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Ismael Reinhardt: Gypsy Swing (2005)

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Ismael Reinhardt: Gypsy Swing How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Gypsy Swing is a thoroughly delightful album that features the violin and guitar virtuosity of Ismael Reinhardt, a relative of the legendary Django Reinhardt. Building on the legacy of Django and Stephane Grappelli's Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, Ismael Reinhardt takes the basic structure of gypsy jazz (or jazz manouche) and embellishes it with a bop harmonic vocabulary.

The chestnuts of gypsy jazz are here—"Autumn Leaves," "It Had to Be You," and "Sweet Georgia Brown," among others—and they are played with am infectious joie de vive and aplomb. If you can listen to this album without tapping your toes, you are probably dead. But what is even more remarkable is how Reinhardt and his colleagues have adapted the "hot" style to more modern works. Take, for instance, Sonny Rollins' "Pent-up House," performed here at breakneck speed and with all the harmonic assurance of a Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. The ensemble is also extremely tight; witness the flawless unison work between violin and guitar.

Another interesting arrangement is "Fly Me to the Moon," which is performed as a bossa nova. It is remarkable how the gypsy style is so compatible with so many disparate styles of jazz, but then considering the peripatetic nature of gypsy culture, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that the music would be so adapatable.

The Haven Gillespie/Victor Young standard "Beautiful Love" is a real treat, performed at a medium tempo and displaying Reinhardt's violin improvisatory skills at their post-boppish finest. My only cavil with the album is the paucity of liner notes, which makes it impossible to tell whether or not Reinhardt is soloing on guitar. Because of this shortcoming, it's almost impossible to compare Reinhardt's guitar skills with his violin playing.

A final note of praise must be given to bassist Jean-Luc Miotti, who has an impeccable beat and must do double duty in this drum-less ensemble. He is afforded one nice solo opportunity in "There Is No Greater Love," which merely whets the appetite for more.

This album is an example of classic jazz: it's aware of its roots but pushes forward into new areas of exploration; it's enduring and improves with repeated listenings. Jazz violin is making a comeback of sorts, and Ismael Reinhardt must certainly be included among the best of the young generation of fiddlers—he's certainly a credit to his illustrious family.

Track Listing: Shine; Minor Swing; Autumn Leaves; Fly Me to the Moon; Fascinating Rhythm; It Had to Be You; There Is No Greater Love; Sweet Georgia Brown; Beautiful Love; My One and Only Love; Night and Day; Pent-Up House; Tears.

Personnel: Ismael Reinhardt: violin and guitar; Guggeli Wagner: rhythm guitar; Jean Luc Miotti: bass; Thomas Kennel: guitar.

Record Label: ARC Music

Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


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