The Spirit of Django

A number of front-rank European and American jazz artists united at Lincoln Center for the annual salute to the memory of Django Reinhardt, the legendary Belgian Gypsy guitarist who died in 1953.

With:
Performers: Stochelo Rosenberg, Dorado Schmitt, Roby Lakatos, Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier, Brian Torff, Joe Lovano.

A number of front-rank European and American jazz artists united at Lincoln Center for the annual salute to the memory of Django Reinhardt, the legendary Belgian Gypsy guitarist who died in 1953. The drive and rhythmic thrust of Reinhardt’s unique approach was re-created in the zesty performance of Dorado Schmitt, who rendered classic highlights from the vast and varied Django repertoire. Playing with appropriate fervor, the guitarist — also a Gypsy from the Lorraine region of France — lost little time in creating the wonderfully earthy colors of the Django legacy. His attack was fueled with fat chords, dazzling single-line thoughts and a buoyantly firm pulse.

Schmitt’s aptly titled composition “Sad and Beautiful” was just that, a lithely ardent and melodically richly textured ballad. Sound support emanated from Dorado’s son, Samson, on rhythm guitar and the consistently well-ordered bass lines of Brian Torff.

Dutch guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg — leader of the Rosenberg Trio — joined the group to form a triple-threat union. Less aggressive than Dorado, Rosenberg’s sound is generously full and his solos wonderfully passionate.

Hungarian violinist Roby Lakatos took the role once dominated by the late Stephane Grappelli, Reinhardt’s partner in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Playing Reinhardt’s classic comp “Nuages,” the fiddler took the piece from its supremely melodic structure to a hard-swinging plateau. He also went beyond the formidable Grappelli style, with the flamboyant ornamentation of Gypsy roots and classical influence. His playing boasted pure rococo flourish.

Guest Joe Lovano’s burly tenor sax participation was characteristically vital and bold, adding a swelling kind of uncloyed emphasis and imagination to such standards as “What Is This Called for Love?” and “How High the Moon.”

Dorado’s plaintive guitar coupled with Lovano’s gritty solo on “Body and Soul” summoned memories of the brief 1937 Django collaboration with Coleman Hawkins. “Body and Soul’s” dark romanticism fit snugly into the swing fest.

The Spirit of Django

Alice Tully Hall; 1,096 capacity; $57

Production: Presented by the Grand Mariner Foundation. Reviewed July 22, 2004.

Cast: Performers: Stochelo Rosenberg, Dorado Schmitt, Roby Lakatos, Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier, Brian Torff, Joe Lovano.

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