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Django Brasil

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Album Review

Now here's an interesting experiment: take classic melodies by Django Reinhardt, the king of Gypsy jazz ("Nuages," "Minor Swing," "Manoir de Mes Rêves," etc.) and recast them as sambas and bossa novas with an accordion taking the lead. It's certainly not a terrible idea, but a project like this faces a very serious hurdle: the rather defensive liner notes notwithstanding, Reinhardt's music was in fact built on a driving, foursquare rhythmic architecture that could hardly be further removed from the lightly dancing rhythmic patterns of Brazilian jazz. Where bossa nova skips around the beat, implying the downbeats more than stating them, Reinhardt's music was driven by chopping on-the-beat rhythm guitars, sometimes as many as three of them at a time, and that sound is foundational. Take away the rhythm guitars and put Reinhardt's melodies into a Brazilian rhythmic context and what comes out sounds like very nice Brazilian jazz. Make no mistake, this is top-notch Brazilian jazz — and hints of the Hot Club do peek through, especially in the guitar solos of Samson Schmitt (who shines particularly on the bouncy "Daphné"). Leader Ludovic Beier is a wonderful accordionist, and his every solo is a joy to hear — though his vocalese is not, and it's especially intrusive on "Manoir de Mes Rêves" and "Vamp." But "Django's Tiger" is gorgeous, and "Brasil" closes things out with delightful good humor. This album may not be a great way to get a Django fix, but it's certainly enjoyable on its own terms.

Django Brasil, Ludovic Beier
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