Vilém Spilka Quartet’s ‘Waiting for Tom’ named jazz album of the year

Photo: Roman Franc

Jazz is alive and well in the Czech lands. A total of 46 records in the genre were released here in 2019, even more than in the previous year. Spoilt for choice, our public radio sister station Český rozhlas Jazz has managed to pick one as album of the year: “Čekání na Toma” (or Waiting for Tom) by the Vilém Spilka Quartet.

Photo: Roman Franc
For seven years running now, our sister station has been conducting an expert poll along with publishing Czech Jazz Harvest, a yearbook mapping all releases in the vibrant genre.

A panel of nine music writers and promoters chose “Waiting for Tom” based in part on the originality of compositions, mainly written by jazz guitarist Vilém Spilka. The title track was inspired by and named after the six-year-old son of the quartet’s saxophonist, who is on the autism spectrum.

Spilka told Czech Radio that the song aims to capture the mystery of Tom’s mind, his unique way of seeing the world. While the album itself is rather eclectic, the tracks also reflect the family lives of other band members, he says.

“The unifying idea of the album was to reflect what was going on around me – inside my family and inside the families of my band mates. Three of us have young children, and they inspired us the most at the time. I have two daughters and wrote the song ‘Ach, dcrerko, dcerko’ for them.”

Spilka is the founder of JazzFestBrno and a faculty member at the city’s Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), where he heads the Department of Jazz Interpretation. As such, Spilka says, he is always experimenting – that it would be “embarrassing” not to.

The compositions on “Waiting for Tom” share an aesthetics of youthful wonder, with flashes of melancholy. Among the Levá noha (Left Foot) and Devět koťat (Nine Kittens).

The track Jaromir Henderson – a portmanteau – is a tribute to two outstanding names in world jazz, Czech contrabassist Jaromír Honzák and the late American jazz tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.