Modern Hot Records
008, 2003
artist website
Named after the opening track, a famous Reinhardt number, Pearl Django's seventh album swings harder even than its predecessors Le Jazz Hot, New Metropolitan Swing, Mystery Pacific, Souvenirs, Avalon and Under Paris Skies. Trading some of the earlier nonchalance for an artistically more substantial take on the Gipsy Jazz genre, this Pacific Northwest quintet of three guitars, violin and double bass -- with accordion and drums provided by guests David Lange and Mark Ivester -- plays tighter yet and more authentically Manouche than before. While always dedicated to the Grappelli/Reinhardt legacy as the name gives away, Pearl Django tended to focus mostly on non-Reinhardt tunes which elegantly avoided direct comparisons with the master and some of his bona fide present-day incarnations like incendiary monster virtuoso Jimmy Rosenberg.

While the generous 14 tracks of Swing 48 again sport only four Django originals -- the title's "Swing 48", "Melodie au Crépuscule", "Sweet Chorus" and "Double Scotch" -- these now stand firmly on their own 10 feet, without suggesting less sovereign versions than their famous precedents. The remainder of fetching numbers as well seem to have congealed into a level of ensemble coherence and individual chops that go beyond the previous, already very successful releases. All of the principals contribute compositions, with violinist Michael Gray's and bassist Rich Leppanen's in particular capturing that uncanny laissez-faire spirit of Paris which made a brief appearance in the Meg Ryan/Hugh Jackman parallel life/time travel caper Kate & Leopold. During their brief horse-drawn carriage interlude in the streets of New York, the soundtrack's coincident Gipsy Swing background excerpt aptly conjured the elegance and charm of a bygone era.

Unlike endless variations on a theme that eventually undermine its novelty, this seventh outing of Pearl Django in many ways suggests the opposite, a crowning touch rather than rerun. The heavy emphasis on its own original tunes explodes the overplayed core of the common Jazz Manouche repertoire, installing a clearly forward-thinking momentum that establishes a new tradition rather than melancholically holding on to the fading skirts of the original mother force. This is doubly meaningful since, unlike all the cousins since the New Orleans grand-daddy -- Chicago/Dixieland, Swing and the later progeny of Bebop, Hardbop, Cool and Free --Gipsy Swing is the only form of Jazz to have originated outside America,

That makes Pearl Django the preeminent US-based ensemble dedicated solely to this art form; though other artists like fiddler Mark O'Connor and guitarist Frank Vignola revisit it from time to time. Think of Swing 48 then as the homecoming queen. She's our own native-soil block of a French arrondissement, replete with the crammed cafés, high-priced bistros, rakish artistes and motley poets which this music suggests even to foreigners who've never set foot in Paris - which, dare I say it, includes most Americans. If you have a Jones to visit, may I suggest this very Swing 48 release as the most suitable vehicle; no curse-laden hunts for parking spaces as in a Citroën or Peugeot on one of the avenues?

Ditto for those who already love this genre but haven't crossed paths yet with Django's pearls in Seattle. Should you be seduced into feelings of instant kinship, this formation can also be booked for private events. That's a heckuva lot more convenient and readily bankrolled than carting off an entire wedding or reunion party to the Louvre. No matter how you slice it, Swing 48 will take you down a straight path to the heartland of Sinti Swing - not via Concorde to DeGaulle, but by super-sonic silver disc to the Pacific NorthWest. Who woulda thunk? Now where's my fresh baguette and Brie? Seattle's even got decent coffee...