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2 Apr 2017

Fermáta “Pieseň Z Hôľ (Song From Ridges)” 1977 Czechoslovakia masterpiece Prog Fusion Jazz Rock









Fermáta “Pieseň Z Hôľ (Song From Ridges)” 1977 Czechoslovakia masterpiece Prog Fusion Jazz Rock
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Arguably the most innovative of Czechslovakian bands, a pioneering jazz rock group fronted by ex-Collegium Musicum guitarist Frantisek Griglak, hints of Brand X, Mahavishnu Orchestra, SBB, Dregs,etc. …..

Pieseň z hôľ (Song From Ridges): “Pieseň z hôľ” sees Fermata taking the debut and amping it up a bit. A little bit more diverse this go round from a compositional perspective, but difficult to imagine fans of the debut - or of the hard hitting Mahavishnu Orchestra styled progressive fusion - being disappointed here. And ‘Priadky’ has one of those kind of hard driving bass riffs you’re not likely to forget soon. What a groove. Great guitar and keyboard work as expected. Another splendid album from Slovakia’s finest……

“When we were working on the second record, the main desire was to enrich the sound palette of the material.” I wanted to achieve more color, “František Grigljak said in an interview with Melodie magazine. The result of the leader Fermáta remained satisfied. And, I believe, he is not alone. After the release of the debut album, the ensemble was in a state of continuous search. Instrumentalists sought to get rid of the one-dimensionality of the label "jazz-rock”, which their press awarded. The prospect of becoming an Eastern European clone of the same Brand X guys was not at all pleased, and therefore the idea was ripe for turning to roots-ageless Slovak folklore. It was in him that a team of professionals planned to draw inspiration. Adjustments to the strategy affected the expansion of the graphic arts (maestro Grigljak, besides the guitar, took up the electric piano, synthesizer and vocals) and influenced the changes in the composition (the drummer Peter Zapu was replaced by Kiril Zelenyak + the violinist / performer on the harangue Milan Tedla). In short, the long play “Pieseň Z Hôľ” (“Mountain Chant”) marked the next step in the evolution of the group. And, I must say, he was a success.
In the opening titular play of the authorship of Pan Frantisek the strict fusion of the Canterbury style prevails. The pivot points of music of this kind are undoubtedly familiar to anyone who has an idea of ​​the work of National Health, Gilgamesh, Isotope, etc. Of course, Fermáta managed to shine here with technical virtuosity and ingenious sound solutions. However, it is hardly appropriate to talk about any innovative trends in the context of the 11-minute panorama. Continuation of the opening epic is “Svadba Na Medvedej Lúke” - a fetus of fantasy by bassist Anton Jaro, drummer Zelenyak and keyboardist Tomas Berka. Through the jazz progressions of the rhythm section, at times wide guitar-synthetic swabs are piercing, inheriting the tonic of village olden times, epics and tales. From direct collisions with the folk members of the Fermáta abstain. That, taking into account the overall direction of the release, seems quite correct. Typical for Grigljak-composer fresco “Posledný Jarmok v Radvani” obeys a strictly game vertical: the stringed equilibristism borrowed from the Anglo-Saxons is accompanied by a crafty Slavic squint, because the process itself does not look very serious. The climax of the program is the “Priadky” thing. Emotional escapades (from pastoral contemplation to rampant “sickness”) are embedded in a complex picture of the world with a characteristic fusion dominant. There is nothing to complain about: the proportions are respected as it should, the mood is sustained, the logic is not broken anywhere. A short sketch “Dolu Váhom” with its major, slightly ornamented ornament is good. And the result of such an intricate journey brings the prolonged opus “Vo Zvolene Zvony Zvonia”. And here at last the national signs of Fermáta come out, the spokesman of which is the violinist Tedla. Courage, the taste of adventure, lyrical elation in the form of choral renditions under the curtain are closely intertwined in an elegant tangle - original, contrasting, but still surprisingly one-piece, marked by radiant life-giving energy without a hint of mechanisticity.
Summarize: a wonderful jazz-prog act, designed for a specific listener audience. Nevertheless I recommend…..by…sagael ……..

