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Evan Christopher -  photo by Jim McGuire (2008)

Thursday 3rd June - 8pm
Bonington Theatre

Evan Christopher's Django a la Creole
Fusion of Gypsy swing with New Orleans

Evan Christopher (clarinet) Dave Blenkhorn (guitar) Dave Kelbie (guitar) Sebastien Girardot (bass)

By Trudie Squires

THE closing gig of our 2010 spring season featured New Orleans clarinettist Evan Christopher, whose playing provided a direct link with past masters such as Sidney Bechet, Jimmie Noone and Barney Bigard with his strong, gutsy style. His soaring, swooping solos were an absolute joy. His quartet was a quality outfit of multi-national musicians playing a skilful blend of New Orleans jazz and the subtle rhythms associated with the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Christopher went to great lengths to describe how the two styles first became amalgamated in the late 1930s when the Duke Ellington Band heard Reinhardt on a visit to Paris.

Australian Dave Blenkhorn played lead guitar and his flowing, effortless and fluid approach was the perfect foil for Christopher's powerful clarinet. Some of the interplay between the two showcased their uncanny rapport, which was greeted with roars of approval from the large and captivated audience. The pulsating rhythm, essential for the group's style, was provided by UK rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and Franco-Australian bassist Sebastian Girardot, whose joint efforts dispensed with the need for a drummer. Apart from Blenkhorn's electric guitar the sound was purely organic and acoustic, with high and low dynamics. Girardot resorted at times to the old New Orleans style "slapped" bass, with great rhythmic effect.

The music paid tribute to New Orleans legends such as Jelly Roll Morton, whose Mamanita featured some wonderful interplay between Blenkhorn's lead guitar and Christopher's haunting clarinet. Louis Armstrong's 1931 version of the Hoagy Carmichael tune Jubilee included a joyous solo from Evan, his hot, fat tone played with minimal vibrato. A new number to the group's library was Sidney Bechet's Passport To Paradise, played with in a warm South American style, while salutes with an Ellington flavour included the 12-bar blues Solid Old Man and a poignant version of Mood Indigo. That's A Plenty - an old traditional jazz favourite - was a chance for the quartet to show off its command of dynamics, from a full-blooded, riotous attack, dropping down to a whisper, but never losing any of the intensity. Django was recalled with some of his classics, which included Nuages and Dinnette.

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