Bohemia Jazz Festival brings legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner to Czech Republic

McCoy Tyner, photo: Bohemia Jazz Fest

In its 6th year, the Bohemia Jazz Festival brings world-class jazz musicians not only to Prague, but another six cities across the country. Organized by jazz musician Rudy Linka, the festival is held outdoors at town squares and traditionally free of charge. Jazz guitarist and organizer Rudy Linka talks about Wednesday's line-up ahead of the second night of concerts in Prague.

McCoy Tyner,  photo: Bohemia Jazz Fest
Legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner playing “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane. His performance at the 6th Bohemia Jazz Festival, which kicked off in Prague on Tuesday, was the highlight of the free outdoor jazz event so far. The organizer, well-known Czech-American jazz guitarist Rudy Linka, had this to say about Mr. Tyner’s performance in Prague.

“McCoy Tyner is a piano legend, and not just that, he is a jazz legend, he is a jazz institution. When he was 17, he started playing with Benny Golson and Art Farmer, and when he was 19, he started playing with John Coltrane. And he was with him for six years and recorded the most famous albums with him: A Love Supreme and Ballads, all these albums. And he did not just play here last night but also received the Bohemia Jazz Award from us, and on top of being an amazing musician, he is also a really, really nice person, so I was happy to give it to him and the concert was just fantastic.”

On Wednesday, the Bohemia Jazz Festival, which last year drew some 20,000 visitors, continues with performances by world-class jazz musicians on Prague’s famed and scenic Old Town square. What can jazz enthusiasts look forward to on Wednesday? Rudy Linka again.

Rudy Linka
“Tonight is a Norwegian evening. We never did something like this before, because it usually is a lot of bands coming from different countries, and we just mix them. But tonight, it’s just bands from Norway. And we have the guitar player Terje Rypdal playing with the trumpet player Palle Mikkelborg, and they will actually performing with the Bergen Big Band, so there will be a lot of people on the stage. And before that is Inger Marie Gundersen who is an extraordinary singer from Norway, and we will also have the Norwegian ambassador here, so it is a Norwegian evening, and we hope that we can continue with this in the next years, to have one country featured in the concerts on Old Town Square.”

After two nights in Prague, the touring festival moves on to cities and towns across the Czech Republic. Headliners at locations outside of Prague include the blues band Ondřej Konrád & Gumbo, the Danilo Perez Trio, the John Scofield Jazz Quartet, and many others.

Organizing this free outdoor festival and finding world-class guests year after year is not exactly easy. I asked Rudy Linka, who lives in New York City, what his motivation is for organizing a free jazz festival in the Czech Republic.

John Scofield,  photo: Bohemia Jazz Fest
“It’s a lot of work. But I live in a city, in New York City, which is very expensive to live in, but at the same time, it is amazing what the city does for its residents for free. The New York Philharmonics play in the park over the summer, so you can just take your blanket and your wine and go to Central Park, sit and have the New York Philharmonics playing for you. And because I am a jazz musician, I felt that I should bring that over here. Music of very high quality being played in these beautiful squares, and the beauty of the squares would be matched by the quality of the music, so that was the motivation.”

The Bohemia Jazz Festival moves from Prague to Domažlice on Thursday and from there to Plzeň, Tábor, Brno, Prachatice, and finally, České Budějovice, where it wraps up on July 23rd. .