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Martin Taylor’s Spirit of Django: Gypsy

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A few years back, guitarist Martin Taylor (a longtime sideman to Stephane Grappelli) recorded a faithful, if slightly modernized, tribute to his idol, Gypsy guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt. That admirable studio effort was brimming with all the requisite fire, finesse and schmaltz that one would expect from a Django tribute. This follow-up is a live document culled from a 33-date tour of Britain in 1996 with Taylor’s six-piece group, Spirit of Django.

Taylor plays strictly acoustic guitar throughout, frequently showing flashes of Reinhardt’s brilliance, particularly on the opening “Gypsy Medley,” a buoyantly swinging “Chicago” and jaunty readings of vintage Swing Era fare like “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” and “Sweet Sue Just You.” The guitarist is featured in an unaccompanied role on Reinhardt’s melancholy ballad “Tears” and on his own introspective “Dreaming of You,” but reserves his tenderest moments for Django’s most oft-recorded composition, “Nuages,” rendered here as a seductive bossa nova.

Jack Emblow’s accordion adds to the gypsy schmaltz factor on Taylor originals like “Chez Fernand,” “Kushti” and “Musette for a Magpie.” And saxophonist Dave O’Higgins gets plenty of room to blow on Taylor’s swinging closer, “Squid Kid,” even throwing in a quote from “Rhythm-a-ning” along the way.

A solid, spirited offering that should appeal to both Djangophiles and novices.