who's Got the Blues? for ex-Duke Ellington trombonist Lou Blackburn, with whom he worked from 1983-89. "If I know anything about the blues," Emil says, "I learned it from Lou.". He learned well, it would seem.

Highest Flights is another piece from my Boston days, which I completely rewrote for this session. Josef really comes alive on this one, and contributes a fantastic solo.

Among my discoveries in Czechoslovakia was an unusual drink, popular among Czech working people, which is made by immersing a shotglass of green mint in a glass of beer, and which is very aptly know as "Magic Eye. I tried to capture this exotic appearance and flavour in my composition of the same name. Here Jules makes his appearance, with a strong underpinning through the ensemble section, and a solo of great passion and beauty. I knew that his strange and compelling arco style would be just perfect for this piece, and he didn't disappoint. This performance, like many on this album, was done in just one take.

Porthcawl is the name of a little Welsh town where Emil was teaching a workshop shortly before my visit, and he wrote this "as a memory of the mood and weather of this small port." It is a hauntingly beautiful piece which seems a fitting closer to this album, as it was to our two days of recording and to my stay in Czechoslovakia. I am grateful to the American Embassy and the Czech Jazz Society for making my trip possible, and to Verner Tautz of BRILLANT-MUSIK for the opportunity to document the occassion. I hope that Magic Eye will be both eye- and ear-opening for the listener.

Scott Robinson, New York, Nov. 1992

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