An up to date version of gypsy jazz
The Django Festival AllStars – Attitude Manouche – Resilience Music Alliance 54:18****:
(Samson Schmitt – lead guitar; Pierre Blanchard – violin, string arrangements; Ludovic Beier – accordion, accordina; Philippe “Doudou”Cuilerier – rhythm guitar, vocals; Antonio Licusati – double bass)
In the book Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz by Michael Dregni, we learn that Reinhardt was a “Manouche Gypsy” from the Romani gypsy’s of Eastern Europe. During the height of his popularity in the 1930s and 1940s in the jazz world of Paris, gypsy jazz was considered a pariah well outside the mainstream of what was regarded as jazz during that time period. That this style of music has survived and to some extent thrived, is due in no small measure to groups like The Django Festival AllStars and is exemplified by their latest release Attitude Manouche.
In this frothy session of gypsy-styled music, ten of the compositions are by band members, with only one from another source and that is John Williams Main Theme from “Schindler’s List”. Their treatment of the number is in keeping with the gravity of the Stephen Spielberg film and is wonderfully evocative with starkly delineated passages.
The title track “Attitude Manouche” gives full meaning to the style of gypsy-music as it is filled with hot and rich sounds as each of the main players shows off the command of their instruments as they swoop and dive through their solos. “Troublant Romeo” is a change of pace as it has an easy swinging tango flow. Guitarist Schmitt, violinist Blanchard, and accordionist Beier rattle off their solos with splendidly configured flair.
The Django Festival AllStars is modelled after the famous Quintette Du Hot Club De France , which during its heyday in the 1930s and 40s was mostly an all string based ensemble with Django Reinhardt on lead guitar, Stephane Grappelli on violin, bassist Louis Vola, and rhythm guitarists Joseph Reinhardt (Django’s brother) and Roger Chaput. Although Reinhardt was a prodigious composer, none of his compositions are represented in this session, as the band has chosen to use their own material, which is very much in the Django mode.
“Around Toots” by accordionist Ludovic Beier is a tip of the hat to the late Belgian harmonica player and guitarist Toots Thielemans who was inspired by Django to take up the guitar in the 1940s. The number is filled with energy and purpose and requiring quick instincts by the front line players as they push the number along at a torrid pace. Another number by Beier along the same lines is “Tsigane (Gypsy) Fantasy” which dashes along in blistering style with the principals tearing into their instruments.
The album closes with “Viens Chez Django” (Come to Django’s Place) which features a vocal by Philippe “Doudou” Cuilerier, some of which is done in the French version of scat singing. It exudes the atmosphere of a cellar Parisian bar, filled with beret wearing men, smoking Gitanes and drinking pastis.
Attitude Manouche; Troublant Romeo; Late Train; Lovely Wife; Laugh With Charlie; Balkanic Dance; Around Toots; Nocturne; Schindler’s List-Main Theme; Tsigane Fantasy; Viens Chez Django