Jan 27, 2012
JAZZ CONCERT. Suggested donation $10. Monthly jazz at the Bohemian National Hall.
Ron Affif Quartet featuring Karel Ruzicka Jr.
Award winning saxophonist, composer and producer Karel Ruzicka Jr. has a way to captivate the audience in practically any musical context. It was already evident back in 1992 when his group "The Four" was awarded the first prize at the International Jazz Festival in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic in 1992. Their appearance at the prestigious Jazz a Vienne in France that summer was received with standing ovation. The group released their album "Space and Rhythm in 1994 to a great critical acclaim. Karel Ruzicka Jr. then briefly visited his future home of New York and met many great jazz artists including trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Consequently in 1996 he was called upon to fill in for saxophonist Ron Blake in the Roy Hargrove quintet on their European tour. Karel's tenor and soprano saxophone graces over 100 albums. His debut as a leader album"You Know What I Mean" (ARTA -1997) was nominated for the Czech Grammy in 1998 and the following year the album "Spring Rolls Quartet" was elected the Czech Jazz Recording of the Decade. After these early successes Ruzicka relocated to NYC, where he studied with saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Rick Margitza, George Garzone and Joe Lovano. His most recent album as a leader "Brooklyn Moods" was nominated for a "Golden Angel" award (The new name for the Czech Grammy). The album features pianist Bruce Barth, Czech-born bassist George Mraz and drummer Brandon Lewis. He is often touring with contemporary jazz singer Michael Franks as well as his working quartet. The list of artists Karel has played with is long: Ben E. King, George Benson, Hiram Bullock (SNL, Sting), Joe Locke, Bob Mintzer, Charles Blenzig (keyboardist and MD for Michael Franks and Gato Barbieri), Ravi Coltrane, Benny Rietveld (bassist for Miles Davis and Carlos Santana), Cindy Blackman , Fred Wesley (James Brown, George Clinton), Jeff "Tain" Watts, Steve Hass, Gavin Degraw, ELEW and many others.
Affif learned all about passion from his mother Marlene, and discipline and endurance from his father Charlie Affif, a fiercely competitive middleweight boxer who numbered Miles Davis among his fans and close friends. “He had all these records around the house that my brother, Mark, started listening to,” Ron recently told his hometown paper, the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette. “Mark had a guitar in the house. I guess I was around 12, and I picked up the guitar. I just had an urge to play an instrument.”
His uncle, Ron Anthony, was a superb guitarist who worked with the likes of George Shearing and Frank Sinatra. “When I was 12, Uncle Ron gave me my first guitar lesson.” Affif played music with friends through high school. When he turned 18, rather than take the music scholarship offered by Duquesne University, he moved to Los Angeles to be near his uncle, who had offered to let Affif sub for him on dates he couldn't make. “From an early age, I did all kinds of gigs. I've worked with everybody from Al Martino to Roger Williams, and I learned a ton of old songs from Gershwin on up. That whole working musician vibe really helped me grow as a professional. So, if a singer comes up and wants to do a tune, it doesn't matter what key--because I'm cool.”
Eventually Affif moved to his current home, New York City, drawn because it's “where all the other guys are, and that's what brings out the most of what you have. I mean there are guys who play great everywhere. But in New York there's just more of them. When I first came to New York [guitarist] Gene Bertoncini gave me some solid advice. He said to let the singers know I did that kind of work, because a lot of the joints they work don't have pianos, and when the jazz gigs dry up for a minute, they'll have work for you.”
That singing quality is what distinguishes Affif from most of the other high-octane guitar-slingers, and informs his phrasing with a sense of rhythm and pace all too rare on the instrument, as he allows each note to blossom and recede with a breathlike purity and relaxation that belie his fiery chops. And unlike many hot players, Affif respects the power of melody too much to simply concoct a series of dancing bear tricks as a prelude to the blowing choruses.
As for repertoire, “When a lot of cats write tunes, they're not thinking tune, they're thinking improvise. But it's not like they've written a melody you can sing to your girlfriend...that's why my main man is Sinatra. There's this yearning when he sings, just like Miles--a very expressive, lonely sound.”
321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
Jan 27, 2012