Fermata’s second album is a small step back. The patronizing silhouette of John Mclaughlin & Mahavisnu Orchestra can still be seen in the opening track within it’s dynamic bass lines, odd-time drums, frantic keyboards and explosive guitar eruptions, but the overall building-blocks of the album are somewhat different. It’s as if the band has swallowed a few tranquilizers to extinguish the former bipolar energy they showcased on the debut album.

One can understand an artist’s desire not to repeat themselves, but in this case the new results aren’t always convincing. There’s clearly a shift in the keyboard use which is having a bigger role this time around, usually it’s pretty eloquently executed, however, i’m annoyed at the bit lifeless rhytms here which make some of the tracks feel rather uninspired. And some of these synthesizers also sound too derivative of R.T.F., even borderline dated. In addition, the redundant seventies funk passages aren’t always helping matters either, they work better on some tracks and much less efficiently on others, come on guys, show me some character and energy!

The first and last track - with some small to medium reservations - feel like the Fermata i’m accustomed to, the other stuff is much more uneven. If you’re a fan of the band and like their first album, you should definitely check this out, otherwise start either with their self-titled debut(one-dimensional, but more lively) or “Huascaran” which are superior to this album imo….by..King Insano …..

Fermáta’s second album from 1976 featured an updated rhythm section of Anton Jaro on bass and Cyril Zeleňák on drums, which in my opinion is the most smoking rhythmic tandem the band ever had. The album is similar to its predecessor in many ways yet different. It’s less guitar based and less riff heavy (quite strangely two of the six track don’t feature any guitar at all, and another one only a little bit in the background). Instead, for the most part, it’s toned down to chill fusion, which doesn’t take anything away from its quality, but if you prefer manic soloing a la early Mahavishnu, I’d go for the debut.

The one glaring exception to this updated sound is the explosive opening title track, which for most of its duration relies on Anton Jaro’s repetitive bass ostinato while the soloists go crazy over it for 11 minutes. The following tracks are more toned down groove based numbers, somewhat reminiscent of mid-period Weather Report, except with less sonic variety, as the keyboard sounds are exclusively rhodes and moog. “Priadky/Spinning” sounds a bit like soundtrack from one of the old Nintendo 64 games. Some elements of slavic folk music also sneak in, especially on the closing track “Vo zvolene zvony zvonia/Bells are Ringing in Zvolen”, with folky violin trading off with Berka on synths. But despite the very lovely violin soloing, the track is actually somewhat boring.

The sound of this album is generally improved compared to the first, the snare drum doesn’t sound like a cardboard box anymore, but this time they managed to make the drums too loud to the extent that they are a bit distorted. You will find it takes Fermata a long time to get a really good production job on one of their albums. Still “Song from the Ridges” belongs among their best…….MagorGursky ……..

Fermáta lost their drummer Peter Szapu and for the recordings of the next album “Pieseň z hôľ - Song from ridges” (1976, Opus) they recruited Cyril Zeleňák.František Griglák, Tomáš Berka and Anton Jaro also invited Milan Tedla to join them on violin and Jew’s harp and the result was yet another frenetic Jazz Fusion effort with manic drumming, complex keyboard solos and raw, jazzy guitar plays.They were somewhere in the middle between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, trying to mix unbelievably fast rhythms and instrumental solos with softer, more exotic interplays between synths, electric piano, violin and guitar and they did an excellent job indeed, although there is a slight sense of more freedom in the execution/performance level, which sometimes leads to the land of nowhere.But even this way the impressive technical level is sure to leave speechless any listener.The marching, throbbing groovy passages with the synthesizer to the fore remind me also of SBB’s unique dynamics.I am not quite comfortable with the changes between happier and more virtuosic, divine soloing, but the result is definitely a way above average Fusion album with moments of sheer brilliance….by….apps79 ……….

