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Harri Stojka: A Tribute to Swing (2005)

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A Viennese gypsy jazz guitarist on the fiery side of numerous Europeans, Harri Stojka's musical great-grandfather was Django Reinhardt. He attacks tunes the way young lions did in the late 1940s, sounding a bit like the young Les Paul did when he still had a Django accent. On Charlie Shavers' "Undecided" (miscredited here to Waller) the original intricate line is preferred to the usual riffing paraphrase, and it becomes wonderfully jagged classic bop.

The opening track explodes off the deck into wild bop after a brisk, almost 1920s lead-in and finishes the same way, with the rhythm guitarist on banjo. There's a "Flight of the Bumblebee" quote in this tear-up on "Swanee River"! A riot; and the fire keeps burning on the Reinhardt tune which follows, with a more blistering and idiosyncratic delivery than the master managed on electric guitar.

"J'attendrai" has Eva Berky on violin playing very direct lines, with the banjo on its second and last appearance. (It serves the more strictly rhythmic function its brothers fill when Prague street jazzmen use it in lieu of non-portable drums. With Heimo Wiederhofer playing a snare drum with brushes the banjo plays a backbeat.)

Claudius Jelinek is the sole rhythm guitarist and occasional banjoist, and he fills in exemplary manner. Cuban bassist Ivan Ruiz Machado provides real bottom and his low notes swing things. "Avalon" races, keeping Jelinek on his toes. "Nuages" is valuable for its harmonies (Berky is back, favouring the lower register) but the rhythm is more evocative of a train than clouds.

Stojka attacks the beat, and "Petite Fleur" is impassioned rather than lyrical; so is the guitarist's own "Song for Daddy." There the sound is echoey, almost like a twelve-string, though throughout it's a 1987 Joseph di Mauro (Paris) guitar with pickup. Presumably there's an even more than usual closeness of interplay with a very active Jelinek. At one point this number almost turns into "All the Things You Are."

"Schee is' so a Ringlspü'" is Viennese oom-pah, and like "Swanee River" it could be got away with only by devoting an immensely spirited drive. It's a huge success: the bassist pumps, Jelinek drives, Wiederhofer thrashes with a splash on unlisted cymbal; and Berky wastes no notes in sharing the roaring fun with Harri the irrepressible.

Track Listing: 1. Swanee River; 2. Nuits de St. Germain-des-Pres; 3. J'attendrai; 4. Bei Mir Bist du Scheen; 5. Avalon; 6. Nuages; 7. Limehouse Blues; 8. Petite Fleur; 9. Undecided; 10. Song for My Daddy; 11. Just One of Those Things, 12. Sweet Sue; 13. Schee is' so a Ringlsp'

Personnel: Harri Stojka, electric guitar; Claudius Jelinek, rhythm guitar; Ivan Ruiz Machado, double bass; Helmo Wiederhofer, brush snare; Eva Berky, violin on 3, 6, 12, 13.

Record Label: Geco Tonwaren

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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