Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop

About Us

The annual Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop will take place in Frýdlant from August 15th to 22nd, 2020 for the thirty-seventh time. In 1983, the committee of the Czech Jazz Society decided to organize summer performing courses; Aleš Benda and Karel Velebný were the ones in charge of the project they conceived, brought to life and baptized as the Summer Jazz Workshop. The seminar threw anchor and made itself at home in Frýdlant thanks to Radek Jech, the local flute player and vocalist.

Vibraphonist, saxophonist, pianist, singer, actor, writer, pedagogue, sportsman body and soul (from time to time…), discoverer, and erudite popularizer of works of Jára da Cimrman, Dr. Evžen Hedvábný aka Karel Velebný was at the origins not only of the basic method but before all of the spirit of the one-week performing seminar. The tutors and participants of the Summer Jazz Workshop have always gladly and without objections succumbed to its magic.

At the very beginning, Karel Velebný was assigned as the director of the workshop. The tutors came mostly from the SHQ group – guitarist Tony Viktora, drummer Milan Vitoch, bassist František Uhlíř, and pianist Emil Viklický. This basic setup was complemented by the guitarist Rudolf Dašek, multiinstrumentalist Jiří Stivín, three Brno natives from the Gustav Brom big band Josef Audes, Mojmír Bártek, and Jaromír Hnilička, the federal character of the event being emphasized by the Bratislava drummer Dodo Šošoka.

During the years, the jazz atmosphere in Frýdlant attracted more and more tutors, e.g. Jaromír Honzák, Günter Kočí, František Kop, Míla Petr, Milan Svoboda, Jaroslav Šindler, Jiří Urbánek, Petr Volný, Cyril Zeleňák etc. Along with our leading performers, their colleagues from abroad made their appearance; the Norwegian saxophonist Harald Gundhus, Danish saxophonist and leader Jens Klüver, Americans Richard Oehrli (vocals), John Serry (piano), Mark Vinci and Scott Robinson (saxes). Thanks to the British Council, a number of British tutors also taught in Frýdlant – Angela Elliot, Dylan Fowler, Lee Goodall, Richard Morgan, Richard Michael, Gina Rae, Julian Nicholas, Martin Speake, Dave Wickens, Tom Bancroft, Phil Bancroft, Sophie Bancroft, Fionna Duncan, Eddie Severn, Trudy Kerr, Karen Lane, Martin Hathaway, Milo Fell etc.

After five successful years of heading the workshop, Karel Velebný left us for an eternal jam session. Emil Viklický took over the “headmaster’s office”, followed by Karel Růžička who went to the “heavens band” in September 2016. The saxophonist Rosťa Fraš sadly left us and the tutors’ team on November 13th, 2019 after a long battle with cancer.

The tutors setup for this year’s edition will be the following: Luboš Andršt (guitar), Josef Fečo (bass), Zdeněk Fišer (guitar), Miroslav Hloucal (trumpet), Štěpán Janoušek (trombone), Petr Kalfus (saxes), František Krtička (keyboards), Pavel Razím (drums), Jiří Stivín (flutes), Milo Suchomel (saxes), Lubomír Šrámek (keyboards), Zdeněk "Wimpy" Tichota (bassguitar), Adam Tvrdý (guitar), Boris Urbánek (keyboards), Marek Urbánek (drums) and Martin Zbrožek (violin), Tutors from the USA: Lee Andrew Davison (vocal), Neil Wetzel (saxes), and Skip Wilkins (vocal).

On Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 the Tutors’ concert will take place at the Frydlant Castle courtyard that will feature the creme de la creme of Czech and international jazz. The students will get their chance to perform on Thursday and Friday at the Beseda restaurant. The closing of both concerts will be taken care of by two big bands led by Neil Wetzel. Other concerts and exhibitions are currently being organized.

