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Pearl Django

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Biography

This popular acoustic jazz band in the Django Reinhardt style grew out of a duo playing relationship between two widely different but somehow similar guitarists. Neil Anderson had begun his professional music career as a member of the garage band the Wailers, often pointed out as an early version of what would later be thought of as a punk band. Dudley Hill didn't really like rock as a teenager, being an oddball type who was more drawn to old-time music and wound up playing with legendary Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson in the '70s. By the time the two guitarists got together in the late '80s, both were on musical journeys that would lead to the formation of an acoustic swing band, to be known as Pearl Django. At first, the two guitarists stuck to a duo act centering around blues and jazz, but with the addition of bassist David Firman, an ensemble was born. In 1995, Vancouver luthier and guitarist Michael Dunn set up a gig for the new band a few hours North in Vancouver, Canada. One of Dunn's students named Shelley Park showed up to check out the gig. At that point, she was a member of a group whose name suggests a fusion of gypsy jazz and Sun Ra, Michael's Hot Club of Mars. Park jumped off the spaceship and joined Pearl Django, the move leading to one of those sweet combinations of players that makes certain combos really sounds good to the ears. The group recorded its first album, Le Jazz Hot, in the same year, and a follow-up the next year, in which violinist Michael Gray was added to the lineup. For several years, the band enjoyed rave reviews and a steady stream of festival and club engagements.

Firman left the group in 1998 and was replaced by bassist Rick Leppanen. The new version of the band recorded the CD Mystery Pacific in 1999. In May of the same year, the band began work on a tribute to famous swing violinist Stephane Grappelli, one of their idol Django's closest cohorts. The group formed its own label, Modern Hot Records, around the time of this project's completion. In 2000, the band released its fifth CD and was featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered in 2001.

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