Various: The Django Festival Live at Birdland

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LABELS: Kind of Blue
ALBUM TITLE: The Django Festival Live at Birdland
WORKS: The Django Festival Live at Birdland
PERFORMER: Dorado Schmitt, Angelo Debarre, Serge Camps, Samson Schmitt (guitar); Ludovic Beier (accordian); James Carter (sax); Ken Peplowski (clarinet); Jay Leonhardt (bass); Grady Tate (drums)
The original gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt arrived in New York for his first and only visit in November 1946. Sixty years on, the sound and style he took with him is as fresh and vital as ever. This marvellous live recording captures Django’s heirs (and, in a bonus track, his son Babik) in action at New York’s famous Birdland jazz club. The performance is simply scintillating. The lead guitars of French gypsy virtuosos Schmitt and Debarre tear through hot club classics such as ‘Minor Swing’, ‘Swing Gitane’ and ‘China Boy’ with extraordinary élan. French button accordionist Ludovic Beier and American clarinettist Ken Peplowski add a swinging third dimension to the furious guitar interplay. Not everyone has a happy time of it and James Carter’s rusty and abrasive tenor sax improvisation sits a little uncomfortably with the spellbinding gypsy groove. But otherwise, this is as hot as jazz can be without the players actually spontaneously combusting.


Garry Booth.