Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Apr 13, 2017 7:00 PM






One of the instantly recognizable, most expressive and original artists of his generation.


Jan Hammer’s brilliant musical journey began long before bringing his masterful and original art to America.  However, it was there where his enormous talent flourished and matured, making him, by far the most important and original artist to ever explore and advance the possibilities of the Moog synthesizer, that new and exciting invention which shaped up the sound of the electric music of the early 1970s. 

The expressiveness of Jan Hammer’s soloing, not only on synthesizer, but also on every other keyboard, is quite unique and unsurpassed to this day.

Like his childhood friend and collaborator from their earliest days, Miroslav Vitouš, whom he grew up with in Prague in the early and mid 1960s (the teenagers would go on to form the excellent Junior Trio, together with Miroslav’s brother Alan), Jan brought his Prague Conservatory training, and would never shy away from his Slavic cultural roots.  But, it was his fierce individuality that would raise him above all of his peers.

There is no doubt that most people immediately associate his name to the pioneering jazz-rock group, The Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Led by John McLaughlin, and consisting of five musicians with five different cultural backgrounds, it was an ideal platform for exposing Jan’s magical musical mind. 

But, he would not stop there: his conceptual album, The First Seven Days is a masterpiece; as is ‘Like Children,’ entirely done with just him and Jerry Goodman, his colleague from The Mahavishnu Orchestra. So is the ‘Oh Yeah?’ by The Jan Hammer Group.  His participation in the making of ‘Spectrum’ by Billy Cobham, ‘Timeless’ by John Abercrombie, ‘Wired’ by Jeff Beck, ‘Stanley Clarke’ by the legendary bassist, or ‘Elegant Gipsy’ by Al Di Meola, to name a few, has left an everlasting mark, and has made all those records milestones in the music way beyond the time when they were made (mid 1970s).

Although very different than the path that his friend Miroslav Vitouš has taken, Jan Hammer’s is also a journey marked with variety, constant changes, and creativity. It would culminate, in a very unexpected way, with the music he has made for the American TV series, Miami Vice, an engagement that would virtually unable him to find time and energy for any other project and activities in the years to come.

Music historian, journalist, and sound artist, Velibor Pedevski is a long time student of creative music. His deep involvement as a writer, radio presenter, record label executive, artists’ business partner and collaborator, musician, as well as his 13-year teaching experience as a professor of Contemporary Jazz and its Exponents at the New School for Social Research in New York, has given him a great insight of the dynamics in the evolution of creative improvised music.


Lectures on Miroslav Vitouš & Jan Hammer

Very few artists outside of the United States have made any significant contributions to the creative improvised music, also called “jazz.” The overwhelming majority of those major contributors have been Europeans: Josef Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Derek Bailey, Miroslav Vitouš, Jean Luc Ponty, Jan Hammer, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Evan Parker, Joachim Kühn...

What is interesting in the case of Vitouš, and Hammer is that they did not come from a country with strong jazz roots, or tradition. While some European countries have started developing their own distinctive music scenes during the ‘60s, that was not the case with the Czechoslovakia at the time. Even so, two of the most distinctive, and expressive voices in the jazz and fusion movement of the last five decades come from Prague, and both born within a year from each other.

Their meteoric rise and the impact they had on the music that was made since their arrival in The U.S. is truly astonishing. Never really crossing each other’s paths, or collaborating with each other, they both helped the new, fresh and revolutionary “fusion” movement of the early ’70 to break the old boundaries, and give the tired acoustic jazz its necessary, much needed shot in the arm.

Vitouš’s path was quiet different than Hammer’s. His success came earlier, and virtually immediately upon arrival in the States. The early collaborations with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and even Miles Davis all came in the late ‘60s. The turn of the decade found him in the company of Shorter and Zawinul as a founding member of Weather Report, one of the most important ensembles in the electric jazz era. But, that was just one of the many faces of Miroslav Vitouš. Numerous albums as a leader in that same period, would be followed by a very different direction with his long and still ongoing ECM era. An extraordinary and unique acoustic bassist, Vitouš was one of the first, if not the very first, significant electric bass player with approach and sound that were solely his own and unmatched to this day.

Jan Hammer will always be remembered as probably the best synthesizer soloist ever. His mastery of the Mini Moog has marked the pioneering period of “jazz-rock” dominance. Whether it was his playing while being a member of the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra, or his own projects that followed, he has always put a stamp on each piece of music he was ever involved with. His groundbreaking album “The First Seven Days” to this day is being considered as one of the pioneering examples of acid jazz.

The presentation of the music of Miroslav Vitouš, and Jan Hammer at the Czech Institute would try to avoid the usual biographical path, and their work and development would rather be followed through the prism of their work, their uniqueness, and through explanation of their place and contribution in the evolution of creative music. Of course, light will also be shed on their origins, their upbringing and the specific educational system in Czechoslovakia at that time, which has got a lot to do with the development of their original approach to music.

The lecture will present plenty of audio and video material to go with the narrative, and would also give a chance for the audience in attendance to have an active participation, either by asking questions, or sharing their stories, or expressing their point of view with the lecturer and the rest of the audience.


Please arrive at least five minutes prior to showtime. Empty seats will be released to standby patrons at that time.


321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


Apr 13, 2017 7:00 PM


Czech Center

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