Week of Wonders: September 1

September 1, mid-afternoon

This afternoon I ate shmaky. The server – a friendly woman who smiles a surprising amount for an employee in a Czech restaurant – told me, in halting English punctuated by giggles that she didn't know what it was either but assured me it didn't have meat in it. “Number three is always vegetarian,” she said. Shmaky, as it turned out, was a pasta dish, a sort of mushroom stroganoff.

I've been in Ostrava a week – my first time in Eastern Europe but within the familiar festival bubble: Lost on the one hand but on the other with people around who are ready to make things easier for me. Hosts.

Suddenly I'm hearing Big Star's “The Ballad of El Goodo.” Probably inappropriate for a festival of contemporary classical music, even if the song is only playing in my head.

I took the train to the old section of town called “Přívoz” this afternoon. After a bit of walking around I stopped in a café for an espresso. A well-mustachioed man inside may have yelled “al fresco” at me, or perhaps it was something in Czech, but in any event I took a seat in the small garden where another man scowled at me while a third slept. After five minutes under his blurry gaze (and with no waiter emerging) I left and found another café more willing to serve me and after a bit of charades – not two espressos, one double, please – I sat down to take on my afternoon assignment.

An opening soulful wail from Eskelin is followed by a repeating, somber phrase from Sanchez. Eisenstadt sets a couple beats of the bass drum and he and Sanchez fall behind Eskelin. In short order, though, he drops out and I'm reminded on the one hand of Marilyn Crispell and on the other of all the wonderful duets Irene Schweizer has done with drummers. All female pianists. Interesting – unless it isn't. Upon Eskelin's return they find a more equal footing.

It's 2:45 pm in Ostrava, which means its 8:45 am in NYC, but this sounds more like 2:45 am. Where is it 2:45 am right now? And why doesn't Eisenstadt provide times of day for the pieces. This should be done more often. Didn't Blue Note only record people after 2 am in the early days? I know they're pros – next week at Guelph I'll be attending 10:30 am shows, for the love of Pete. Ah. Six minutes in and they've surprisingly picked up the pace, if only momentarily, and then a return to the repeating piano figure. It's quite beautiful, and there's something appealing about a piano trio without a bass. Less push from the back. And then it's over.

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