Modern Hot Records, 2002, MHR0006, artist website
The Pacific Northwest-based American Gipsy Swing formation Pearl Django pays tribute to the genre's originator not only by name. Their record label is Modern Hot Records, another graceful bow to the original Hot Club of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Under Paris Skies even appropriates the original locale to conjure up a present-day bohemian Manouche/Sinti setting of musical French outdoor cafes and bistros where this type of ensemble - lead guitar, rhythm guitar, double bass, violin, sometimes accordion or clarinet -- still keeps the flame alive.

While not of the ungodly virtuoso caliber of a Jimmy Rosenberg, Romane, Stochelo Rosenberg, Angelo Debarre, Frank Vignola or Fapy Lafertin, Neil Andersson's lead guitar is firmly planted in this at times snazzy, at times wistfully romantic milieu. Bolstered by seven original compositions and 9 others -- only two of which are Reinhardt/Grappelli tunes -- the group wisely concentrates on lighthearted charm that doesn't require diabolical chops to make this album a wonderfully evocative mood setter. Even the novice will peg the proper scene in an instant.

If Paris is the city of love, then Pearl Django's music is its flirtatious accompaniment. Shimmying and bopping along on the jauntily swinging shrum-shrum of Dudley Hill's Gibson L-5 and Rick Leppanen's solid bass lines, the amiable feel-good riff trading between solo guitar and Michael Gray's violin has that laissez-faire, lazy-cool sophistication foreigners go to Paris for to catch and cultivate. Michael's thick-throated fiddle sashays along with minimal effort on the bow, like an old Cuban son dancer barely shuffling his feet yet floating with tireless elegance.

The tender, sophisticated valse musette vibe grows even stronger when David Lange adds his accordion to four tunes. Our parallel review subject Django Reinhardt NY Festival: Live at Birdland transforms this everyday danceable down-home gestalt into an athletic event of Olympian proportions. Skies is music to be enjoyed while sipping a moccachino, playing chess, reading the paper, rapping with friends - in other words, it doesn't mandate the exclusive single-minded attention a jockey atop a fickle high-spirited Arabian racehorse musters to stay his course. Live turns this same music into a concertizing Jazz Gala event during which everyone's attention remains riveted on the headline stars, talking, eating and carousing left for afterwards.

At the end of the day, which one you'll listen to more depends. Is music a serious and solitary affair for you that's indulged behind closed doors with a sign that warns "don't disturb"? Or is it a communal event with open doors and people milling about? If the latter's your poison -- or you have just such an informal get-together planned and need the proper tunes to unthaw the atmosphere, see shoulders drop, necks loosen, smiles crack -- then Under Paris Skies is your ticket. Visit the charming outdoor night life of the most famous capital in the world without ever leaving home.

Now excuse me while I cue up this disc again and check into my flight without any of the usual baggage. I'll send you a postcard...