Django a la Creole – First Album!
CHOSEN IN THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP 100 CDS OF 2008
In a favorable review of this CD, Alison Kerr of the Scotsman reminds us that, “CDs invoking the memory of the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and his recorded output are ten a penny.” So, to necessarily distinguish Django à la Créole from the myriad other efforts, Christopher took the advice of New Orleans piano professor Jelly-Roll Morton who said, “For jazz, you’ve got to have that Spanish Tinge.” Morton was referring to Latinate rhythms, especially the sultry Habañera, that have infused the popular musics of New Orleans from the earliest days of jazz to the present. The group strives to season well-worn repertory with rhythms from New Orleans, Cuba, Brazil, and the Caribbean. In these instances, such as the opening track DOUCE AMBIANCE, the rhythm guitar and bass work in tandem to create a bed of syncopations on which the melodies can float. For the group’s more swinging vehicles, requisite are referentiality to New Orleans or nods to the most significant early jazz innovators. For example, FAREWELL BLUES, recorded by Django with Benny Carter is a 1923 standard composed by members of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.
DINETTE, Django’s contrafact based on DINAH gets a Cha-Cha-Cha treatment with David Blenkhorn evoking the color of the Cuban Tres. Not content to simply recreate one of the jams that paired Django with the Ellingtonians, Christopher tries to imagine what the Hot Club of France might have done with I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW if they had heard the classic 1928 rendition by Jimmy Noone. A Bolero take on Django’s classic ballad MANOIR DE MES REVES uses introductory material from both his 193? and 194? versions. Rex Stewart’s LOW COTTON is only slightly embellished here. “Lowness” is emphasized by an unhurried tempo, bluesy bass solo, and Christopher’s use of the clarinet’s most profound register even below it’s usual range. Two of Django’s most famous compositions NUAGES and MELODIE AU CREPESCULE transport us to Havana then Rio De Janeiro. INSENSIBLEMENT, like a Creole lullaby, slows the pace for a bit of romance before the closer which combines two pieces, TEARS and DJANGOLOGY, into a single Mortonesque Spanish-tinged rag.
This re-working of tradition is the main goal and focus of Django à la Créole. These virtuoso musicians know that the style-specific language that anchors them in the respective traditions of their instruments must be rendered faithfully and personally before they can be reinterpreted. Anything less would be at best unimaginative repertory, or a museum piece; at worst music for nostalgia’s sake which inevitably reduces art to a parody of itself. Lastly, it should be stated that the group’s hope for this CD recording marks an attempt to return to an earlier model for jazz. Another important aspect of traditions, especially jazz, is that they do not evolve naturally in the vacuum of the musicians’ creative world. The listening audience must help to celebrate the traditions as well. Instead of a performance inviting one to purchase a CD, Christopher and company hope that this recording will serve as an invitation to experience their music the way it was intended. Live.