The Django Reinhardt New York Festival, a salute to the legacy of the immortal gypsy guitarist, has been a major event on the city’s jazz calendar for 14 years. Over that time, a galaxy of jazz stars have taken the stage at Birdland to honor Reinhardt’s memory in not only playing his music, but creating new music in his spirit. Django Festival Allstars 2012: Live at Birdland is a collection of 15 tunes that combines six tunes recorded live at the club with eight recorded in a Paris studio, according to the album cover.
How you can call an album that has more than half of its material recorded in a studio in Paris Live at Birdland may bother some fans. How you can add six and eight and arrive at 15 may bother others. I can’t explain the first. The press release for the album specifically says that some of the songs the album cover credited as recorded in Paris were recorded live, for whatever that’s worth. It is also worth noting that audience reaction is included after some tracks and not after others. In the end I guess I’d go with the album cover, and chalk the “live at Birdland” title up to hyperbole. As far as the addition of a 15th track is concerned, there is no listing for track six—presumably simply an error of omission.
All this quibbling aside, there is some fine music on this album, and it is played by musicians who are indeed “allstars.” Three generations of Schmitts, grandpa Dorado, a vintage gypsy guitarist himself and son Samson are all over the album; grandsons Amati and Bronson put in an appearance as well. Pierre Blanchard sits in on violin and Ludovic Beier tears the stage up on the accordion.
Variety is the key to their musical choices. There are two Reinhardt pieces: the well-known “Nuages” which brings guest artist Anat Cohen to the stage for a soulful performance on the soprano sax and “Manior De Mes Reves” features Beier on the accordiana (a mouth accordion). Dorado takes up the violin and gets it to do some of its trademark gypsy crying in his own compositions, “Song for Etorre” and the highly emotive ballad “For Pierre.”
Differing dance rhythms are sampled in Blanchard’s “Balkanic Dance” and “Valse en Exil.” Beier’s “Pat’s Waltz” takes the genre in a swing direction. There’s even a little funk with “Bronson’s Song.” They tear the place up with their version of the standard “Them There Eyes” with some great solo work from Samson, and “Out of Nowhere” offers some fine solos from Dorado and Blanchard.
Whether it was recorded in studio, live, or both, this is an album filled with music to make you happy. This is an album you’ll want to hear.