March 15, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Mark O'Connor's accomplishments span several genres; his compositions have been performed by classical artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Sharon Isbin, and have been choreographed by contemporary dance legends Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp. But his metamorphosis into a jazz violinist began with his discovery of swing fiddle pioneer Benny Thomasson, and continued under the tutelage of Stéphane Grappelli. Listening to this rendition of "Cherokee," it's obvious that his classical training and clear understanding of the Grappelli esthetic give him the power and depth to own this music. His authoritative lines soar effortlessly, never seeming frantic or edgy, even when playing at this breakneck tempo.
Guitarist Frank Vignola demonstrates a clear understanding and command of Djangospeak, but is as modern and deadly in his attack as Biréli, Angelo or Stochelo, his Sinti contemporaries across the pond. Even though the trio lacks a rhythm guitarist to provide a pompe platform during his solo, the playing here is so strong you don't really miss it.
My one complaint is that the track ends too soon. Still, this is a high-octane "Cherokee," all the more remarkable for being served up in a flawless live performance by a powerhouse jazz Manouche trio and a fiddler who is definitely off the roof.
January 27, 2009 · 1 commentTags: gypsy jazz
Having always been a big fan of anything Wes Montgomery, I was immediately attracted to "Four on Six" to see what these musicians could do with this fabulous swinger. I was not disappointed. As the group states the core melody line in seamless synchronicity, it is obvious that they have played together for some time. Hearing Hinckley's sober and solemn-sounding cello swing is surprisingly entertaining in a strange way. Chapman takes his turn with a guitar solo, briefly quoting from "My Favorite Things" for good measure. There is no overt show of virtuosity on display here, but rather a sincere effort to portray the music in a loving and unfettered way. It is the interacting of the whole that makes this work as a total concept, easy to listen to and ultimately enjoyable.
January 13, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
January 13, 2009 · 1 commentTags: gypsy jazz
After a solid, gutbucket intro by guest pianist Jeffrey Kahane, the Quintette settles into a swinging pompe propelling the spirited violin of Evan Price, one of the West Coast's top Gypsy jazz violinists. Guitarist Paul Mehling follows with crisp, flowing lines sounding fresh and spontaneous, reminding us why the Selmer- style acoustic guitar is such a guilty pleasure to hear. As any jazz guitarist making the stylistic transition from mainstream to jazz Manouche will tell you, this is easier to accomplish in theory than in practice.
A word of caution may be in order regarding the album as a whole: bebop enthusiasts will not find much familiar ground in this ambitious recording. But those with a sense of history will recognize the connection between modern jazz and impressionist music. In keeping with the album's theme, the addition of piano on "Vendredi 13" is a nod to Maurice Ravel. According to the Bohemian Maestro liner notes, the famed composer enjoyed listening to and occasionally sat in as pianist with Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France. Lovers of the art of jazz who approach this music with an open mind may be gratified to rediscover some valuable and sometimes forgotten roots.
January 01, 2009 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Clarinet is not a common instrument in this style of jazz performance, which is heavily tilted toward the strings. But you wouldn't know it from Evan Christopher's deliciously languorous approach to "Douce Ambience." He elicits a rich, smoky tone from his horn, and puts such a personal stamp on his melody statement that you don't even need to wait for the solos to appreciate that you are in the hands of a master stylist. But please do wait for the solos. Christopher & Co. work their taut phrases over a dark, tango-ish swing and with no wasted energy. Très douce.
November 29, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Some jazz fans still consider the Gypsy jazz movement to be a retro-nostalgia thing, much like the jitterbug craze. Likewise, there are those who, upon meeting an accordion, will instantly recall Frank De Vol playing bandleader Happy Kyne leading His Mirthmakers on that 1970s talk-show spoof, Fernwood 2Night, or "The Love Goddess" Judy Tenuta mugging with her squeezebox. If you find yourself in either camp, this recording is not for you. But you would be missing some superb music. Here we have a pairing of two virtuosic players in a seamless performance filled with warmth and passion. And, yes, the button accordion is indeed a serious jazz instrument, especially in the hands of Ludovic Beier. I would urge listening with open mind and heart.