Piesen z Hol title track is a 6/4 Spanish/My Favourite Things, RTF inspired up tempo jazzy groove, with sustained reverb-y guitar solo, frenetic drums and bass and nice Rhodes that speeds up to a funky vibe with swashing synths and double tracked guitar lines; it builds up to a climax returns to the initial 6/4 with a Meola inspired guitar work and 2 synths trading bars; tracks 2 opens with powerful drums and cymbals and fat bass with a jazz rock MO feel with Rhodes and Synth lines but never really getting nowhere; Track 3 has a similar mood, maybe this time more in a RTF vein with some nice screaming guitar, Rhodes and synth lines; Track 4 starts with a sort of African Jungle atmosphere before an up-tempo RTF inspired theme with punching drums, double keys and a scorching guitar over a fat Synth bass line and then a Latin feel with congas, a funky bass and atmospheric Rhodes; Track 5 is a short (thankfully) tune with a jingle type melody by cheesy synths; the 2nd longest track here, track 6 has an Airto inspired intro moving to a mid tempo syncopated groove where the violin appears with a gipsy/folksy (Slovak) melody and then…enter the horrible sounding synths… for too, way too long…(are these the same guys?)… jingle melodies…ok…I’ll listen till it ends…and as if it was not enough, in came vocals repeating the line in unison to the end……by….comusduke……….

Since June I’ve spent about one or two weeks each month in Prague for family duties, over six weeks in total. Tomorrow we’re going for yet another week to my home town. This time one of the reasons for our visit is quite pleasant, however. Ondra, my oldest friend for more than thirty years since our school days, is going to marry Markéta on Saturday. But other than that – there’s absolutely no connection between the upcoming event and the main subject of this article except for the first word of the title of this tune: Svadba na Medvedej lúke (Marriage On Bear’s Meadow). Well then – Happy Marriage! (Oh, and while we’re at it: Happy Birthday to my brother Daniel today!)
The Slovak guitar virtuoso František Griglák, born in 1953, was already a well respected and experienced musician before he even turned twenty. With Pavol Hammel he recorded the early albums Prúdy (The Jets) and Som šťastný keď ste šťastní (I Am Happy When You Are Happy) in 1970–1971. Afterwards he shifted to the other main Slovak progressive group of the seventies, Marián Varga’s Collegium Musicum, with whom he worked on the classic(al) double LP Konvergencie (Convergency). In 1973 Griglák established Fermáta as likely the first and for a few years the only professional and more or less straight instrumental jazz-rock combo in Slovakia. The other founding members were the keyboarder and professional stage designer Tomáš Berka (1947), bassist Anton Jaro (1954) as well as originally Pavol Kozma on drums, who was soon replaced by Peter Szapu and in 1976 by another ex-Prúdy member Cyril Zeleňák (1951).
Probably thanks to Berka’s daily job, in the beginning the group used to record lots of scenic themes for various Slovak theater productions, thus training their sense for transforming colors and atmosphere into music. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1975. While it was clearly inspired by jazz-rock heroes like Mahavishnu McLaughlin or Al DiMeola, it suffered from rather poor recording production. One year later, the second album Pieseň z hôľ (Song From Ridges) turned out much better. Not only from the technical but also from the conceptual point of view. Quoting from the English liner notes by Igor Wasserberger: “In Czechoslovak jazz-rock it is this record that presents the most complete essay to form a synthesis with elements of domestic folk music. (…) Fermáta avoid frequent ways of rock and jazz arrangement of folk songs and try to involve elements of [Slovak] folk music into their own musical tongue.”
While the aforementioned statement certainly applies, Svadba na Medvedej lúke (Marriage On Bear’s Meadow) remains an unusual tune in Fermáta’s repertoire. Firstly, written by Berka, Jaro and Zeleňák, it’s the only collective instrumental composition from the group’s 1970s output; all other tunes have been penned either by Griglák or by Berka. Secondly, the band leader Griglák doesn’t seem to participate on this track at all. And frankly, I don’t even miss him that much. [Hey, no personal offense… :) But despite being a guitarist myself, actually I quite dislike the guitar-driven pyrotechnical jazz-rock sub-genre in general; except for Zappa, that is.] The song begins with a drum/synthesizer simulation of a thunderstorm or something, likely happening somewhere in the woods of the Tatra mountains, which then takes us to the said meadow (which actually really exists) while it evolves into a laid back but joyous funky wedding groove carried by a lively bass and colored by wide Fender Rhodes chords floating out of the folk-influenced themes. In fact, the track reminds me of Billy Cobham’s early work from his Spectrum/Crosswind period. In any case, to me Fermáta never sounded as warm as on this track again, although their later albums also include a couple of jazz-funk inspired sequences here and there.
In 1977 Karol Oláh replaced Zeleňák on drums and Ladislav Lučenič became the new bass player. In 1979 yet another ex-Prúdy/Collegium Musicum (and even ex-Blue Effect) member joined in, the Slovak bass master Fedor Frešo. Apart from releasing their conceptual albums, the group also used to work as a studio backing band for artists like Miroslav Žbirka (two singles in 1976), Pavol Hammel (Stretnutie s tichom and the first Czechoslovak rock-musical Cyrano z predmestia) or for Dežo Ursiny (Pevnina detstva). The original Fermáta disbanded in 1985 after Oláh’s tragical death. Griglák revived the group with new musicians in the 1990s and continues to tour actively to the present day…….

