Ziljabu Nights (Intuition)

Miroslav Vitous

Released October 2016

DownBeat Five-Star Review






Among jazz fans, you can have a lot of fun arguing whether “European Jazz” is a useful counterpoint to the American tradition, an original supplement thereto or “is worth less than American jazz on the market” as it can be read in a Wikipedia forum. There is no doubt that there have been and are gifted musicians this side of the Atlantic, who have molded and formed jazz for decades. They have developed very unique playing styles by merging European music traditions with American influences. To give these pioneers of European jazz a stage was the idea for the series of articles “European Jazz Legends”, which has been launched in the magazine Jazz thing in their 100th issue in September 2013. We can now look back on 16 issues. The symbolic stage has now become a real one, and it is in Gutersloh in the middle of Europe. Accompanying each edition of the magazine appearing five times a year, a concert planned especially for this occasion is being organized in cooperation with the label Intuition, the city of Gütersloh and Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln with current protagonists of the se¬ries, hosted by our author Götz Bühler. Each concert including an interview with the artist will be broadcast by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR 3) at a later time, and the musical highlights of the concert will be released on a CD.

In other words, five concerts and five CDs in the series “European Jazz Legends” are planned for each year in the future, until end of 2017. In addition, a book will be published, in 2018, for which the article from the ma¬gazine will be revised and supplemented, among other things, to provide impressions from the concerts and discussions. The CD of Miroslav Vitous is the eighth publication in the “European Jazz Legends” series. We from Intuition Records are very proud of this and would like to thank all partners and especially the musicians – and hope that you enjoy this series.

In hindsight, “Infinite Search“, the title of Miroslav Vitous’ first album as a leader from 1970, which featured players like Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, or Joe Henderson, seems prophetic. The bassplayer, composer, educator, former member of the Czech Olympic swimming team, co-founder of the trailblazing group „Weather Report“, and the man behind „the go-to string library for producers and film composers“, is still constantly on a quest, and never without a project. At 68, Vitous is far from retiring, working on a symphony, preparing gigs with a Big Band or the Prague Symphony, and occasionally presenting his music in concerts with his current group.

This live recording from the Theater Gütersloh presents him with this band – featuring Aydin Esen from Turkey on keyboards, Roberto Gatto from Italy on drums, as well as Gary Campbell from the US and Robert Bonisolo from Canada on saxophones, interplaying with Vitous on his singing upright bass. The music is a fascinating fusion of modern Jazz traditions and new musical ideas and concepts. „What I think I’m playing is one thing and what is actually happening is another“, said Miroslav Vitous at his home near Prague during the interview for the series „European Jazz Legends“ in the magazine Jazz thing in April 2016. „I can’t copy, because the original music in me is so strong, that it will always come out. I’m lucky.“

Track Listing:

1. Ziljabu (Miroslav Vitous) 9:31

2. Morning Lake (Miroslav Vitous) 16:43

3. Ziljabe (Miroslav Vitous) 5:18

4. Gloria’s Step Variations (Scott LaFaro / Miroslav Vitous) 5:41

5. Miro Bop (Miroslav Vitous) 10:01

6. Stella by Starlight Variations (Miroslav Vitous / Victor Young) 13:41

7. Variations (Götz Bühler) 7:35


Miroslav Vitous: double bass, keyboards

Gary Campbell: tenor saxophone

Roberto Bonisolo: soprano & tenor saxophones

Aydin Esen: keyboards

Roberto Gatto: drums

Recorded live June 25, 2016, at Theater Gütersloh, Germany

Produced by Volker Dueck

Design by Knut Schötteldreier

Cover Photo by Lutz Voigtländer


As bassist Miroslav Vitous says during the on-stage interview that closes out the European Jazz Legends series recording Ziljabu Nights: Live At Theater Gutersloh, his designs were to play his instrument as musically as possible, rendering his time-keeping rhythm-section role moot. What Vitous, now 68, has accomplished with this live album is to remind listeners of the place he occupied during the seminal early years of the 1970s, when he was a founding member of Weather Report with keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter— and to display where he’s taken it since. Gary Campbell (tenor saxophone) and Robert Bonisolo (tenor and soprano saxophones) provide the melodic heft, while Aydin Esen the colorist on keys occasionally works in tandem with Vitous to provide what bottom end does exist to this relatively weightless music. Four Vitous compositions delight in abstraction when not lyrically swimming, and are mostly pulseless. Then there’s a nearly 14-minute dance through “Stella By Starlight Variations,” featuring the leader’s characteristically squishy bass and arco leading the charge, and “Gloria’s Step Variations,” Vitous’ obvious nod to major influence Scott LaFaro. On the one solo piece, “Gloria’s Step,” the bassist leans in and out of the song’s endearing melody with a more conventional approach. The recording quality is excellent, each member heard crisply and cleanly. Gatto’s drums, in particular, sound immediate, every subtle move and crack gesture a necessary punctuation or sheen.

John Ephland (DownBeat)