Hot Club USA

Django Lives

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American guitarist Frank Vignola fronts this contemporized version of the classic Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grappelli combo, joined by 58-year-old Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos, second guitarist Eric Bogart and bassist Phil Flanagan. They swing through several of the original Hot Club's classics, American popular standards, and a couple of unexpected asides. Of the repertoire joined at the hip to Reinhardt and Grappelli, the well-swung "Djangology" shows Vignola as a mad hatter with triple time and twiddling phraseology, even at slower tempos. The gypsy anthem "Dark Eyes" has the two guitarists rumbling in flamenco style, Britos soloing all alone before Vignola wrests the swing away from him. Vignola is a furious demon of strummed chords, churning up a storm during the bookended selections "I Found a New Baby" and the hot, hot, hot "Stompin' at Decca." The band offers an alternative reharmonization of "Honeysuckle Rose," coming to a screeching halt, stopping dead in full flight, then cranking up again on "Shine"; they go for the standard melody of "Exactly Like You" with the precision of a brain surgeon. Just the two frontmen duet on "Tenderly," while Britos leads on "One Note Samba" with no heavy rhythmic underpinnings, though squeaky violin harmonics lurk beneath. Britos offers a solo violin take on the European folk song "Salutation #4," while his lone composition, "New York Candombe," sports a unison line with Afro-Cuban cha cha bongo accents and a boppish stance reminiscent of a Charlie Parker number. This is the first-ever recording for Britos; he lacks the harmonic bite of Grappelli, but has chops and ideas to burn. Vignola is his usual literate, affable and exciting self. The combination is quite attractive, and in need of an encore CD, perhaps a live document, as a follow-up.

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