Members:
Peter Szapu (1973-1975) , drums, percussion
Anton Jaro (1973-1977) , bass guitar, percussion
Tomas Berka (1973-1984) , keyboards, background vocal, percussion
Frantisek Griglak (since 1973) , guitars, keyboards, background vocal, vocal, arrangement, production
Cyril Zelenak (1976-1977) , drums, percussion
Milan Tedla (1976-1977) , violin, Jew’s harp
Peter Olah (1977-1977) , background vocal
Ladislav Lucenic (1977-1978) , bass guitar
Dezider Pito (1977-1978) , violoncello
Karol Olah (1977-1981) , drums, percussion
Fedor Freso (since 1979) , bass guitar, background vocal, mandoline
Jozef Krajcovic (1980-1981) , saxophones
Jozef Hanak (1980-1981) , mouth organ
Dalibor Jenis (1981-1984) , bass guitar
Juraj Bartovic (1982-1984) , vocal, keyboards
Martin Hanzel (1991-1994) , keyboards
Marius Barton (1991-1994) , bass guitar
Jindrich Planka “Gino” (1991-1994) , drums, percussion
Martin Valihora (since 1999) , drums
Peter Preloznik (since 1999) , keyboards
Igor Skovay (since 2005) , drums

Discography:
Fermata , Opus 1975 , 4.5
Piesen z hol ( Song from Ridges ) , Opus 1977
Huascaran , Opus 1978 , 4.5
Biela planeta ( White Planet ) , Opus 1980
Dunajska legenda ( The Danube Legend ) , Opus 1980 , 4
Generation , Opus 1981
Ad Libitum , Opus 1984
Simile , UMSK/GZ 1991
Real TIme , ENA Records 1994
X , BMG Ariola 1999
Next , 2005

compilations / live recs.:
Live v Klube za zrkadlom DVD ( Live in Club Behind the Mirror ) , Etna Production 2007
SP / EP:
Fotoaparat / Moj vlak , Opus 1976
Program zacina / Tvar , Opus 1976
Na poschodi tuzby / Socha ( Skupina Luba Belaka - Lubo Belak Band ) , Opus 1979



johnkatsmc5, welcome music..