Although gypsy swing reached its creative peak in the '30s, many European musicians are keeping the style alive in the 21st century. One of them is acoustic guitarist Jonny Hepbir, who grew up in England but is part Turkish. Hepbir, like other gypsy jazz guitarists, is a Django Reinhardt disciple -- which is to be expected because the seminal Reinhardt wrote the book on gypsy swing just as Charlie Parker wrote the book on bebop alto saxophone playing and Jimmy Smith wrote the book on soul-jazz organ. However, being a disciple isn't the same as being a clone, and even though Hepbir brings a Reinhardt-based approach to Turkish Blend, he is still his own man. Unlike others who play gypsy swing, Hepbir isn't actually a Gypsy. But he certainly plays like one, and this 1999 session (which came out in the United States in early 2003) underscores his appreciation of Spanish gypsy music as well as Reinhardt's legacy. Turkish and Middle Eastern music are also influences -- Hepbir is obviously in touch with his Turkish heritage -- and he even incorporates Afro-Cuban elements on occasion. "Paquito," for example, is a Hepbir original that would probably work well for Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, or Ray Barretto if one of them came up with a more bop-friendly arrangement. So although Hepbir is consistently Reinhardt-minded, he isn't trying to be an exact replica of his idol. Hepbir (who wrote all of the material on this CD) isn't an innovator, but he is one of Europe's more recognizable gypsy swing guitarists. Although Hepbir has recorded a few albums for 33 Records in England, Turkish Blend is his first U.S. release -- and it's a very promising effort for the U.K. resident.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson