Sunday my family and I took a ride to Portsmouth to pick up one of my sons after a weekend of fun with his college friends at a beach in Kittery Maine. While waiting we walked about Prescott Park in the older part of Portsmouth, near Strawberry Banke, a restored 17th century village that duplicates life as it might have been lived back then on the New Hampshire coastline.
|Shepp Shepard at Prescott Park|
I love "Gypsy Jazz", a kind of acoustic swing music popularized by Django Reinheardt and the Hot Club Quintet of Paris in the 1930's and 40's. When an accident to his left hand left him the use of only three fingers, Django developed a totally new style of jazz, using speed and triadic chords. He helped bring the guitar to the front of the band and made it a lead instrument.
I sat down and listened to this man play, and I felt happy. Gypsy Jazz does that to me. How could I not tap my feet or snap my fingers as these notes shimmered off the fingers and strings and spilled over me like a musical shower; washing away my troubles and cares?
The man playing the soulful guitar was Richard (Shepp) Shepard and is one third of a jazz trio, "Ameranouch"; the name developed from "American" which they are and "Manouche" the tribal name of the aforementioned Django Reinhardt.
The other members of this "tribe" include Michael Harrist on upright bass and Jack Soref guitar.
"Shepp" was kind enough to talk with me for a half hour or so and even played a request. "Nuages" or "Clouds" in French was performed with loving care for its creator, Django and then Shepp paused and demonstrated how he has approached this iconic of all Gypsy Jazz anthems.
His take was pure American with a kick-ass hard bop approach. I was overjoyed. Silently I gave thanks knowing this style of music will never fade away. In fact, it has been reborn with a cleaner edge and a blazing rhythmic pattern.
"Ameranouch's" latest cd is titled "Hot".
And it is! Thoroughly!
There are six songs all composed by Ameranouche and they provide many minutes of pure delight. Each one contains crisp lines and golden chords of pure joy.
"Canto" begins with a flamenco riff and dives headfirst into this Spanish gypsy influenced toe tapper that spins around like a bright red skirt to flow out from a perfect body and topped with eyes of flame and warm arms with fingers making love to castanets. (Whew! What a vision!" These guys are good!)
"Mambo 13" begins with assorted clicks and taps, perhaps made on half filled wine glasses and goes to the body of the guitar and rolls accross the floor with perfect rythym. (And occasional grunts from the boys.)
My favorite from this CD is "Johnny's Swing" written for Shepp and his wife Marias son John Russel' It truly roars out of the speaker and takes you along for a ride. It has a crisp pace and a bop style that appeals to my feet.
""Sweet Solitude" and "Hot" (protect your cd player from spontaneous combustion) are all smooth capable tracks that feature "Ameranouchs" gypsy flavored jazz with bop rifts and blues tones. These are men who are in a groove and they pave the way for the last piece on the album.
"Suite Maine" is a three part piece ("Drive", "Silloutte" and "Sunset Jericho") that allows the group to stretch out. It starts with a smooth flow of notes, a morning perhaps in Maine. It then allows a vision of pine trees, lakes and the outdoors and then the sun sets. But wait! What's this? Crickets. Gypsy jazz and a nighttime chorus are woven into a beautiful picture of sound.
|(L to r) Richard (Shepp) Shepard, Michael Harist and Jack Soref|
"Ameranouche" is pure pleasure and you can catch them next at The Riverwalk Cafe and Coffee House in Nashua NH August 1st and The Greenroom in Somerville Mass. August 2nd.
This cd is worth getting. Add it to your collection of small group jazz for a smooth ride home. Or, if you need a little background to your next porch party. Perhaps a quiet evening in the pad with your favorite one? Whatever, I wouldn't steer you wrong would I? I haven't so far.
(C) 2014 by George Locke
Ameranoush Web Site