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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Unison: Jazz at Greville Lodge vol.3

MJCD 21250



Unison (George Mraz) [5:05], Wisteria (George Mraz) [8:52], Three Silver Hairs (George Mraz) [5:49], Blues for Sarka (George Mraz) [6:54], April Sun (Zoe Rahman) [7:09], Grey Falcon, Little Apple (traditional, arr. George Mraz) [9:20], Pennyroyal (traditional, arr. Emil Viklicky) [6:40], Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso (Ennio & Andrea Morricone) [4:52]

George Mraz (Bass), Zoe Rahman (piano)

rec. at Greville Lodge, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK [54:43]


Though there are other discs with the same title Unison is an inspired title for this superb disc of beautiful chamber jazz because it truly represents the meeting of minds of two superlative musicians who, would you believe, met for the first time only on the afternoon of this, the third in a series of concerts held for charity. Unison is also meaningful because we have one the one hand a Czech born American bassist and a British pianist with Bangladeshi heritage through her father, and again because at different times they both attended Berklee College in Boston, USA. Finally because in unison they produce the most wonderfully musical sounds that enrapture and captivate. George Mraz, born in Pisek, Moravia, part of the Czech Republic, has played with some of the biggest names in jazz including Pepper Adams,Stan Getz, Michel Petrucciani,Stephane Grappelli, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Raney, Chet Baker and McCoy Tyner. He was also a member of Oscar Peterson’s group, Peterson regarding him as supremely musical, writing in his autobiography “his balance and innate sensitivity make him one of the finest bassists around today”. Zoe, almost 30 years George’s junior, is an ascending star on the British jazz scene with consistently highly rated records and performances that are admired by all who experience them as I’ve been fortunate to do. That this disc’s producer Paul Vlcek sought her out to play with Mraz from amongst the talented jazz pianists that Britain is so fortunate to have is a measure of her undisputed abilities and this disc underlines how correct the choice was. Both musicians are so instinctive that you would swear that they have been playing as a duo for years. The disc kicks off with the album’s title track and the proof that what I said at the outset is true is demonstrated in spades from the very first notes. There is a synergy about these two musicians that is quite mesmerising; synergy is defined as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc” and I’m sure listeners will find that that is precisely the case here. The first four songs were all written by Mraz and are surely destined to become classics with the second Wisteria quite lovely and I particularly enjoyed Three Silver Hairs which had an air of the east about it while Blues for Sarka presumably refers to Šárka, the mythical warrior-maiden of Bohemia who featured in the third of Smetana’s symphonic poems from his cycle Má Vlast (My Homeland). April Sun shows off Zoe’s talent for composition too with an extremely beautiful tune. We then have two traditional songs one arranged by Mraz and the other by his friend and fellow Moravian, pianist Emil Viklický. Both songs emphasise why each of the two musicians are so highly regarded wherever they appear. The last tune is from the film Cinema Paradiso by Ennio & Andrea Morricone and anyone who’s seen any of the so-called “spaghetti westerns” will know Ennio’s name. He collaborated with son Andrea on the music for Cinema Paradiso for which they won a deserved BAFTA award. It is a gentle and very attractive tune and a perfect way to end this great disc by two wonderful practitioners of the art of jazz. Highly recommended.

Steve Arloff

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