Josef Kučera

* 1943

  • "When the wall fell, my girlfriend and I lived in an apartment near the wall where I had lived since 1979. We went for the first time to East Germany, near Pankow, a nicer neighborhood. We rode a bike. And we got lost. The former East-West border was less than a mile from our residence. Suddenly you come there and it's a brand new city you don't know. We got lost and the next time we took the map. (…) We bought Marx's capital, which was cheap. (laughs) It was interesting."

  • "We crossed the border and the boys were waiting for us there. They already knew us from that island, the Austrian boys and girls. They hid us." - "Were they musicians too?" - "No, students. Sammy [Vomáčka] fell in love with one of them and they are still in touch today. We just cut it. As you walk through the forest at night, the sticks crack loudly, the dog barks, when a person falls into a stream, it splashes out loud. Sammy got into some thorns with his guitar, I rescued him. He wrote a diary about it, there are many things I don't remember. One does not remember everything one has experienced from one's life. I don't know who, I don't. Maybe it's because I sometimes took some drugs, I drank something in my life. I don't recommend it to anyone. We were so excited about the crossing that we would get some rest there."

  • "Somehow I got a clarinet in my hand. And I learned how to play it quite quickly as a self-learner. I tried to go to music group, but they wanted to drill me there differently than I imagined. Now I remember things how I got into one band. I like to put it this way: I once played with Louis Armstrong. From a gramophone record, of course. I opened the window, we lived downstairs, and a young man walked by and asked who was playing there. I went to that window and proudly said that Louis Armstrong and I. He invited me to a rehearsal of their band. That was the beginning of my career as a musician."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 23.10.2019

    duration: 01:46:22
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Saxophone Joe from Berlin

Joe Kucera in London in the 1970s
Joe Kucera in London in the 1970s
photo: archíve of the witness

Josef “Joe” Kučera is a well-known jazz saxophonist and flutist. He was born on July 8, 1943 in Prague as Josef Kučera, his older sister is the well-known artist and graphic artist Alena Kučerová. His father, Vojtěch Kučera (1908-1965), emigrated in 1948, became an agent-pedestrian, was arrested in 1954 and sentenced to 25 years. In the 1960s, Josef Kučera played in Prague with Michal Prokop’s Framus Five or in the accompanying band of Karel Černoch. In September 1969, together with guitarist Sammy Vomáček, they decided to emigrate via Yugoslavia and Austria to West Germany. He settled in West Berlin in 1970, and from 1972 to 1976 Joe Kučera lived in Great Britain, London and Norwich. However, he returned to West Berlin, living there since 1976 to the present. After 1989, Joe Kučera began to return regularly to Prague, performing regularly in the Czech Republic as well as in Germany. He performs in the Czech Republic with musicians such as Lubomír Andršt and Michal Prokop, accompanied the singer Marta Kubišová, and collaborated with jazzman Martin Kratochvíl. He also brought his Berlin friends here, especially his most frequent teammate, the American guitarist Jesse Ballard. In Berlin, known as a saxophonist capable of playing with musicians of many genres, he got the nickname “The Sensational Saxophone Joe”. In 2010, Joe Kučera’s book Leben in Balance was published about him. He is also known as the founder of the jazz festival Jazzmeeting Berlin. He was also its artistic director and currently (2019) leads the Europe Blues Train festival.