Hundreds of recordings by famous Karel Vlach Orchestra compiled in new release

Photo: archive of Tomáš Padevět

Fans of Czech swing and jazz will no doubt be thrilled to learn about the new release of a new 14 CD box set compiling a decade of recordings by the famous Karel Vlach Orchestra, from 1939 to 1949. The set features almost 350 studio tracks from the orchestra credited with popularising Swing in Czechoslovakia.

Photo: archive of Tomáš Padevět
It’s a fact many music collectors have long given up on CDs, opting long ago to dump the format and instead download music online. But there is one case they may want to make an exception - if they are fans of swing and jazz or especially the Karel Vlach Orchestra. On the occasion of what would have been the bandleader’s 105th birthday just recently (Vlach died in 1986), music publisher Tomáš Padevět released a whopping 14 CD box set covering the first 10 years of the orchestra’s existence. Here’s what he had to say:

“I was approached by collectors who had gathered recordings from classic vinyl records - it is thanks to them that we were able to put it all together.”

One of the collectors told Czech TV at the event how he had compiled material by the Karel Vlach Orchestra over the years:

Karel Vlach, photo: archive of Czech Radio
“I can’t say that I bought all those records, often they were given to me in exchange for something else… In truth, I was always more focussed on music abroad; on the other hand, I can say that without a doubt that Karel Vlach Orchestra was one of the best bands we ever had.”

Singer and musician Ondřej Havelka, who brought back swing in the 1990s and into the new millennium with The Melody Makers, describes just how important Karel Vlach’s contribution was.

“This was the first orchestra which really brought swing to Prague. Vlach was a great bandleader who insisted on his musicians listening to American bands, to achieve the kind of expression and phrasing which he sought.”

Soňa Červená, photo: Adam Kebrt
One of those at the recent launch of the new box set was also the famous and outspoken opera singer and actress Soňa Červená was around 23 when she got her start as an actress in the Czech adaptation of the 1948 Broadway musical Finnian’s Rainbow (Divotvorný hrnec). She remembered the bandleader fondly.

“He was my first conductor… I was still a young pup but it was wonderful. He was very gracious and fair-spoken and we understood each other very well. It was really nice.”

One of her most famous recordings from her start? U nás doma (How are Things in Glocca Morra) from the musical mentioned.