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Year 1994

The origin of the band dates back to early spring 1994. It is linked with a concert production of one jazz Monday at the Small Theatre of Music in Brno. Jan Beránek, musician and publicist, pedagogue and expert for almost anything that has ever taken place in jazz, took the band (counting two member only) under his wings on that evening, and such protection seems to have been really needed. He just took them, although he knew that this certainly would not be genuine jazz. Let us now have a more detailed look upon the first evening of this band, as it is a certain prototype of the whole decade of the band's life that followed.

FlyerWhen the jazz evening was over, Dorothea Kellerová (violin, vocal, on that evening also bleat) and Petr Keller (bass, vocal, bleat) were invited to the stage and, right after the first introductory sounds, a part of the audience raised to leave in order to walk their dogs. The first composition entitled Va-a-va-a (D. Kellerová) was characterized by some sort of well–being, its meticulous and syncopic rhythm reminding of the relation to jazz, however, the closeness was more or less platonic, whereas the central part did not leave any doubt that the author will have been moving predominantly in the classic field; both instruments being provided with double-stops accompanied by vocals in intervals difficult to tune. Laugh is over... (P.Keller) — here the bass player introduced a free improvisation followed by a single theme of the instrumental composition that was exposed a number of times during the following minutes and then left to fully dissolve in a long free surface... The composition for violin solo Birch (D.Kellerová), monothematic composition laminated by impressive arpeggios reminding of a children's play of putting one's hand upon the another's in turn, started the gradation of the half-an-hour's performance, whereas Sea Lamb (P.Keller) commencing with a double-stop of the bass nicely out of tune, reminding of a back pipe long note, instrumental in the opening, with accords of frantic rhythm in the middle, with loud baa of both musicians playing to the full and returning to the original double-stop in the closure, that was unambiguously the culmination of the evening. Then the musicians reserved a few minutes for fully free improvisation, the end belonging to Blues (D.Kellerová), having taken its character from the original blues, yet clearly written by the hand of a musician with classical approach.

No report of this performance in the press, no invitation of the band to concerts and festivals by musical agents. Only too natural: none were present. Anyway, anybody who ever felt the impact of music, be it author, interpret, or listener, will have always perceived – at least for a certain time – a sort of aw; all that is comprised in music, what is that emotional core, what is disquieting, inspiring and drawing into various sorts of adventure. The first production of Quakvartet seems to have had this importance. Two musicians, each of a different character, experience, ideas, each of them expert of a different type, acknowledging each other's share, in forms that were both fixed and fully stochastic, they were searching for questions and answers to what it may be good for, if people play together and if this can have some meaning also for somebody else. Also the second abbreviation of the name was born. The first one is the actual name of the band: Quakvartet is the combination of words quasi (as if) and quartet (four players or four voices), in this case two persons play and sing at a time. The other name (that was later left out) was the way the musicians described their style: Hybrid art. Something crossbred between rock, jazz and classics, difficult to map. Symbolically a crusher style and an assembler style. The style that was restricted to two bow instruments and two untrained voices, with occasional addition of further instruments, such as percussions and rarely harmonium, produced intentionally a raw effect. The only audible harmony is offered by the intermediary of non-harmonic instruments. The musicians can hardly have expected standing ovations, the jazz friends were kindly indulgent on that evening. The musicians have tested that they can end up with clash, their music being not easy, but not necessarily with a crushing effect. And as this tends to be the case in newly founded bands, the doubts usually do not stiffle the potential for development.

Indeed, further productions followed in 1994.

Year 1995

In winter 94/95 the band published its first unofficial recording (MC Quakvartet at the PIVOX studio under the heading of Aton Company – see discography). This starting point helped the band to get offers to participate in the UNIJAZZ Festival, the New Music Exhibition and further separate concerts.

Year 1996

On May 6 1996 a fully improvised concert took place in the Centre of Experimental Theatre. The review was published in the periodical Harmonie 7/1996.

At the beginning of 1996 the founders of Quakvartet felt a certain fatigue from the stereotypes brought by common life accompanied by musical co-operation. There are at least two ways of fighting such tiredness. Either to stop playing together, or to invite another person. There was no need of seeking other ways. An invitation that followed was a good chance for the band.

Antonín Mühlhansl, a (then) student of the fifth form of the Conservatory, specialized in clarinet and saxophone in the jazz department, was exactly the type of player that was looked for. A strong personality and a change of sound entered the stage. He liked the „hybrid art“ style, being a prompt improviser with enough understanding for „free“, and with his advent the work of the band moved closer to jazz feeling. He was also the one who carefully observed precision as the companion of phantasy.

In October 1996, in the crammed small cellar hall of the "Glass Meadow" (where the bass was brought to the stage over the heads of the audience) the band played for the first time in the new setting. Most of the numbers were already written for three. Unfortunately, being already on the stage, Mrs. Kellerová realized that she had forgotten the notes of all new compositions in the green room. It was out of question to make one's way through the audience after the session had already started (yes, it sounds like phantasy – there was no tiny gap left). A few seconds of shock, and an immediate change of the whole plan. The program had to be improvised (except for the solo "Birch"), which resulted in Quakvartet having lost its brilliance at the Exhibition of New Music. Who has never experienced anything of this type, may not imagine that.

