Whoa! Django!…tributed at a Festival!…with Allstars! Count me in, I'm all for it. And this swingin' collage of 15 cuts weighing in at a generous 70 minutes (damn near a two-LP configuration) is swarming with hot licks and swoony ballads. On the lead track, Swing Gitan, Ludovic Beier tears it up with a flaming accordion and, two cuts later, in Balkanic Dance, Pierre Blanchard fires up a set of violin solos that travel from Czechoslavakia to Persia to India and back again, with a side trip to Paris, dropping in on Grapelli. Beier doubles up with him, then cuts loose for a side avenue of blinding chops, so step back, folks, bliss could break out at any moment. Not sure who intrudes his guitar here—there are four guys surnamed Schmitt (a family…a dynasty!) and they ALL play lead—but, good lord!, someone get me an Alka-Seltzer so's I can calm down.
Wait. Hold that seltzer order up half a mo'. The classic Nuages just came on, and Anat Cohen's blowing a romantic sax as Dorado Schmitt pings guitar notes around him then steps out for a solo that shimmers and oscillates like waves on a breeze-blown lake. Ah yeahhhhhhh, now I'm back in the mello-tone. This disc is of course, as the title denotes, a live gig from New York at Birdland, recorded last year, and the NYPD must've been on standby alert, 'cause this 11-man small orchestra smokes on half or more of the tracks. Even the slower cuts like Valse en Evil get really liquid and atmospheric, taking the listener away to distant lands and sidewalk cafes.
Face it, Django was the Jimi Hendrix of hot jazz, and any celebration centered in his work and spirit is going to attract only the very best. Hell, if you're a musician, you can't even look at the stage if you can't work your gig with lightning precision and consummate dedication. That's been evident on every single Reinhardt tribute I've ever heard, and this stands with 'em all. I likes me some guitar and violin like they were bread and water, but this Ludovic Beier guy and his 'cordine? Holy Hannah! His flash chops are stunning, and the slow-downs bring Norton Buffalo, Toots Thielemans, and those guy's exquisite harmonicas to mind. Just too delicious, all of 'em. Everyone in this band, though, is at their best and constantly bouncing between jumpin' burndowns and sweetly melancholic balladry. And it's all in the spirit of one of the greatest guitarists to walk the planet. What more do you need to know?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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