with Mollie Malone
Alliance Française of Boston (FAB)
Django Reinhardt Centennial
January 23, 2010
by Peter Gerler
The seed of Gypsy
jazz came down in caravans of Romany moving through European
backwoods, from the outskirts of one town to another, a sort of
wandering nation. Originally mercenary warriors and later branded as
outcasts, they carried with them their language, handicrafts--and
everywhere, their music.
From the French musette (bagpipe) and
Italian accordion traditions, this developed into an unleashed folk
music played mostly by ear- and finger-schooled musicians. Like the
"Nashville Cats, playin' since they'se babies," these artists could,
with symphonic precision, leap through intricate harmonic changes and
jazz rhythms on guitars and violins to produce a swing-based romp that
got people dancing in the fields.
On January 23, the
Alliance Française of Boston (FAB) honored the centennial
birthday of the Gypsy guitar virtuoso and auteur Jean "Django"
Reinhardt. A manouche from the caravans circling pre-WWI Paris,
Reinhardt created a sound fusing the romance of rough neighborhood dance halls
with the tempest of American ragtime. His technique, revealed in his
1930s recordings with the Quintette du Hot Club de France (QHCF),
was especially notable since, after suffering left-hand paralysis in a
caravan fire, he lost the use of two fingers. Yet today, few guitarists
with their fingers intact can duplicate Reinhardt's prodigious method.
One local group that makes a viable attempt is the talented Sinti
Rhythm—the centerpiece of the FAB event. The quartet—Jack Soref
and Rob Saunders, guitars; Andy Moore, clarinet; and Mike Ball,
bass—has held a three-year monthly
residency at Atwood's Tavern in Cambridge. They have appeared at
Toad, the Cantab Lounge, Sherborn Inn, the Stork Club, Novartis, and
other Boston-area venues.
On this night they brightened their sound
with the flirty vocals of Mollie Malone.
It's a hundred years from the music
played by goatherds and boilermakers at dances for factory workers
carrying brass knuckles, to the wainscoted, boiseried
walls of the Boston French Library on Marlborough Street. But art
persists. Even though Django arrived into a scraping, illiterate
sub-culture (as did Louis Armstrong, Edith Piaf, and other greats)
his birth, as Andy Moore noted in his opening FAB presentation, was
"a signal event." The standing-room house this night agreed.
True to form, Sinti Rhythm's two 1-hour
sets gave up both Django/gypsy originals and American swing
standards. Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose connected into a
groove from the drop of the hat. In his opening clarinet solo, Andy
Moore delivered a jubilant sound, then fell into a neat swing
obbligato under Rob Saunders' guitar lead.
In the compelling Ukrainian ode Ochi chyornye (Dark Eyes), the quartet slid into a melodic
rubato, clarinet leading, then clicked into highway speed. Jack
Soref laid down the pulse, his right hand a fast pendulum. A bass
solo appeared, Mike Ball singing his notes, and Rob Saunders
punctuating with high chords.
Mollie Malone took the stage in her pink art-deco jacket in this
mahogany-brown room, wafting Irving Berlin's I've Got My Love to
Keep Me Warm, followed by Django's evergreen, Nuages.
Jack Soref brought in the latter with a decorous rendering, his
voice-led chords yielding descending internal lines. Singing in
French, Mollie came in sentimental, a kite in the wind, with Rob
Saunders running lovely changes under.
On the exquisite Seul Ce Soir, its
harmonies evoking a lake at dusk, Rob (to paraphrase Paul Klee) took
the melody out for a walk. Sidney Bechet's Promenade Aux
Champs- Elysees had the versatile Andy Moore opening straight up
on his horn, then tendering the French lyric. Rob injected blue-note
phrases into his solo, Mike Ball's bass traded fours with the
guitars, and the band ended on a dime.
The evening closed with Mollie swaying
just behind the beat on Stardust, first in English, finishing
in French after a 16-bar clarinet break. The band took it out
covering QHCF's take on Undecided, matching Mollie's striding
phrases with jumping codas. "Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?
Whatcha gonna do do do do do?!"
You can contact and learn more about Sinti Rhythm at
BACK TO TOP