Les Doigts de l’Homme: 1910

Those who listen to the Gypsy Jazz channel at jazzradio.com have no doubt noticed the large number of musicians and bands playing in the style at a very high level of performance. What sets the group Les Doigts de l’Homme (“The Fingers of Men”) apart from most is its technical brilliance coupled with a fresh and adventurous approach to their arrangements and improvisations. The CD “1910” (the year of Django Reinhardt’s birth) is the group’s fourth full-length release, but the first devoted exclusively to gypsy jazz. May they never stop playing in the genre.

While Olivier Kikteff is billed as the lead guitarist of the quartet, he shares solo duties with guitarist Benoit ‘Binouche’ Convert. Guitarist Yannick Alcocer and bassist Tanguy Blum ably and zestfully provide the supporting foundation. Kikteff and Convert are stunning improvisers, difficult to tell apart if not for Kikteff’s richer tone and bluesier inflections.

The group brings new life to such standards as “Blue Skies,” “Ol’ Man River,” “St James Infirmary Blues,” and “There Will Never Be Another You.” They both respect and transform the Reinhardt originals in their interpretations, thanks to the arrangements by Kikteff or Convert–“Swing 48,” “Minor Swing,” and “Appel Indirect” (better known as “Appel Direct”) have never sounded better. Kikteff’s own tunes, “1910” and ” Niglo 1 Waltz” show his distinctive flair for composition. Throw in Stéphane Chausse’s attractive clarinet on two selections for added variety of sound, and you overall have 17 accomplished tracks to savor. “1910” is Les Doights de l’Homme’s first North American release, and they should be touring here this summer–watch for them.