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Roland Kovac - JPop.com
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Roland Kovac

Roland Kovac

Roland Kovac


The soundtrack to this artist's life would include the cheerful warbling of the Vienna Boys' Choir, the grim blasts of Nazi bombs, and hysterical fuzzbox psychedelic guitar. There are aspects of The Sound of Music, Swing Kids, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars, yet this was no movie and no reel. Roland Kovac came from a Viennese musical family; according to legend, the only member of the household not a virtuoso on an instrument was the schnauzer. When Kovac's name came up circa 2002 in association with compilations of so-called rare groove tracks Read more on Last.fm
The soundtrack to this artist's life would include the cheerful warbling of the Vienna Boys' Choir, the grim blasts of Nazi bombs, and hysterical fuzzbox psychedelic guitar. There are aspects of The Sound of Music, Swing Kids, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars, yet this was no movie and no reel. Roland Kovac came from a Viennese musical family; according to legend, the only member of the household not a virtuoso on an instrument was the schnauzer. When Kovac's name came up circa 2002 in association with compilations of so-called rare groove tracks, it was at least the second time he had established that Vienna could be an outpost for music other than the serious classical variety.

Kovac established himself as a modern jazz player during an era when that label designated styles such as swing and bebop. More importantly, it was the middle of the Second World War. Gigs took place on an underground basis; the original meaning of this concept was that only the Gestapo and their informants weren't supposed to know about it. Kovac came up with his first arrangements at such shows, working with a bandleader named Paul von Beky, who somehow managed to keep a large orchestra going throughout the mayhem. Kovac was still a teenager when this and his own combos began working, but it was hardly the beginnings of his musical activities.

He had begun piano lessons at six, clarinet at 13. From 1935 through 1938 he was a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir and remains one of the few instrumentalists listed in international jazz reference works who can make such a claim. During the war he played for an audience that included Jews on the run, soldiers on official as well as unofficial leave from their units, and locals with their eyes cocked for secret police. Among the military swingers was saxophonist Hans Koller, a follower not of the Third Reich but of Lee Konitz.

Kovac and Koller began working together, their impulses toward playing pure forms of jazz at odds with the sway of public taste once life in Vienna began getting back to normal. Kovac followed Koller out of the country looking for appropriate gigs. They really didn't have to go very far, finding opportunities in both the film and broadcast mediums as well as concert venues on the considerably larger German jazz scene. The MPS label, associated with one of the largest tape manufacturers in the world, had plenty of resources with which to document the eventual turn toward progressive jazz stylings, most notably the electric jazz and fusion of the '60s and '70s. Trip to the Mars from 1964 is without a doubt this artist's most unique venture, credited to the Orchester Roland Kovac and featuring a style some have described as "science-fiction jazz." The Roland Kovac New Set came along in the early '70s, basically a collaboration between Kovac and guitarist Siegfried "Sigi" Schwab.

The latter used his fuzzbox in an eventually shortfall attempt to drown out first drummer Charly Antolini, then Keith Fisher. Keyboardist Brian Auger, no slouch, joined in on the second of this group's efforts. In 1981 Kovac recorded Piano Symphony -- Selected Sound 92 for the Deutsche Austrophon imprint. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide Read more on Last.fm.

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