Concert Review: In the Footsteps of Django
Last night, WC heard and saw the best guitar playing of his life. WC has been to hundreds of concerts and seen many world class guitar players. And it wasn’t even the featured act. Les Doigts de l’Homme, one of the three acts comprising The Footsteps of Django, had two truly extraordinary, virtuoso guitar players, Olivier Kikett and Benoit Convert. But this is starting in the middle.
The first act was Catalanian singer Norig Gajii and guitarist Sebastien Giniaux. Their three song set featured strong vocals from Gadjii in French and Romany, and very good guitar work from Giniaux. Gadjii didn’t really show her stuff until the encore, but the duo was fun, had great chemistry and showed a non-traditional form of gypsy music to good advantage.
The second act was Les Doigts de l’Hommes. WC’s French is as bad as his Romany, but roughly, “The Fingers of Men.” From the very start, the spectacular runs, unbelievably fast fingering and improvisations were stunning. While both Kikett and Convert are superb guitarists, their styles are quite different. Kikett has a hard hitting, incisive style, while Convert’s is more effortless and fluid. Despite the differences in style, they exchanged the lead dozens of times, flawlessly, sometimes faster than WC could keep up. Combined with the fine rhythm guitar work of Yannick Alcocer and rock-solid bass work of Tanguy Blum, they had a rich, wonderful sound. Two of the Django Reinhardt pieces, in particular, were stunningly well done. The blues-inflected Django piece was wonderful.
The third act was Lulo Reinhardt’s Latin Swing Project. Lulo is the grandnephew of Django, but has taken his granduncle’s music further and in different directions. For example, “Lulo’s Tango” was a lovely Django-inflected traditional tango, with plenty of room for his band to do solo stretches.
The Latin Swing Project is Reinhardt and violinist Daniel Weltlinger (Australia), bassist Harald Becher (Germany), drummer Uli Krämer (Germany) and keyboardist Sean Mackenzie (Australia). And together they are a straight ahead, gypsy swing band that’s not afraid to experiment with fusions of gypsy music and American blue, African rhythms and Austrian waltzes. It was striking how much fun the band seemed to be having on stage, and the easy camaraderie among the members.
Lulo closed the show with all three acts on stage, including vocalist Norig Gajii. And in the final song – and WC is sorry but they didn’t give us a title – Gajii really cut loose. A Romany ballad, WC believes, with all three bands behind her Gajii demonstrated a mastery of Gypsy style. A great end to a terrific show.
Serious props to Fairbanks Concert Association. Folks who missed this show should be kicking themselves. Outstanding!