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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live at Birdland

Three's a Crowd
Records TCR 5001



1. Swing Ghan
2. For Pierre
3. Balkanic Dance
4. Nuages
5. Valse en Exil
6. El Dorado
7. Manoir de mes Rêves
8. Out of Nowhere
9. Camping Car
10. Song for Ettore
11. Bronson's Song
12. Pat's Waltz
13. Them There Eyes
14. Melissa
15. Bossa Dorado

Dorado Schmitt - Lead guitar, violin
Samson Schmitt - Lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Ludovic Beier - Accordion, accordina
Pierre Blanchard - Violin
Francko Mehrstein - Rhythm guitar
Amati Schmitt - Lead guiutar
Bronson Schmitt - Lead guitar
Doudou Cuillerier - Rhythm guitar
Xavier Nikq - Bass
Jisoo Ok - Cello
Ana Cohen - Alto sax


I always feel a slight wave of apprehension when I see a tribute to Django Reinhardt advertised. Quite often this means one or more musicians imitating Django while acoustic guitars chug tediously in the background. Fortunately this album dispels that disquiet, because it contains enough variety to avoid sameness. As well as a varied repertoire (two jazz standards, a couple of Reinhardt compositions, and several originals), the band contains not only the usual Django-tribute instruments but also accordion and (on one track each) saxophone and cello. A piece on the internet about the recording says "The most meaningful tribute that can be paid to great jazz artists is not to simply pay homage, but to be inspired by that legacy to create new and vibrant music in that same spirit". And that is exactly what this group does.

The core of the band is the Schmitt gypsy family from France, consisting of Dorado Schmitt, his son Samson, and younger family members Bronson and Amati. The album was supposedly recorded at the 13th annual Django Festival in New York, although the sleeve confusingly says that eight of the 15 tracks were recorded at a studio in Paris. This is not the only puzzle on the sleeve: some of the soloists are listed, but not every one. And track 13 is mis-spelt as Them Their Eyes (although it is a swinging performance).

Apart from this kind of riddle, this album is a delight, with virtuosic playing especially from Dorado Schmitt and Ludovic Beier. Dorado is equally adept on guitar and violin. His violin style seems to be influenced both by Stéphane Grappelli and gypsy traditions. Ludovic's accordion adds variety to several tracks and he plays an accordina (a mouth accordion) on Manoir de mes Rêves.Anat Cohen's alto sax solo on Nuages inventively avoids straying too close to the Reinhardt tradition. Pierre Blanchard's violin solo in Valse en Exil is lyrical, with a French ambience. The only slight disappointment is Camping Car, which is attributed to Ludovic Beier but is obviously a rip-off of Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington's Caravan. Give credit where it's due.

Tony Augarde 

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