For aficionados of manouche, gypsy, or swing jazz, we know that the musical form inspired by Jean “Django” Reinhardt isn’t all flash and speed. Of course, there is that — but the music inspired by the French jazz master consists of highly accessible, melodic arrangements with an ebb and flow all their own. That accessibility was on full display Saturday night at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance at The Patterson Theater during the 3rd Annual Charm City Django Jazz Fest.
The evening began with a performance by a group of young local manouche players billing themselves as the Django Legacy Band. Organized and led by jazz guitar player and local Baltimore manouche stalwart Michael Joseph Harris, the group of young players comprised of violin and three guitars performed a 50-minute set of jazz standards that would make any teacher proud, earning the band a standing ovation. They followed their set with a wonderful encore rendition of a personal favorite, “All of Me.”
The evening’s headliner, the Samson Schmitt Quartet, gave a master class in gypsy jazz performance as well as how to pace a show. The quartet mixed covers and original compositions — and Samson’s relaxed, jovial stage presence kept the audience highly entertained.
Highlights included several Django standards, the Gershwin classic “Embraceable You,” and Schmitt originals. Samson joked that all his songs were written for somebody, as each was titled “Pour [insert person’s name].” The lovely ballad “Pour Bertram,” was an absolute masterpiece and the evening’s most moving moment. The show ended with a spirited rendition of another Django inspired jam with all the evening’s performers back onstage.
Look for next year’s Django Jazz Fest announcement in January 2019 or to get more information about the Creative Alliance’s many programs, please visit http://www.creativealliance.org.
Here are some pictures of players performing during the Charm City Django Jazz Fest at Creative Alliance at The Patterson Theater. All photos copyright and courtesy of Mark Caicedo.