In 1968, long before he became a jazz-rock fusion synthesizer hero, Jan Hammer was a 20-year-old pianist/organist just recently departed from his native Czechoslovakia. Before moving to the States, he stopped over in Germany long enough to record this live trio set. MALINY MALINY finds Hammer laying down some bold, visceral keyboard work in a groove-heavy soul-jazz/hard-bop vein, backed by American bassist George Mraz and German drummer Cees See, his bravura style giving only a hint of things to come.
Sometimes plenty can happen in three years; sometimes plenty can happen in a matter of days. When Jan Hammer recorded Maliny Maliny at a club in Munich on August 30, 1968, the keyboardist had no idea that, in three short years he'd be at the top of the jazz heap as founding member of one of fusion's most significant groups, guitarist John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. He did know, within 30 days of this live recording—when the young Czechoslovakian moved to the United States in September, 1968 to study at Boston's Berklee College of Music—that he'd never return to either his home country or Germany, which was a brief intermediary home between leaving Czechoslovakia and heading for America.
Another of Promising Music's wonderfully packaged and carefully remastered reissues of the German MPS catalog, Maliny Maliny proves that even the most progressive players have to have roots. While the high volume, high velocity music of Mahavishnu Orchestra seemed to have little to do with the jazz tradition, Maliny Maliny's seven Hammer compositions are planted firmly in the mainstream, a far cry from what is wrongly considered to be his debut as a leader, the synth-laden concept album The First Seven Days (Columbia/Legacy, 1975).
Still, while Maliny Maliny is a decidedly straight-ahead set with Hammer—on piano and organ—ably supported by bassist George Mraz and drummer Cees See, there's certainly no shortage of the kind of virtuosity that would make him a hugely influential keyboardist just a few short years later. "Goat's Song" is an up-tempo swinger, featuring some fiery organ work from Hammer, while "Make Love" is a piano-led piece of soul-jazz blues that references Joe Zawinul—another Eastern European keyboardist who'd already made the leap to the United States and, by this time, was already enjoying no small amount of acclaim for his work with Cannonball Adderley. Continue reading at ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM.