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There's no mistaking where Vavavoom's sexy gypsy swing sound comes from " six of the 16 tracks on Swingphonicity are Django Reinhardt compositions. The sextet definitely rocks the tunes with aplomb, particularly Pierre Pichon's sizzling acoustic guitar, which isn't as front-and-center as one might assume from the material. The full band is constantly in play, getting the most out of the earthy sophistication of the familiar style and arranging the tunes in a perfect balance to assert its own stamp on the material while paying homage to the near perfection of the original compositions. Hot gypsy jazz always sounds exciting " a little dangerous, with an after-hours vibe, as if you're in the back room of a Parisian nightclub after closing. Vavavoom's addition of Serge Gainsbourg's fabulous creeper 'Requiem Pour Un Twister" shows its mastery of the vibe. The track is almost 30 years younger than the other covers, but it slides in perfectly. Lighter selections (Hoagy Carmichael's 'New Orleans" and the old warhorse 'Bei Mir Bist du Schoen") aren't electrifying, but all in all, Swingphonicity is a great debut from the 2007 Big Easy Award winner for Best Emerging Band.

(Ears and Eyes Records)

Over the past few months, the close-knit experimental jazz scene in New Orleans has been evolving at breakneck speed, thanks in part to the trio behind this limited edition project " only 200 copies were made. Trombonist Jeff Albert's weekly curated Open Ears Music Series at the Blue Nile has served as an incubator for spontaneous live collaborations from local improvisers, and Prototype is something like a version of those live variations. As science-y sounding as the title, the album is sonically understated, yet complex. It plays like a collection of lost sounds naturally magnetizing to one another and then spinning off into the atmosphere. Muted synthesizers and computer-generated tones crackle and buzz gently, as the more organic-sounding scraps of horn swell and fall away. It's a record that sounds as if it were made by intelligent musical magpies, weaving together a spare, asymmetrical tapestry of sound.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes
The Big Awesome
(Full Frontal records)

Is there such a thing as cerebral rock that doesn't suck? Johnny Sketch and Co. may be proving so with its immodestly titled fourth album The Big Awesome, which flexes the band's conservatory chops on meaty rock and funk in a way that's smart but not snobby. To wit: long tracks with no extra notes, tight horns that ooze slippery funk, popping second-line beats and jazz-styled groove that never wanders into jamband self-indulgence. The combination of jazz skills and party-time attitude brings to mind Zappa, if he'd had a New Orleans soul sensibility and an inclination to dance. The horns on the relaxed 'Find My Freedom" recall Allen Toussaint's early arrangements " relentlessly groovy.

click to enlarge CHERYL GERBER
click to enlarge mus_sounds-16797.jpeg
click to enlarge mus_sounds-16797.jpeg


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