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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Music Reviews
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Spirit of Django Reinhardt

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 23, 2003
New York, NY

About the Author:

Spirit of Django ReinhardtWith
Dorado Schmitt, Lead Guitar; Robin Nolan Trio (Robin Nolan, Lead Guitar, Simon Planting, Bass, Sam Miltich, Rhythm Guitar); Ludovic Beier, Accordion; Brian Torff, Bass; Ken Peplowski, Clarinet; Samson Schmitt, Rhythm Guitar, "Timbo" Mehrstein, Violin; and Gordon Lane, Brushes.

At Alice Tully Hall
Lincoln Center

Produced by Stratta/Phillips Productions
Ettore Stratta and Pat Phillips

Presented by The Grand Marnier Foundation

Additional Sponsors: WBGO 88.3 FM, Mayflower Hotel, John Pearse Strings, Continental Airlines, The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, The Village Voice, and Midori and Friends Foundation.

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 23, 2003

(See Django Reinhardt Review and Photos, November, 2003, and Ettore Stratta's Birthday Event, both at Birdland in NYC).

Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta know how to organize a warm and welcoming, yet dynamic and driven Jazz event, and the audience at Tully Hall in July was not disappointed. Although Bireli Lagrene and Vitali Imereli, listed musicians on guitar and violin, were caught at the Visa Desk at the airport and could not participate, the remaining musicians, all world-renowned in their own right, kept the momentum wild and wonderful, and rousing ovations were constantly offered, as the Django Jazz fans heard their favorite pieces expertly presented in solos, duos, and full Jazz Ensemble.

Pat Philips stood onstage in gorgeous white, matching the chiaroscuro costumes of the musicians, and as she announced each Jazz star, one more instrument was added to the softly building sound. Brian Torff, a Django specialist, on bass, began the introduction, and, with his wild lead, these musicians played their hearts out. Ken Peplowski, a master clarinetist, as usual, reached off-the-charts highs and lows, with clarity and endless extensions. In What Is This thing Called Love? Dorado Schmitt, on lead guitar, and Ludovic Beier, on accordion, easily switched leads and kept a rapid flow to the plucky sound.

Sad and Beautiful, composed by Dorado, was harmonized by Ludovic and Dorado, whose guitar seemed to weep tears of melancholia. Most pieces were played in the absence of one or more instruments, so that each musician could be showcased to full potential. Timbo Mehrstein subsequently grabbed the lead, as the musicians played on, while Dorado and Samson admired each other's backup, and Ludovic sped off for the finale.

Dorado played single notes playfully, as he juxtaposed the sounds of his colleagues with chords on different keys, for an engaging effect. Timbo returned in a great white coat, as each musician showed solo personality, as the others gazed with joy and admiration. In I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby, Ludovic's accordion sounded like several clarinets, and Ken's own clarinet was rapid and precise, exciting and existential. Summertime brought out Brian's bow, an edgy and guttural piece, with Brian slapping his strings for low resonance notes.

Ken's solo was like a quivering swallow, turned duet with Brian's bass. Ludovic played a piece, reminiscent of the beach, Pour La Plage, with a swingable beat, yet warm and soothing sound. Dorado's September 11 Tribute to America was very appreciated by this audience. Its slow and sorrowful melody was poignant and searing. The following piece, fast and furious, generated the momentum of a speeding train, with Dorado again on lead guitar.

The Robin Nolan Trio, with Robin and Simon Planting from Holland and Sam Miltich from the American heartland, was more contemporary and physical, with the addition of tiny trills that fade into the distance. They played Django's Tiger with aplomb. This Trio was more stylized and playful than Dorado's group, as an American Tango with heavy rhythms from their strong strings, was heard, and as Sam took the lead from his former backup position. Robin and Dorado played a duet, soon joined by four more musicians, including Samson Schmitt, the confident and ever-present compliment to his talented father.

When Dorado's group returned, they seemed, if possible, even more energized, and Ken became one with his colossal clarinet. At one point, Dorado changed guitar strings onstage and continued on tone and on beat to the audience's delight. Nuages, a popular Django Reinhardt piece, brought father and son, Dorado and Samson, into their mutual admiration, as they faced each other and showed us the full potential of their unique guitars. Timbo's violin was evocative and sweet, like a soulful soprano.

In the finale, Dorado picked up his own violin and played duo with Timbo, leaving the guitars to Samson and Robin. Check this Website for future listings of upcoming Django Reinhardt Festivals, produced by the very professional partnership of Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta (www.stratta-philips.com). You can also find a new CD by Ludovic Beier and Angelo Debarre in most record stores.

Ken Peplowski and Musicians (See Birdland Django Reinhardt Review and Photos)

Dorado Schmitt and Musicians

Timbo Mehrstein and Musicians

Timbo Mehrstein

Marina Troshima, Owner, Uncle Vanya Restaurant, and Friends

Ludovic Beier, Samson Schmitt, Sergei Pobedinski, Dorado Schmitt

Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier, Dorado Schmitt

After Concert Party, Uncle Vanya Restaurant, 212.262.0542

Marina Troshima, Owner, Uncle Vanya Restaurant

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