World & Latin

Cosmopolitan Jazz

12 MAR 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

The Charlie Byrd Quintet's Du Hot Club De Concord is a tribute record of a different kind. It honors Belgian-born gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, without covering a single Reinhardt tune.

By evoking the spirit of Reinhardt rather than revisiting him note for note, the album captures the multicultural dimension that was already emerging in jazz as early as the 1930s.

The two guitarists met in Paris during World War II, when Staff Sgt. Byrd was touring with a G.I. show. After a month of jamming, Reinhardt sat in with the G.I. band during one of their shows. The two met again briefly after the war, when Reinhardt toured in the U.S. with Duke Ellington's band.

In the spirit of Reinhardt's Quintette Of The Hot Club Of France, Du Hot Club covers a broad emotional range, thanks to Byrd's understated but intricate fretwork, accompanied by Johnny Frigo's violin and Hendrik Meurkens' harmonica. These three, with the help of rhythm guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Michael Moore, capture the vibe of 1940s Paris -- a time and place where heartbreak and hope battled for the soul of not just France but all of Europe.

"Swing '59" opens the set brightly enough, but things turn a little more melancholy in tracks like Alfredo Vianna's "Carinhoso" and Jerome Kerns' "Till the Clouds Roll By." Even a few shades of Latin sneak in, via Alberto Dominguez's "Frenesi" and Consuelo Velazquez's "Besame Mucho."

Reinhardt's story is inextricably linked to the evolution of jazz in Europe in the mid-20th century. In Du Hot Club De Concord, the distinctly American Charlie Byrd throws light on the undeniable commonalities between European and American jazz.