Year 1998

Something – perhaps in the name of the band itself – seemed to assert that Quakvartet may not be the right thing, unless it has four members. But the Kellers did not knew who could and would like to become the fourth. One day an important reviewer said: "The music of Quakvartet, in spite of all sympathy it provokes, is exactly the type of music that is in advance condemned to forfeiture, at least in the commercial sense of word." Who may be willing to accept "commercial failure" with a band? That striving to the number of four, to a square, found finally its way through all alone. Piano player and composer Dada Klementová asked one day in spring 1998 (is it not spectacular – a couple in spring 94, three in spring 96, four two years later) the question whether QK was still in for improvised music and whether they would not try something with her.

The band was lucky for the second time. Lucky to acquire a rich person, rich by talent and phantasy, by conviction that it makes sense to create and to play even under rough conditions. There was room to rehearse, but not time enough. The band became more popular – the audience circle was broadening from the friends at the start to people who were curious and may have heard about the band before. (Who can realise that the band meets any time when all are free, which may happen once within ten days, each member having his/her main employment elsewhere.) However, sheer joy over the fact that a new shape has come to being, bringing new sound options, while the new member passionately experiments with sounds, with voice, likes to improvise and tends, similarly as the others, to minimalism, has helped to overcome difficult conditions. By the way, Quakvartet classifies among bands where time plays an important role; this arch is slight, it rises softly, only once in two years the band accepts yet another musician, but if nobody leaves, it may become the largest quartet worldwide...

After 1998

The key-signature accompanying the debut years ago continues to be true. Small compositions at the interface of styles, a fast proportion of improvisation, pleasure of doing music and compositions nourished by that pleasure, very often originating from simultaneous ideas of all four musicians. The essential role seems to be played by the fact that in spite of all diversification, different talents, ideas, and requirements, a certain type of music was born that was rooted in the closeness of people to one another. The originally rather rough and hard character of music is subject to change under the influence of the next two musicians, it opens up to melodies, it gets filled with harmony and becomes more lyrical. The ruggedness and even some sort of naturalisms float to the surface of improvisation, whereas the fixed compositions tend to be more and more orderly. However, the voice continues to be another instrument, rather than bearer of text. The scope of production does no change too much. Quakvartet gets invitations to festivals of UNIJAZZ (Boskovice, Alternativa Praha), most concerts take place at the cellar stage of the Centre of Experimental Theatre in Brno, in JAZZCLUB Železná in Prague, and in a number of Moravian towns. The repertory grows, all members take their shares in the compositions, two of them are by composer Peter Graham, and a number of adaptations follow: Fratres by Arvo Pärt, Children's Songs by Chick Corea.

One event deserves being mentioned. Štěpán Žampach, trumpet player who was then eleven, was invited to a concert at the cellar stage that took place on March 30 1999. He had some problems in reading notes then, but he moved fully at ease at the level of free. The band donated him a composition Mocking of Hamster Desperado, by D. Kellerová who was inspired by reality. In December of the same year Quakvartet was invited to the Ostrava festival of vocal/instrumental bands (in the Steam Boat club) with drummer Petr Hladík as guest.

In 2000 the band recorded the music for a two-hours' movie without any words ULTIMA THULE by Jan Sucharda. The whole track was improvised.

In 2001 the firs official CD QUAKVARTET – DRAUGHTS was issued (see discography). The guest of the band was flutist and vocalist Petra Klementová, who has been playing with the ensemble more often recently, especially at times when Tony leaves for concert strings with other bands. Talented and with fine musicality, ready to embark upon improvisations, she is able to take over a good part of Tony's share, with grace and reliability. She performs as guest in two compositions of this album. It was recorded at the PIVOX studio and published under its name. Along with PIVOX also the TSI System company sponsored the publication. The first CD inspired many responses from reviewers of renown (Jan Rejžek, Otakar Svoboda, Zdeněk Slabý and others). The band became guest of Radio Proglas in live broadcasting.

During the following two years the band focused, in addition to creating further compositions, also upon the completion of the arrangements of Children's Songs by Chick Corea. The popularity of Children's Songs among the musicians worldwide, especially among young performers, was no stumbling-block for Quakvartet. Chick Corea (see also ADVICE I), after all, in his foreword to the edition Schott 1980 invites to interpret the work using any other instruments beyond keyboard or piano for which the cycle was written. It is up to the interpreter, which type of implementation will be chosen. Also in this country there are a number of bands that have successfully taken up the license. Quakvartet has not yet been lucky enough to consult the author, however, it wishes to get his blessings within the near future. We do not intend to disclose anything concerning the way our band arranges Corea's songs; after all, whoever takes interest in it can learn them in spring 2004, as soon as the CD QUAKVARTET – CHILDREN'S SONGS is issued. In addition to the four core musicians also Petra Klementová has promised to take part with her flute and Petr Šmiřák with his tuba. Well, let us look forward: this seems to promise quite a nice piece of a big band.

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