Various Artists Django Reinhardt New York Festival Live at Birdland 2004
The producers of the annual Django Reinhardt New York Festival have followed up the superlative CD drawn from the Festival's 2002 run with a DVD from the 2004 concerts at Birdland. While the DVD leaves a bit to be desired in terms of camera work and general production quality, like its CD predecessor it spotlights Reinhardt's enduring appeal, contemporary masters keeping his flame alight and the dose of "Le Jazz Hot that the City receives yearly.
One of the hallmarks of the annual Django festival is its bringing together of virtuosos from both sides of the Atlantic. France's ever-dapper Dorado Schmitt is always the center of gravity, chomping flat-4 rhythm on his acoustic guitar or firing off rapid runs across the fret board. On the opening "Sweet Georgia Brown , a breakneck intro by Schmitt soon leads to a riveting washboard solo by David Langlois, giving way to Dan Levinson's fast and fluid clarinet solo. Mayo Hubert (rhythm guitar), Peter Beets (piano) and Brian Torff (bass, music director) complete the rhythm section.
Also like the CD before it, the DVD of the 2004 run benefits from the presence of James Carter's tenor saxophone on a few numbers, including his alternately breathy and brawny phrases on the ballad "Melodie au Crepuscule and his pointed attack on one of the signature 'gypsy jazz' numbers, Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli's up-tempo "Minor Swing .
Other notable tracks include "Indiana , a showcase for pianist Beets that makes nice use of a split screen between him and Schmitt to give viewers a view impossible in person and "Stompin' at Decca , on which Schmitt shows off his chops on violin as well as guitar. Overall though the DVD does not quite capture the excitement of the live shows and undoubtedly the best thing fans can do is to catch the Festival in person.
Personnel: Dorado Schmitt: piano; Peter Beets: guitar; Mayo Hubert and Brian Torff: bass; James Carter: saxophone; Dan Levinson: clarinet; W inard Harper: drums; David Langlois: washboard.
Production Notes: 76 minutes.