Jaroslav Jezek

Jaroslav Jezek

Birth
Prague, Okres Praha, Prague Capital City, Czech Republic
Death 1 Jan 1942 (aged 35)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Prague, Okres Praha, Prague Capital City, Czech Republic
Plot First Municipal Section
Memorial ID 22952985 · View Source
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Composer, Conductor, Pianist. Regarded as "The Father of Czech Jazz", he helped popularize that art form in his country by adapting jazz rhythms to a distinctively Slavic sense of melody. He worked in both the pop and classical spheres and combined the two in his compositions. Jezek was born in Prague. He became enamoured with jazz while studying at the National Conservatory under Joseph Suk (1924 to 1927) and his graduation piece, the Piano Concerto (1927), was constructed around modern dance music. Premiered by the Czech Philharmonic, it made the 21 year-old composer a celebrity and a leader of Prague's avant-garde. George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and Zez Confrey were major influences on his style. In 1928 he joined the famous Liberated Theatre, forming a partnership with star comedians Jiri Voscovec and Jan Werich. Over the next decade he scored 20 of their plays and revues, which satirized human foibles, Depression-era woes, and particularly the Fascist threat from neighboring Germany; several of his songs and dances became nationwide hits. During the 1930s he also led his own ensemble, Jezek's Jazz, later called the Jezkup Swing Band, and recorded for the Czech Ultraphon label. His best known tunes include "Bugatti Step", "Life Is Just An Accident", "Trash Heap Blues", "Three Policemen Step", "Polonaisa", and "Te Jeste Ne". Meanwhile he continued to write for the concert hall, and in such works as the "Petite Suite" for piano (1928), the Violin Concerto (1930), the "Fantasy" for Piano and Orchestra (1930), and the Violin Sonata (1933) he deftly combined jazz elements with classical forms and tonal expriments. Jezek's accomplishments are all the more remarkable because he was legally blind from birth and lost most of his hearing to a childhood infection. He could only see properly in blue light and wrote music in a blue-painted room, using a magnifying glass and oversized paper and pencil. The blues lament "Dark Blue World" (1937) reflected his personal reality as well as a Europe tottering on the brink of war. After the 1938 Munich Agreement opened the door to Hitler's conquest of Czecholslovakia, the Liberated Theatre was shut down and Jezek escaped to New York City, where he found himself a virtual unknown. His last years were marred by his inability to find a place in the American music scene. (Chancing on one of Jezek's Swing Band recordings, Benny Goodman refused to believe it had come from Eastern Europe). He died from a chronic kidney ailment at 35. In 1947 his ashes were brought back to Prague by his widow. Jezek's jazz compositions were not officially recognized during his homeland's 40-year Communist rule, though they continued to be played and sung and influenced generations of Czech musicians. A seven-CD collection of Jezek's recordings was released by Suraphon in 1994, while his centenary in 2006 was observed throughout the Czech Republic and by international jazz fans.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 17 Nov 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22952985
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Jaroslav Jezek (25 Sep 1906–1 Jan 1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22952985, citing Olsanske hrbitovy, Prague, Okres Praha, Prague Capital City, Czech Republic ; Maintained by Find A Grave .