This track is a bossa, but with a subtle difference: rather than the familiar Brazilian feel, one hears distinctive gypsy strumming in the rhythm section. The intuitive and respectful interaction between the two soloists is a perfect fit. Kruno's clean jazz Manouche technique applied to a gorgeous petite bouche acoustic guitar is like a fresh autumn breeze, while Ludovic's expressive accordion work evokes a romantic Left Bank café. I recommend serving this recording with a nice bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape or at least a decent pinot noir.
November 15, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
October 22, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
This outing has Larsen wearing several hats, as a producer, leader and writer. Already known as a thoroughly seasoned Djanogoist, Jon demonstrates much more of his extensive musical vocabulary as he turns to more straight-ahead bop musings on "Nonstop." Though he is playing a gorgeous petite bouche Selmer-style acoustic guitar built by British luthier Doug Kyle, I hear more Burrell than Bireli in his playing. The ensemble comes out of the gate swinging hard and their ideas flow…well, nonstop. Very sure-footed stepping, whatever your stylistic preferences may be.
September 01, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Stochelo Rosenberg's performance at the 2003 Django Fest in Samois was remarkable in many ways, but his flawless, precise rendition of this difficult piece was a high point of the festival and, fortunately for us, has been captured in this marvelous recording.
August 14, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Right out of the gate, you know this isn't a standard version of Jerome Kern's popular warhorse. Following a unison intro worthy of Return to Forever, a Baroque-like extrapolation of the familiar theme sets up Stochelo's high-energy, staccato solo work. While staying within a disciplined framework of 16th notes, he muscles through some of the most challenging changes in the jazz repertoire with fire and intensity. Then, just when you thought there was nothing left to say, Mozes parts the Fret Sea and lets his fingers go. Swinging just enough to lull the senses into complacency, he quickly builds to a level of volatility equal to Stochelo's pyrotechnics.
I believe it was Robin Nolan who said, "We'll never catch up to the Gypsy guitarists." This track is a prime example of why this may be a truism. It's all the things we can only hope to be, and then some.
August 04, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Chang's solid pompe lays the groundwork for the bounding, uplifting violin and guitar solos, both polished and refined examples of the resurgent Hot Club swing technique. Trigo's lush, flowing lines take flight over the crunchy, spirited rhythm, giving way to Campion's tantalizing Djangoisms, frequently popping off the strings with an air of wild abandon but never excessive or overplayed.
Campion's and Chang's playing are textbook examples of the right and proper way to approach Gypsy guitar. Jon Larsen's Hot Club Records has given us yet another stellar example of what makes this music so darn much fun for musicians and listeners alike.
August 01, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
June 10, 2008 · 0 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Five of the genre's top guitarists were chosen to record three tunes apiece on a 1946 Selmer petite bouche acoustic, model #607 (of the same linage as Selmer #503, Django's favorite guitar). Backed by the standard la pompe rhythm section of bass and two guitars, the five soloists ply their muscular chops over a range of material from traditional Django tunes to more contemporary modal jazz. Reactions to these sessions have run the gamut from whoops of astonishment to the deafening silence of amazement.
Adrien Moignard, a relatively unknown young French guitarist, clearly demonstrates what the powerful Gypsy technique can bring to a contemporary jazz jam staple, Coltrane's "Impressions." After a 4-bar rhythm intro, Adrien lays down the familiar head over the rhythm section's solid pompe before launching into a take-no-prisoners solo educing the fabled instrument's characteristic crunch and bark. With tantalizing sweeps, blistering chromatic runs and signature Gypsy enclosures, his ideas sound fresh, substantive and inspired. This kid ain't phoning it in.
May 11, 2008 · 4 commentsTags: gypsy jazz
Less than a year later, The Rosenberg Trio performed as invited guests at Stéphane Grappelli's 85th birthday party at Carnegie Hall in New York. Said Grappelli, who would later record with them for their Caravan CD, "Of all the gypsy guitar players and groups I have played with during my lifetime, the Rosenbergs are the best."