4 piece Sinti Rhythm

Sinti Rhythm 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 FRENCH LIBRARY 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.

Flirty Molly

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 http://www.myspace.com/sintirhythm



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By Peter Gerler Feb 19, 2010