02. Poppy 4:48
03. Stella By Starlight 5:04
04. Blue Road 6:04
05. Blue Rain 7:26
06. Remember Of Love 3:20
Bass – George Mraz
Piano – Masaru Imada
Recorded October 24, 1977 at Onkyo House
A native of the Czech Republic, George Mraz was born in 1944. He began his musical studies on violin at age seven and started playing jazz in high school. He attended the Prague Conservatory in 1961 studying bass violin and graduating in 1966.
While studying at the Prague Conservatory Mraz was deeply moved by the Voice Of America radio broadcasts of Willis Conover, who was his connection to a vast new world of possibilities across the ocean. "The first jazz I ever heard was actually Louis Armstrong when I was about twelve years old. They had an hour of his music on one Sunday in between all these light operettas and stuff they played on the radio in the Czech republic (then Czechoslovakia). Then the strange voice of Satchmo singing was quite a shock. 'How can he get away with a voice like that?' I thought. But by the time the hour was over I decided I liked it better than anything I heard that day, so I started looking into jazz”.
"The Voice Of America came on midnight for an hour or so, and my listening equipment wasn't so great, and it was hard to make out the bass. So I was listening to all the instruments, and how it all worked together, rather than just focusing on the bass. I've really been influenced by everything I've heard, but of course I paid special attention to Ray Brown, Scott LaFaro, Paul Chambers, and Ron Carter." Mraz just naturally gravitated towards the music, and became a seasoned veteran of the clubs where he could perform the music that consumed his imagination almost every night. While studying at the Prague Conservatory, George was performing with the top jazz groups in Prague.
After graduating from the Prague Conservatory, George went to Munich and played clubs and concerts throughout Germany and Middle Europe with Benny Bailey, Carmel Jones, Leo Wright, Mal Waldron, Hampton Hawes, Jan Hammer and others. In 1968 George Mraz came to Boston on a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music and played at Lennie's on the Turnpike and the Jazz Workshop with such artists as Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Joe Williams and Carmen McRae.In the winter of 1969 George got a call from Dizzy Gillespie to join his group in New York. After a few weeks with Dizzy, George went on the road with Oscar Peterson for about two years. After that he worked with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra for the next six years. In the late seventies George worked with Stan Getz, New York Jazz Quartet, Zoot Sims, Bill Evans, John Abercrombie and for over ten years with Tommy Flanagan.
George Mraz has a profound gift for the acoustic bass. And while this musician's musician has been a stalwart presence on the modern jazz scene practically from the moment he first landed on these shores from his native Czechoslovakia, in the eyes of the general public his work is still somewhat undervalued. Perhaps because the self-effacing qualities he brings to the bandstand mirror the quiet character of the man stage left-onstage or off, he eschews the spotlight.
With his customary selflessness, Mraz allows as how he never demurred from approaching projects as a leader. "I always wanted to do some kind of projects on my own," Mraz insists, "I just never got around to it." And given the who's who of jazz masters who've made him their first call bassist for three decades (including the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry, Stan Getz, Slide Hampton, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, and Joe Lovano among many others), that's hardly surprising. After leaving Flanagan, George went on to work with Joe Henderson, Hank Jones, Grand Slam (Jim Hall, Joe Lovano, Lewis Nash), DIM (Directions In Music with Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Roy Hargrove), Mc Coy Tyner, Joe Lovano , Manhattan Trinity, Hank Jones and others.
He also has lead his own quartet with pianist Richie Beirach, drummer Billy Hart, and the lyrically riveting tenor man Rich Perry. (The quartet may be heard on Mraz's Milestone debut Jazz; Beirach and Hart are on the trio date My Foolish Heart, and Perry on Bottom Lines, the 1997 Mraz session featuring favorite works by fellow bassists Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Marcus Miller, Charles Mingus, Buster Williams, and Steve Swallow, plus George’s originals. "George always plays the exact right note you want to hear," says Beirach, "and he plays the bass as though he invented it." But Mraz does so without drawing attention to himself, and while he is hardly an invisible presence, his sense of what's appropriate is so sure, he can make himself positively translucent. "Even when he's doing nothing more than walking four to the bar, his choice of notes is so perfect, it's like he's telling a little story in back of the soloist," enthuses his producer Todd Barkan.
George Mraz has recorded with Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Hank Jones, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, NYJQ, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Toshiko Akioshi, Kenny Drew, Barry Harris, Tete Montoliu, Jimmy Rowles, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis, Richie Beirach, McCoy Tyner, Adam Makowicz, Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Art Pepper, Warne Marshe, Phil Woods, Grover Washington Jr., Archie Shepp, Dave Leibman, Joe Lovano, Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Kenny Burrell, Larry Coryell, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Knepper, Bob Brookmeyer, Jon Hendricks, Carmen McRae, Helen Merrill, Elvin Jones and many others.