Les Doigts de l’Homme – 1910 – Alma Records ACD61412, 1 hour *****:
(Olivier Kikteff, Yannick Alcocer & Benoit ‘Binouche’ Convert, guitars; Tanguy Blum, doublebass; guests: Adrien Mognard, guitar (tr. 5) & Stephane Chausse, clarinet (tr. 8 & 12))
Claude Tissendier – Django’s Dream – Le Chant du Monde 274 2021 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
(Claude Tissendier, clarinet & arrangements; Romain Brizemur & Luc Desroy, guitars; André Bonnin, doublebass)
What a couple of great additions to the constantly growing community of small jazz groups carrying on the unique style established by the great Django Reinhardt! Both of these new recording groups share the approach of not slavishly imitating Django’s sound but retaining its excitement and passion while introducing some of their own musical ideas and influences. (If you missed our big feature on gypsy jazz, it’s Right Here.)
Les Doigts de l’Homme are based in Canada but on a current U.S. tour. Last month they cut it up at the Mill Valley, CA, Django Fest. They began as a trio, busking on the street, and in 2004 their fresh and energetic sound got them a successful 70-concert tour of France. The group expanded to a quartet in 2008; like most of the new gypsy jazz ensembles, they are not gypsy musicians, but their passion for the style is obvious in their terrific playing. This is their fourth full-length CD, and though its title of 1910 may a long ways before the ascendency of gypsy jazz, it was chosen due to that being the birthdate of Django Reinhardt.
Five of the tunes here are by Django. The band mentions in the note booklet that he was influenced by the various musical cultures that became evident during his time. They included New Orleans jazz, swing, French accordion music and even pop music from the U.S. Les Doigts de l’Homme have added to such influences their own more recent takes on funk, fusion and rock – all contributing to a bubbling energy level that makes a few other Django recreationists sound a bit staid and boring.
TrackList: Blue Skies, Ol’ Man River, Niglo 1 Waltz, Appel indirect, Féérie, Indifférence, Blu lou, Russian Melody, Improvisation No. 2, Swing /48, There will never be another you, Minor Swing, Improsture No. 1
Claude Tissendier is a French clarinetist who in this album reminds us of the important addition which Hubert Rostaing had made to many of Reinhardt’s bands with his clarinet virtuosity. Just as the instrument contributed greatly to klezmer musical culture, it also has frequently had an important position in the gypsy jazz world. Although Django’s work with Stéphane Grappelli on violin was central to his quintet’s sound, he scored some of his greatest successes during the years when the other lead player was clarinetist Rostaing. He had come on the scene in October 1940 and then replaced Grappelli in the Hot Club, who had gone to England for the duration of the war.
Tissendier plays with three much younger musicians here, in a program of a dozen tracks which are all original Reinhardt compositions. Five of the tracks belong to the Grappelli era of the Hot Club and seven to the Rostaing period. The album’s title tune is the penultimate track on the CD – Django’s own re-doing of Debussy’s Reverie. There is one difference between the Hot Club clarinet version and that of Tissendier’s. In addition to replacing Grappelli on violin with Rostaing’s clarinet, Reinhardt also replaced the second guitarist with a drummer. The result was quite a different sound that offered a bit more variety than the all-string previous aggregation. However, Tissendier’s ensemble is two guitars and a bass, without the drums. Altogether it’s an excellent reminder of the special place the clarinet has historically played in gypsy jazz.
TrackList: Djangologie, Belleville, Crépuscule, Douce ambiance, Nuages, Place de Brouckere, Sweet chorus, Swingtime in Springtime, Oriental Shuffle, Swing ’39, Django’s Dream (Debussy: Reverie), Minor Swing.
— John Henry