Big Band´s history

K. Krautgartner

The Czech Radio Big Band is a legend among Czech jazz and swing orchestras. It was founded in 1960 under the name of Czech Radio Dance Orchestra.

From the very beginning Karel Krautgartner, saxophonist and also the first Big Band bandmaster, was the leading artistic personality. But Karel Krautgartner also had a great organizational and managerial talent. He managed to concentrate the best jazz instrumentalists of the time such as pianist Kamil Hála, double bass player Luděk Hulan, drummer Ivan Dominák, guitarist Vladimír Tomek, saxophonists Milan Ulrich and František Kryka in the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra. The trumpet section was composed of Richard Kubernát, Jiří Jelínek, Václav Hybš, Vítězslav Horák and Pavel Vitoch. Ladislav Pikart, Artur Holitzer, Miroslav Koželuh and Bedřich Beránek were signed up for the trombone section.

However, besides his original jazz production, Karel Krautgartner also focused on elevating the quality of the original Czech popular song. Together with Jan Hammer and Jaromír Hořec he founded the legendary radio competition Songs for Every Day. Four years of this competition discovered star singers such as Vlasta Průchová, Karel Gott, Josef Zíma and Judita Čeřovská.


Two orchestras

In 1963 the two areas of interest of the orchestra were so independent that the orchestra was formally divided into two bodies. One of them was the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra abbreviated as JOČR (Jazzový orchestr Českého rozhlasu) and pianist Kamil Hála was appointed its conductor. The other part kept the name Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra abbreviated as TOČR (Taneční orchestr Československého rozhlasu) and Josef Vobruba was appointed its leader. But in reality the same musicians played in both orchestras and both orchestras were artistically supervised by their founder Karel Krautgartner.

Taneční orchestr Československého rozhlasu (TOČR)

The Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra continued to focus on classical jazz music and also experimented on the edge of classical music. The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra concentrated primarily on discovering talents of Czech song production and also singers. Among the singers discovered directly by Karel Krautgartner were e.g. Yvonne Přenosilová, Marta Kubišová and Helena Vondráčková. But the orchestra also accompanied other singing personalities of the time such as Waldemar Matuška, Karel Gott, Karel Štědrý, Eva Pilarová and Naďa Urbánková.

We can say without exaggeration that the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra led by Karel Krautgartner created the legendary generation of Czech pop music in the 1960s. The success of the TOČR was soon noticed by the then young Czechoslovak Television.

Several programme series originated out of the cooperation between the radio and television. Studio A Broadcasting (Vysílá studio A) and Song for Rudolf III. (Píseň pro Rudolfa III.) are probably the most famous ones. At that time the internationally recognized trio Golden Kids, whose members were Václav Neckář, Marta Kubišová and Helena Vondráčková, was formed in cooperation with the TOČR.

In 1967 the Czechoslovak Radio management decided to honour Karel Krautgartner for his merits and renamed the ensemble Karel Krautgartner´s Orchestra.


60's and 70's

Soon after the events of 1968 Karel Krautgartner emigrated. The orchestra had to return to its original name, Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra, and Josef Vobruba became principal conductor.

Josef Vobruba diriguje TOČR

In the 1960s and 1970s a number of new musical personalities joined the orchestra. The following musicians spent at least a part of their life with the orchestra - trumpeter Laco Déczi, pianist Karel Růžička, saxophonist Petr Král, drummer Josef Vejvoda, bass player Petr Kořínek, trumpeter Václav Týfa and trombonist Svatopluk Košvanec.

In the 1970s the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra was often asked to cooperate with Czechoslovak Television. Besides the singing stars of the 1960s it also accompanied singing revelations of the 1970s such as Jiří Korn, Hana Zagorová, Petra Janů, Jitka Zelenková, Marcela Králová and Jana Koubková.


80's and 90's

In 1982 conductor Josef Vobruba died prematurely and Vladimír Popelka took his place. In 1983 a saxophonist Felix Slováček was appointed leader of the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra.

Felix Slováček při vystoupení s Tanečním orchestrem Československého rozhlasu

In the early 1990s the orchestra was renamed Big Band Radio Prague.


21st century

In 2001 the orchestra was renamed to Czech Radio Big Band.
A year later the conductor also changed – composer and arranger Václav Kozel became the new conductor.

Under the artistic direction of Václav Kozel representatives of the next generation of singers such as Ilona Csáková, Leona Machálková, Michal Malátný, Antonín Gondolán and Ondrej Krajňak occasionally sing with the orchestra. But the Czech Radio Big Band does not forget about the cooperation with established soloists either. It recorded a CD of legendary swing melodies called Sentiment with Karel Gott on the occasion of his important life anniversary.

Since 2013 Big Band Gustav Brom is Czech Radio´s residential ensemble. The artistic director of the Gustav Brom Czech Radio Big Band is Vlado Valovič.


International cooperation

In its 50-year history the Czech Radio Big Band played with a number of world-famous stars. Among others we can mention Tony Scott, Vadim Ludvikovskij, Herman Lukjanov, Ptatzin Wroblewski, Tomas Sukalski, Tomas Stanko, Dave Weckel, Sonny Costanzo and George Mraz.