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Drifting with Energit

Energit – Drift
from “Piknik”, 1978, Panton 110695
produced by Hynek Žalčík, arranged by Milan Svoboda
original LP sleeve
Luboš Andršt is actually a bluesman. Born in 1948, after playing guitar in several less known blues combos he joined Michal Prokop and his Framus Five in 1970, being featured on their legendary album Město Er (see this earlier post for details). After their break up he joined Martin Kratochvíl’s Jazz Q with whom he recorded Pozorovatelna (The Watchtower) in 1973.
Energit was originally conceived as a hard rock follow-up to Vladimír Mišík’s Flamengo with Vladimír Padrůněk on bass, however the communist authorities hardly allowed them to perform in public. The consequences were Mišík’s and Padrůněk’s departure in order to form Etc… and the emigration of organist Ivan Khunt and drummer Jaroslav Erno Šedivý. Andršt rebuilt the group from ground up while he kept the name as his trademark. By participating in the jazz-rock “craze” he attempted to bypass the existential problems known to most professional Czechoslovak rock musicians of the 1970s. With instrumental music there was not much censorship to fear, and eventually he received at least the public attention he deserved as one of the country’s top guitar players. The successful self-titled debut album from 1975 (Supraphon 1131787) is without doubt an international classic of its genre, namely the funky 7/4 suite Ráno (The Morning) which takes up the whole side one. Prominent members of this Energit edition were the young jazzman Emil Viklický on piano and the drummers Anatoli Kohout, Karel Jenčík and Josef Vejvoda (son of the Beer Barrel Polka composer).
Drift is the opener from Energit’s second album Piknik (The Picnic). The debut veterans Rudolf Ticháček (1943-1982) on sax and Jan Vytrhlík on bass were joined by another keyboard maestro and arranger Milan Svoboda of the Prague Big Band fame and the drummer Jaromír Helešic (also P.B.B., Jazz Q or Impuls) along with a juicy horn section by Michal Gera, Zdeněk Zahálka and Bohuslav Volf, as well as Jiří Tomek on congas. But after the promising wah-wah guitar intro and the happy “Hancock-ish” theme the tune indeed sort of slips into drifting: it just doesn’t really take off and the “B-part” doesn’t make much sense either. Andršt’s subsequent solo is alright, but the timbre of his lead guitar is definitely not everyone’s taste anymore. Well, the funky enlightenment finally arrives with Ticháček’s fresh soprano sax solo exactly in the middle of the six-and-a-half-minute tune, followed by Svoboda’s Arp synthesizer.
Piknik offers another six Andršt-penned tracks in which he switches between his dull lead sound, phased sirupy rhythm and occasional acoustic guitars. My other pick would be certainly Říční písek (River Sand), a beautiful fusion tune carried by floating acoustic guitar patterns with a spanish flavor. And drum break junkies can fire up their samplers for the title track which closes the side two. Anyway, despite its flaws in terms of composition and production – note the thin bass guitar and drums sound – this album still belongs to the funkier Czech jazz-rock records, quite similar to Elegie (Elegy) by Jazz Q (coming soon on Funky Czech-In). So take it or leave it, this is probably as funky as Andršt can get.
Energit appeared on the 1976 Panton compilation Jazzrocková dílna 2 (Jazz-Rock Workshop 2) with the heavy 12:30 minutes track in 5/4, Superstimulátor, resembling the funkier output of Return To Forever or Stanley Clarke. There’s also a rare 7″ from Panton’s Mini Jazz Klub series, no. 6, which I haven’t heard yet but which is supposed to be very tasty, yum. In 1977 Andršt recorded yet another instrumental album with Jazz Q, the obscure Zvěsti (Heralds). In the 1980s he eventually returned to playing the blues (sort of), either as a band leader or in collaboration with singers like Peter Lipa, Michal Prokop and even as the leader of Marta Kubišová’s comeback group in 1990-1992. You may want to check out his complete discography. Today he still performs with his Blues Band in Prague jazz clubs featuring the US singer Reesie Davis. And finally, it seems that an Energit revival is on the way, too, at least in its original rock incarnation.
There are no Energit CDs, but you can buy vinyl on eBay or, among others. If you google hard enough, you will surely find much cheaper copies from Czech sellers; try to combine search keywords like “energit”, “supraphon”, “panton” and the like.

Posted in Funky Czech-In

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