Hank Marvin,
Django's Castle
(independent, 2014)

When people speak of gypsy jazz, what they mean is the music of French gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, who virtually invented the form. He formed a quintet to play his compositions, which differed radically from the jazz of his time. Instead of drums, he used a rhythm guitar, and rather than the usual sax or trumpet, he substituted Stephen Grapelli's violin and, of course, his own lead guitar. The records he made have had an influence far beyond the number of copies sold -- although since they've been constantly in print since the 1930s, they've sold considerably over the years. Far more importantly, they've established a genre.

On this release, Hank Marvin, known primarily as a rock guitarist -- he played lead in Cliff Richard's backing band, the Shadows, for many years -- unleashes a love for gypsy jazz. Using Gary Taylor on rhythm guitar and with Nunzio Mondia's accordion taking the place of the traditional violin, he runs through a set of mostly Reinhardt tunes, along with a few standards.

I'm aware that description makes the album sound like a dated imitation of music that wore out its welcome before World War II, but that's not the case at all. This stuff swings. Both Marvin and Mondia play with subtlety and skill, as well as a strong feel for the source and the contemporary nature of the music. They bring out the new in Django's tunes so that, if they were ever dated, they are now new and relevant again. Reinhardt was a master of the use of octaves, playing two lines simultaneously an octave apart, a technique that makes the tune richer and leads to wonderful improvisational runs and Marvin recreates that technique with taste and flair.

Throughout the disc, you feel Marvin's deep love and respect for this style of music and you come away loving it as much as he does.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

14 February 2015

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