Federico Britos Presents The Hot Club of the Americas – “When Grappelli Meets Latin America” – 3 Knocks Ent.

Federico Britos Presents The Hot Club of the Americas – When Grappelli Meets Latin America – 3 Knocks Ent., 61:57 ****: 

(Federico Britos – violin; Jorge Garcia – guitar; Felix Gomez – piano; Edwin Bonilla – percussion; Renyel Rivero – bass; Carlomagno Araya – drums)

Looking through Stéphane Grappelli’s discography, one would be hard pressed to find anything resembling a Latin-themed album. Now while there are probably some Latin interpretations of tunes within Grappelli’s vast number of releases, that particular musical genre was never part of his standard repetoire. However listening to Federico Britos and the Hot Club Of The Americas bring a Latin take to those familiar Grappelli associated tunes, it seems that Grappelli might have missed an opportunity to add some spice to the pot.

Federico Britos is an Uruguayan-born violinist who presently makes Miami Florida home. Although he is a classical musician by education and training, he has an empathy for playing jazz violin, informed by the style of Stéphane Grappelli. Surrounded by a nucleus of like-minded musicians, Britos has put together an album of Latin-infused tunes, paying tribute to Grappelli and his participation with the Hot Club of France.

This adventure in rhythm begins with “The Sheik Of Araby” which perfectly suits the purpose of the set. It is arranged in such a way as to show its elasticity, by opening up the arrangement to provide both Britos and pianist Gomez space to show their dexterity. There are a number of guest artists featured on several tracks starting with Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica for the quintessential French song “J’attendrai”. Britos leads it off by establishing the theme, it is then picked up by Meurkens’ harmonica, that follows effortlessly and blends in quite seamlessly.

Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt penned “Djangology”, never imagining that one day it might be given a Latin flavour, but it works surprisingly well. Britos sets the pace with fluidity, setting up bassist Rivero for  strong arco solo. Pianist Gomez again shows his command of the keyboard with some sparkling runs. There are many numbers that are inextricably linked to the French singer Edith Piaf, but none more than “La Vie En Rose”. Here guest vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant offers both an English and French version. Given her French-speaking heritage, coupled with spending time in France studying, her French version is particularly evocative.

There are two other Grappelli/Reinhardt-associated compositions that are readily identifiable. Firstly, the more widely-known “Nuages” which has a silky but affectionate style, but fully in keeping with the theme. Britos is exemplarily on violin. “Tears” is less well-known, but nevertheless engaging with its own intensely self-assured sound. A musical treat as tasty as a caipirinha.

TrackList: The Sheik Of Araby; J’attendrai; I’m Confessin’ That I Love You; Djangology; La Vie En Rose (English version); Dark Eyes; Mélodie Au Crepuscule; Exactly Like You; Nuages; Honeysuckle Rose; Tears; La Vie En Rose (French version)

—Pierre Giroux

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