The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) Blog

Early Czech Jazz

Posted in Eliška_Cílková by iawmblog on March 23, 2010

As my third report to the IAWM blog I would like to introduce you to the early history of Czech Jazz. We all know that Jazz originated in the early 20th century in African American communities in the South of the United States. Its evolution in the USA was different from Europe. I come from the Czech Republic – the small state located in middle of Europe whose population is only about 10 million people.

Czech jazz also began in the early 20th century. Its most significant early proponent was Jaroslav Ježek, “JJ”. Ježek was born on 25/09/1906 in Prague and he died on 01/01/1942 in New York City. He was almost blind from a young age and he had chronic kidney disease. He studied composition at the Prague Conservatory under Josef Suk. He began studying at the Conservatory when modern dances and American jazz music were first becoming popular in the Czech Republic. Ježek worked with the rhythms and instrumental features of jazz. He also collaborated with Voskovec and Werich, and thanks to them, he performed in the Liberated Theatre. This theatre performed original and lively revues filled with topical political satire against Fascism and social injustices. I could write thousands of words about Jaroslav Ježek, but I just want to say that he left a large catalog (orchestral, chamber, piano works, and songs) and he is regarded as the founder of Czech jazz and popular music.

Nowadays the Conservatory in Prague is named after him. This Conservatory has been existing only for 19 years. For 33 years before that, it had been basic school of arts. The school attracted many excellent students, but in the communist state there was ideological opposition to granting it the stature of a conservatory. The Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory officially opened in 1991. It is hometown of important Czech jazz musicians and is very proudly named after JJ.

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Eliška Cílková recently moved to Bratislava, Slovakia where she is in her first year studying composition at Academy of Music. She blogs about her experiences as a student at the Jazz Conservatory in Prague

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