All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

4

The Django Festival All-Stars: Attitude Manouche

Chris Mosey By

Sign in to view read count
It is a little known fact that Django Reinhardt was not only an incredible guitarist, he was also extremely good at stealing chickens. For the manouche clan of gypsies to which he belonged, this was a noble skill. He was saved from life as a chicken thief only when given a banjo-guitar at age 12. He became obsessed with the instrument, learning by mimicking the fingerings of established musicians, such as his uncle Guiligou. By the time he was 15 he was earning a living playing it and his chicken-stealing days were over.

British bandleader Jack Hylton offered Reinhardt a job but before he could start, the caravan in which he lived caught fire. Reinhardt's left hand was badly burned and doctors discussed amputating one of his legs. A horrified Reinhardt refused surgery and discharged himself from hospital. Within a year he could walk with the aid of a stick and had developed techniques for playing guitar with his crippled hand.

Having regained his fluency, he teamed up with violinist Stéphane Grapelli and in 1934 the duo formed the basis of the legendary Quintet Of The Hot Club of France, creating what is now known as manouche jazz, which is played mainly on stringed instruments. Today manouche is played all over the world mostly by devoted fans intent on the faithful reproduction of numbers from Reinhardt's repertoire.

The All-Stars of the Django Festival at Birdland, in New York City, dare to be different, not content to merely regurgitate songs such as "Minor Swing" and "Sweet Sue, Just You." All the numbers here are originals save one and that is the less-than-familiar theme from the movie "Schindler's List."

The music the All Stars play is fast and mostly light-hearted, though by no means easy. Lead guitarist Samson Schmitt, plays a Maccaferri guitar, like the one favoured by Reinhardt. Violinist Pierre Blanchard takes the role played by Stéphane Grapelli.

The title number, "Attitude Manouche," written by Schmitt, is reminiscent in places of "Them There Eyes," a number Reinhardt recorded in 1938. It moves along at a fair clip, with some fine fiddling by Blanchard.

Blanchard's ballad "Troublant Romeo," features an excellent solo from Schmitt then gets a little lost melodically before its author brings it all back together for the finale.

"Late Train," by Ludovic Beier, is the stand-out track, with excellent solos from all concerned.

Schmitt's "Lovely Wife" is a dreamy, romantic ballad, which -just as you expect it to wind down -is revived with a tasteful, understated solo from its creator. By now, Django is long ago and far away and the proceedings are verging on present day schmaltz.

The quirky, light-hearted "Laugh With Charlie" puts things back on track before Blanchard's rhapsodic "Balkanic Dance" again threatens derailment.

The closer, "Viens Chez Django" features an unsuccessful vocal by its author, Philippe Cuillerier, that is not helped by his own infantile lyric—a shame it was included. Apart from this, there is much devoted manouche fans will find appealing. Non-devotees may be put off by the strings-only formula and Blanchard's rhapsodic fiddle playing.

Track Listing: Attitude Manouche; Troublant Romeo; Late Train; Lovely Wife; Laugh With Charlie; Balkanic Dance; Around Toots; Nocturne; Schindler’s List – Main Theme; Tsigane Fantasy; Viens Chez Django.

Personnel: Samson Schmitt: lead guitar; Pierre Blanchard: violin; Ludovic Beier: accordion; Philippe Cuillerier: rhythm guitar, vocal; Antonio Licusati: bass.

Title: Attitude Manouche | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Resilience Music Alliance

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Contemporary Chaos Practices CD/LP/Track Review
Contemporary Chaos Practices
by Don Phipps
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Changed Beings CD/LP/Track Review
Changed Beings
by Chris May
Published: November 16, 2018
Read We Must Mustn't We CD/LP/Track Review
We Must Mustn't We
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One That Is You. CD/LP/Track Review
Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One...
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Always Forward CD/LP/Track Review
Always Forward
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "We Call All Times Soon" CD/LP/Track Review We Call All Times Soon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 2, 2018
Read "Live @ Savanna Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Live @ Savanna Jazz
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 29, 2018
Read "Reflections 2" CD/LP/Track Review Reflections 2
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 26, 2018
Read "Raíces" CD/LP/Track Review Raíces
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2018
Read "Dreams of Belonging" CD/LP/Track Review Dreams of Belonging
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Philip Glass – Piano Works" CD/LP/Track Review Philip Glass – Piano Works
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 5, 2018