The thirty seventh year of the Summer Jazz Workshop, now bearing the name of its founder Karel Velebný is again organized by Aleš Benda abstudio [at] seznam.cz, partnered by the Municipality of Frýdlant, Music School Frýdlant (director Vladimír Hrdina, phone +420 482 312 312). The 37th Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop organizers wish to acknowledge financial support of the Municipality of Frýdlant.

Short biographies of the US tutors of 37th Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop

Neil Wetzel

Neil Wetzel is Professor of Music at Moravian College; his duties there include teaching saxophone and directing the jazz studies program. He earned both a Bachelor of Music (Jazz) and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After defending his PhD at Teacher’s College of the Columbia University he became Full Professor at Moravian College. As founder and music director of Moravian College¹s summer music camp, July Jazz Getaway, Mr. Wetzel has worked and played with many jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Al Grey, Terrel Stafford, Milt Grayson, Stanley Turrentine, and Bobby Watson. As a performer, he has backed many of the great performers in show business including: Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Bob Hope, Johnny Mathis, Bernadette Peters, Tommy Tune, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, the Temptations and the Four Tops. He has also appeared with the Philly Pops Orchestra including a performance with singer Patti Page in Carnegie Hall, which was recorded and released on CD by DRG records and won the 1999 Grammy for best Pop Traditional Performance. He can also be heard on jazz pianist Eric Mintel's last four CD's: Live, Hopscotch, Dynamo and Four on the Floor. At the Summer Jazz workshop in Frýdlant, Neil teaches in saxophone class and he is the leader of the students’ big bands. Under his direction an album After Midnight in Frýdlant was recorded in 2016 by the 5 o’clock Big Band composed of the workshop students and tutors.

Skip Wilkins

was born in Massachusetts and raised in a musical family. He became interested in jazz at an early age and found his way to the stage in kindergarten. He learned to love singing, played drums for years, but then focused on piano, which became his main instrument by his late teens. As he was coming up in Boston, he worked with drummers Joe Hunt and Bob Moses and with saxophonists Jimmy Mosher and John LaPorta.

For many years, Skip has maintained an active international career as a pianist, composer, workshop presenter, jazz choral director and educator. He is currently working on three new CD releases and has performed with a host of international luminaries throughout his career. He performed often with Phil Woods, and is a featured soloist on Phil’s final big band release New Celebration. Wherever he has lived, he has performed with and collaborated with top stars whenever they came to town – Phil Woods, David Liebman, Plas Johnson, Mark Murphy, Clark Terry, David Sánchez, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Watson, Bob Dorough, Conte Candoli and Peter Erskine, among so many others.

Skip performs throughout Europe in a variety of ensembles, with regular tours to the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, Greece and France. Stateside, he lives at Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA, surrounded by the great jazz community there. Skip is Associate Professor of Music at Lafayette College, where he teaches music theory and jazz courses, and teaches jazz piano at Moravian College.

Some of Skip’s CD releases include Trio WUH Live at Jazzinec (2014), Czech Dreams (2013), Father & Son – with his son Daniel (2012), After (2011), I Concentrate on You (2011), Frýdlant Nights (2010), and many more. A January 2019 CD release and concert tour was realized for Czech Wishes – recorded with his son Daniel in Prague in March 2016. He also recorded two new projects, the first in December 2017 in the U.S. also with his son Daniel, and paired with Tony Marino and legendary drummer Bill Goodwin. The second was in Prague in January 2018, as Skip recorded a new set of his original pieces, primarily in trio format, with long-time collaborators Josef Fečo and Tomáš Hobzek. Saxophonist Rostislav Fraš was Skip’s featured guest on a few selections.

Each summer since 2007, Skip has taught and performed at the Karel Velebny Summer Jazz Workshop in Frýdlant, Czech Republic. He has often led the Jazz Ateliér at the Summer Choral Workshop in Lomnice u Tišnova, and twice taught at the International Jazz Workshop, Kryoneri, Greece. He also teaches at the Moravian College Summer Jazz Camp.