Lejazzetal: A Collision of Cultures with Jazz

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Lejazzetal reminds one sharply that this is the music that changes lives, celebrates cultural diversity and takes the biggest step in stopping racial prejudices.
There are those who might call Dave Kelbie a dreamer, wearing somewhat the John Lennon persona in "Imagine." After all he forms Lejazzetal, a London-based artist's collaborative work-in-progress that promotes live jazz, conjures up the spirit of Basin Street wherever in the world a (Lejazzetal) concert may happen to create a scene—from London and Paris to the Malay peninsula. And then again, Lejazzetal also helps raise—at every turn—the ghosts of musicians past, from Sidney Bechet and Satchmo to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli through music that is reverent and fresh as if it were created just today. Kelbie is far from a dreamer, but a musician-entrepreneur who is living the dream. He is a guitarist in the grand manner of le quintet du hot club de France and the quintessential, all-round champion of the jazz artist in residence around the globe.

With fifteen years in the bag, Kelbie has helped mold Lejazzetal into a music tour and concert promotion powerhouse, bringing the house down in venues large and small in Europe. But this is only part of the story. A three-pronged mission has driven Lejazzetal to do what it does with finesse and to unforgettable effect: first, that it brings the finest in jazz tradition to the concert stage; second, to respectfully develop audiences across the continent and now the world; and third—perhaps most important of all—to make a difference by "extending prospects for unknown artists and hopefully provide opportunities for cultural exchange."

Lejazzetal has produced almost a score of critically acclaimed records on its eponymous label. It closed 2008 with the smash hit, Django a la Creole, by the celebrated clarinetist, Evan Christopher. This is a record that is a study in gracefully developed, spectacularly fresh ideas born of the woodwinds of Bechet and George Lewis. The album also features the magnificent Sebastian Giradot on bass, Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie on guitars and celebrates the work of Django Reinhardt, Rex Stewart and other fine composers.

On Room 301 Sessions The George Washingmachine Quartet (Lejazzetal, 2007) Kelbie, Blenkhorn and Giradot are joined by the Australian violinist and funk-meister, George Washingmachine, and together the quartet—quite literally—tears up the air waves with bow, pick and strings afire, in a rousing tribute to the everyday rhythm of life. This record was made, as the title puckishly suggests, in room 301 at the Parkcity Everly Hotel "between press conferences, interviews and excursions to Cherry Berries, during the Miri International Jazz Festival, Malaysia."

It has been said that when it comes to music—especially that music played in the jazz idiom—nothing comes close to the experience of hearing it live. Being in on the making of the music, so to speak has something to do with it. Also, hold fast to the thought of the ever-evolving art of jazz as it is played and it is not hard to see why a live experience is to die for. A fine example of this is Live at Le Quecumbar, London The Angelo DeBarre Quartet featuring Christian Garrick (Lejazzetal, 2007).

This is an enduring gem of a record featuring the exquisite work of the Romany guitarist, Angelo DeBarre, together with Garrick on violin, Dave Kelbie on guitar and Andy Crowdy on bass. The genre-defining record brings to life the music that comes from a collision of the dancing Gypsy world and the kaleidoscope of jazz as experienced by DeBarre, with the dazzling, high and lonesome virtuosity of Garrick's violin, always acting as an the elegant foil to the magnificent Gypsy, an act that recalls the brotherhood that was Reinhardt and Grappelli when they played off each other.

Surprisingly, albeit a traditional setting, the music is brimful with fresh invention as if it were created on the spur of the moment, just as the tapes were rolling... just yesterday. Of course Lejazzetal features a large and expanding repertoire of music from Europe—specifically from Sarajevo and Budapest, as well as music from the wonderful Romany world of Sinti and other Gypsies from Turkey and elsewhere in the Balkans.

However, it is neither the excitement created across Europe by the tours and concerts, nor the rapidly expanding label that defines the uniqueness of Lejazzetal. What sets the collaborative apart is its mission to bring communities together through the exuberance of the unique idiom of jazz, to promote cross-cultural understanding and to create a shared live experience where performers and audience react and respond together, while interacting and benefiting from the unique expression of jazz. Lest one forgets, Lejazzetal reminds one sharply that this is the music that changes lives, celebrates cultural diversity and takes the biggest step in stopping racial prejudices.


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