CD Reviews

European music fans are excited about a new kind of home-grown concoction - a hybrid of swing, French musette, flamenco, and be-bop they call "gypsy jazz." Several of these new releases - now available in the United States - will take a little digging to find, but the effort will be well rewarded.

Romane - Ombre (MusicMasters Jazz): The popular French musician Romane is the consensus king of gypsy-jazz guitar, playing in a style reminiscent of the father of the genre, the legendary Django Reinhardt. But Romane plays with a more delicate tough-and-romantic feel. He is accompanied by a quartet of accordion, second guitar, stand-up bass, and violin, creating a French cafe vibe, with swing to spare.

Toots Thielemans - Chez Toots (Private Music): This musical love letter to French cafe music by Belgian-born jazz legend Thielemans is not exactly gypsy jazz but shares a similar sensibility. Toots is the preeminent (and only) jazz-harmonica player on the scene, and while some of his past musical offerings were difficult to warm to, this lovingly conceived collection of the familiar ("Windmills of Your Mind" featuring Johnny Mathis), and the unfamiliar (mostly French standards), casts a powerful romantic spell.

Tony Green - Gypsy Jazz (Orleans Records): Out of New Orleans comes the stunning debut CD by an American painter and jazz guitarist who caught the gypsy-jazz bug while studying art in Brugge, Belgium. He was attracted to the gypsy musicians' mlange of musical styles: musettes, tangos, waltzes, and Spanish pieces. Backed by bass and rhythm guitar, Green sets a sensuous mood, transporting the listener with his warm, fluid playing on a fine choice of covers and his own enchanting originals.

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