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Lubos Malina

Piece of Cake – 1999 (Compass)

Reviewed by Stephen L. Betts

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CDs by Lubos Malina

Czech banjo wizard Lubos Malina steps out front with this nifty solo effort, a companion piece to the recently released album "Czechmate" by his "trampgrass" band, Druha Trava. Playing in the progressive style popularized by Americans Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka and Alison Brown, Malina's heritage shines through the 13 diverse tracks, many his own original compositions, including a few sung in native tongue (helpfully translated into English in the liner notes).

His Druha Trava bandmates assist throughout, and the aforementioned Fleck and Trischka are also on hand, adding their own flair to this supremely musical collection. Also showcased is Peter Rowan, who sings lead (in English) on three tracks, including Bill Monroe's classic "Rocky Road Blues." Malina enhances the distinct traditional European sound with some decidedly American touches - including a jazzy soprano sax solo on "Rain And Snow," another track featuring Rowan's vocals.

The disc's title implies that this may have been an effortlessly executed collection. Whether that's true or not, it's undeniable that, in tandem with the Druha Trava release, Malina seems to be enjoying the best of several worlds, old and new.