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March 1, 2010

Manouche

There are many words for gypsies, most of them spoken with a snarl in much of Europe. But no city is more willing than Paris to honor the most traditional market niche for the Rom. You can see them on the metro, mining for euros with an accordion or a guitar, an amplifier on a wheelie providing a rhythm track. They're called upon to entertain at fairs and fests, and there's a vital jazz scene here that goes by the name manouche. That's a Belgian word for gypsy, as well as the nickname of that country's most famous Rom, the greatest genius of European jazz, Django Reinhardt.

Give a Parisian promoter an excuse and he'll put on a festival honoring Django, and this year--the centennial of his birth--has produced all sorts of commemorations. But only one musician practices jazz manouche as taught to him by his celebrated grandfather, and this year he's in especially great demand. Last weekend I caught David Reinhardt and his trio at a tubular boite in the club district around Châtelet. I expected to hear the propulsive fluency branded by Django and imitated by many jazz guitarists since. What I got instead was a surprise.

Round faced and dark eyed, David Reinhardt projects an almost meditative serenity, smiling slightly to acknowledge applause. Otherwise he lets his fingers do the talking, with a finely wrought dexterity that certainly echoes Django, but also soft samba and even Satie. The crowd remains still, by American standards--the French don't usually bop to jazz; they absorb. The organist, Florent Gac, trades thoughtful solos with the drummer, Joann Serra, and then Reinhardt is back, bending notes, eliding, considering. Somewhere in his fingering the Django legacy is there, along with the very French process of elevating inspired energy into fine art (for better or worse). Manouche is what the grandchildren make of it--and him.
March 1, 2010 9:55 AM | | Comments (0)

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