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Gypsy Knights: Les Grandes Figures Du Jazz Manouche/Loutcha

Suzanne Lorge By

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Various Artists
Gypsy Knights
Le Chant Du Monde

Tchavolo Schmitt
Le Chant Du Monde

Jazz manouche, or "traveler jazz, melds elements of traditional Roma (gypsy) music with early swing; this impassioned, rousing music relies mostly on the percussive playing of stringed instruments like the guitar and violin, sans drums. The uncontested master of the art form remains Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt, who joined with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli in the 1930s to form the all-string Quintette de Hot Club de France, thus introducing jazz manouche to the world. Occasionally a jazz manouche band will use a horn player—American jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins played with Django when they toured Europe, and Django shared the bill with Duke Ellington's big band at Carnegie Hall in the 1940s. Such trans-Atlantic exchanges brought Django's musical leverage to the U.S.; American guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to Willie Nelson have cited Django's playing as a formative influence.

Paris-based record company Le Chant du Monde, which specializes in world music, offers two new releases that celebrate the legacy of Django Reinhardt: Gypsy Knights: Les Grandes Figures du Jazz Manouche and guitarist Tchavalo Schmitt's Loutcha. The first, Gypsy Knights, is a compilation of songs by the greats among Django's disciples and includes three performances by the master himself. The CD explores the full range of jazz manouche expression, from Django and Grappelli on the classic "Djangology, to the moody tango "Davïdo of guitarist Mandino Reinhardt (Django's cousin), to the contemporary swing sound of guitarist Dorado Schmitt's "Balladorado, one of only two ballads on the disc. The CD isn't limited to gypsy guitar: Florin Niculescu turns out a formidable "Lady Is A Tramp on the violin and accordionists Marcel Loeffler and David Rivière evoke a jazz-age musette on "Pont de Venise and "A Saint Ouen, respectively. Rivière also performs with the well-known manouche group Les Pommes de Ma Douche on the blues tune "Saint Pierre Blues and the spry "Fleure Bleue. Also of note: appearances by celebrated gypsy guitarists Angelo Debarre and Biréli Lagrène.

On his 2005 release, Loutcha, guitarist Tchavalo Schmitt makes a bid for the title of Django's most ardent devotee. Schmitt's originals, "Antsela and "Pour Flavio, are infectious, moving vamps across a vast musical terrain; his chromatic solos race ahead and beg the listener to follow. Violinist Costel Nitescu matches Schmitt's gait stride for stride; his virtuosity is especially keen on "Them Their Eyes and "Cheek to Cheek. After a few moments of Schmitt's picking and Nitescu's fingerings one wonders, Can human fingers really move that fast? The duo, backed by Mayo Hubert and Martin Limberger on rhythm guitar and Claudius Dupont on contrabass, recreate some of Django-Grappelli's finer moments on "Stomping At Decca ; on his third original on the disc, "Valse à Dora, the group barely seems to breathe, so breakneck is Schmitt's tempo. Faster isn't always better, but in this case the argument for it is a strong one.

Tracks and Personnel

Gypsy Knights

Tracks: Djangologie; Antsela; Entre Amis; B.L.; Choukar Gaïga; Sinti Rhapsodie; Lady Is A Tramp; Pont de Venise; Saint Pierre Blues; Swing 42; Valse à Dora; Come Into My Swing, Bireli Hi Gogoro, Davïdo; Balladorado, Romantique Voyage; Fleur Bleue; A Saint Ouen; Valse à Tchavolo; Blues Clair.

Personnel: Django Reinhardt: guitar; Tchavolo Schmitt: guitar; Angelo Debarre: guitar; Ludovic Beier: accordian; Biréli Lagrène: guitar; Mandino Reinhardt: guitar; Dorado Schmitt: guitar; Pierre Blanchard: violin; Florin Niculescu: violin; Marcel Loeffler: accordian; Dominique Rouquier: guitar; Pierre Delaveau: guitar; Laurent Delaveau: contrabasse; David Rivière: accordian; Lauren Zeller: violin; Raphaël Fays: guitar.


Tracks: Some Of These Days; Antsela; Pour Flavio; Them There Eyes; Le Soir; Stomping At Decca; Cheek To Cheek; Valse à Dora; Que reste-t-il de nos amours?; What A Difference A Day Makes; Ménilmontant; Chez Jacquet; Roses of Picardy; Sweet Sue, Just You.

Personnel: Tchavolo Schmitt: guitar; Costel Nitescu: violin; Mayo Hubert: rhythm guitar; Martin Limberger: rhythm guitar; Claudius Dupont: contrabass.


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