Manouche was once a derogatory term used to describe the local Romany population in France; it has since been expropriated by the hot jazz community and associated with the definitive works of Django Reinhardt, one of the greatest and most confounding deities among the jazz god pantheon.
Along with Stephane Grapelli and others, they formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France and set a new course in the voyages of J-world explorers between the States and Europe. Many of the grandest and most loved tunes in the world were birthed in this idiom. Many pieces in this style take a slow and sweet step; others take a scattered and erratic pace.
The artists over the weekend contrasted and varied wildly in all manners, with one exception; searing guitar lines and beautifully crafted harmony, great dynamic and control, great blending and communication. Everyone. Really. It was all of the highest quality and execution. Every damn act.
From the cool and cavorting Spyglass Gypsies, to the mellow and swollen lines from Lollo Meier and company, The Date Brothers across to Mal ver le Bop, each act had the improvisationites tugging their beards and nodding in appreciation. The Date Brothers have a wistful and winsome duet style with an erratic blend of solo and long runs that can be quite startling and striking to the ear, as it seems to sweep through and past before it really registers. Many fine examples of coloratura and syncopated tremolo.
The morose and slightly manic tones of Monsieur Swing bring a softer and more tepid blend to the weekend. Stately and stern, this group dip into the well of soulful and less buoyant gypsy jazz as they turn out their wonderful and heartfelt performance.
Drawing us along the evolution in his journey, Lollo Meier has woven the heart and variety of many threads to his playing, keeping to the truly casual and technically purist sides of the style, with dedication to the manner of Reinhardt’s playing, which he has studied and blended with his own, to form a super-manouche style that sweeps and sizzles through melodic and modal runs and voicing that really encapsulate the chordal techniques in manouche. In concert with the amazing Daniel Weltlinger, Grapelli devotee himself, the pieces on offer were audacious and totally inspiring as they switched and clashed in a gritty, yet very smooth and measured way, inherent to the flamenco style which Meier has been delving into of late.
Ewan Mackenzie and Kay Sullivan of Paris Dreaming delivered their sweeter café-style thread, showing support and a lovely contrast to the beautiful fiddle-work of Fiona Pears who has a style that melds the classical rigidity of technique and musicianship with the freedom and looser emotion of jazz and a mild dab of …pop (sorry Fiona). Her melodic and harmonic countenance is something to really appreciate as she takes a piece apart and redraws the themes through her hands into reprise-which-is-no-reprise. Great control and depth.
The Furbelows, with a tongue-in-cheek swing-ish style, let the piece roll along and let each add to it, seemingly as they will. The group has a marvellous hold of each other, cue-wise, with a ripe and ready energy that grasps the attention and a line-up that has a slinging good vibe to their work, with a modality and uniformity of movement to the vocal and contrabass/ guitar discourse. The chorus line was sweet and very entertaining, with personality and colour stuffed in every piece.
Mar ver le Bop set a quirkier pace with their resonator and lap-steel take, searching all corners of their phase-space, with their unique and flighty solos. The Cameron Ford Trio are a local mainstay and have been peddling their take on the gypsy jazz thing for many years; with refined skill and style, they are one of Brisbane best jazz groups.
This was one of the more enjoyable series of the last year and it will be hard to top; unless there are developments in cloning I’m unaware of. More fabbo stuff from the BJC.