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Various Artists: Gypsy Swing

The 2002 Django Reinhardt Festival was not a polite, proper event. Nor did it simply feature an endless queue of guitar players showing off their Gypsy jazz chops. And both of these statements should be taken as positive attributes.

Gypsy Swing!, the premier release for the Kind of Blue label, shows that Birdland hosted a exciting event that year. European and American musicians paid homage to Reinhardt and played some of his classics with a modern-day frenzy. Bassist Jay Leonhardt and drummer Grady Tate hold down the rhythm section on nearly every track, while lead and rhythm guitars, accordions and reeds personnel varies slightly as the album proceeds. Among the highlights are guitarist Dorado Schmitt’s heartbreaking “New York in November” and “Minor Swing,” where Schmitt picks up the violin and James Carter harnesses his freewheeling tenor sax style in tandem with Ludovic Beier’s delicious accordion pumping. Ken Peplowski’s clarinet joins “China Boy,” which also showcases guitarist Angelo Debarre. The album concludes with “Pretext,” a tune written and performed by Django’s son Babik at the 2000 festival, a year before the younger guitarist passed away.

This disc could have benefited from a little more background information about the event and performers. But considering the excellent sound quality and detailed track-by-track personnel, it has plenty to offer.

Originally Published