From the moment Swing Gitan begins, one wonders how this music, forged in the Hot Club of France seventy years ago, has ever cooled in popularity for even a moment. Recorded at the now-annual Django Reinhardt Festival, live at Birdland in 2002, the musicjangling guitars, pumping accordion, swinging violins, and wailing reedsis so energetic, exuberant, and just plain fun that it's hard to believe a revival was ever needed.
It helps, of course, when bringing the music to life are such American virtuosos as James Carter (tenor sax) and Ken Peplowski (clarinet), plus their French counterparts Ludovic Beier (accordion), Dorado Schmitt (guitar, violin), and Angelo Debarre (guitar). And it also helps when the live crowd is equally enthusiastic and seems to know what a special evening of music is unfolding before them.
The album has it all: up-tempo, rollicking numbers like "China Boy, with virtuosic clarinet and accordion solos; burning Django originals like "Stompin' at Decca and "Minor Swing ; and pages from the American songbook like "What Is This Thing Called Love, at once irreverently but convincingly refashioned.
The playing by everyone is top-notch throughout. James Carter is simply at the top of his game on this recording, by turns melodic and lyrical, growling and wailing, as on "Manoir de mes Rêves, and Angelo Debarre executes lightning runs on lead guitar. Swing Gitan is definitely no nostalgia trip. It's here and now and it's hot.
Track Listing: Swing Gitan; What Is This Thing Called Love?; New York in November; Minor Swing;
Nuages; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Manoir des mes Reves; China Boy; Stompin' at
Decca; Montagne Sainte Genevieve; Lady Be Good; Pretext.
Personnel: Ludovic Beier: accordion; Jon Burr: bass; Serge Camps: rhythm guitar; James Carter: tenor
sax; Angelo Debarre: lead guitar; Jay Leonhart: bass; Pete Malinverni: piano; Florin
Niculescu: electric violin; Ken Peplowski: clarinet; Babik Reinhardt: electric guitar on 12;
Dorado Schmitt: lead guitar and violin; Samson Schmitt: rhythm guitar; Grady Tate:
brushes; Leroy Williams: drums.