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Evan Christopher: Django a la Creole

Gina Vodegel By

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For clarinetist Evan Christopher, Django a la Creole is the result of a forced journey from his home in New Orleans. In what might be seen as a positive aftermath of the Katrina disaster in 2005, Christopher temporarily relocated to Paris, focusing his actions on raising awareness for the musical culture that had put New Orleans on the map rather than that of Katrina. His "Django a la Creole" project debuted in August 2007 with concerts in Great Britain and Norway. The album was recorded in December, just before Christopher—who had been commuting to the United States since February 2007—moved back to New Orleans, and was proudly released at the 25th anniversary of the French Quarter Festival.

Accompanied by three most eminent gypsy jazz ambassadors, Django a la Creole is not only an homage to the musical identity and legacy of New Orleans, but a weaving in of patterns celebrating the collaboration of Django Reinhardt with musicians like Frank Goudie, Rex Stewart, Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard and Hubert Rostaing. Christopher also adds distinct, warm Latin American- Caribbean-Spanish moods and sounds, bringing new angles to the six classic Reinhardt compositions found among the album's ten compositions.

It's like being presented a case of fine Cuban cigars where each has its own scent and recipe, making it impossible to pick the one that appeals the most. The Reinhardt tracks—from the opener "Douce Ambience" to "Dinette," "Manoir De Mes Reves," "Nuages," "Melodie Au Crepescule" and "Tears/Djangology"—each breathe their own rhythm without losing the master's original signature. The charm of "Manoir De Mes Reves" resonates through guitarist Dave Blenkhorn's gentle yet decisive touch and Christopher's lush vibrato. Blenkhorn originally hails from Australia, but moved to the UK in 2005. His chemistry with guitarist Dave Kelbie and bassist Sebastien Girardot (also from Australia) prove to hold the right sort of energy needed to make Christopher's clarinet sing, slide and sigh with ease on Rex Stewart's "Low Cotton."



Christopher almost turns the saxophone into a superfluous piece of metal junk on Reinhardt's "Melodie Au Crepescule" and the slow but intoxicating "Insensiblement," written by Paul Misraki. The range and sound of these tunes matches so closely to the saxophone that almost any reed player could deliver the melodies. Still, Christopher's mastery of his instrument—knowing that a clarinet is tougher to handle than a saxophone— promptly emphasizes the skill required to produce such intricate sounds. Both Blenkhorn and Christopher showcase their technique and intuitive approach, whilst Kelbie and Girardot offer balance where needed, allowing Girardot a rare moment in the spotlight on "Low Cotton."

"Farewell Blues" is extremely powerful in a colorful palette of classic, nuanced swing. "I Know That You Know" is another tune carrying a passionate torch for the Hot Club de France sound. If any comparison arises after having experienced the musical joy of these four musicians, it's the round, full, deep and lyrical tones of Christopher that might crown him the Stan Getz of the clarinet.


Track Listing: Douce Ambience; Farewell Blues; Dinette; I Know That You Know; Manoir De Mes Reves; Low Cotton; Nuages; Melodie Au Crepescule; Insensiblement; Tears/Djangology.

Personnel: Evan Christopher: clarinets; Dave Blenkhorn: guitar; Dave Kelbie: rhythm guitar; Sebastien Girardot: double-bass.

Title: Django a la Creole | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Lejazzetal Records

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