Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Occidental Gypsy Jazz Quartet

Last Saturday night I went to see the Occidental Gypsy Jazz Quartet (their new website coming soon they say) at the Bull Run in Shirley. I saw them last year at the Bull Run, on a whim. As a fan of gypsy jazz trio Ameranouche of Manchester, NH, I was curious to see other gypsy jazz groups. I am a huge fan of jazz violin, from Grapelli, to Ponty to Goodman (Dregs) so I was really looking forward to hearing OGJQ. Their violinist from last year, Joel, who was fantastic by the way, has departed the band. But not to fear: OGJQ's new violinist, Julgi Kang is incredible.

They started late-- not their fault, their meals arrived late after the drive up from their home base in RI-- but the show proceeded smoothly and gracefully after that. Their violinist, "Julgi," poor thing, had a bad headache but nevertheless played beautifully. She effortlessly doubles many of the solo lines with guitarist Brett Feldman. Julgi is a student at Berklee. I am now an unabashed fan.

They played most of the songs off their debut CD and a few standards like "I can't give you anything but love". The latter song will forever and always bring to mind images of the maladroit, blundering of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the movie "Bringing Up Baby", as they chase "Baby," a "tame" leopard sent from South America as a present to Katherine's character. If you can get over the fact that the characters are behaving like imbeciles, it's a fun movie. But I digress.

The OGJQ plays lightning fast and clean gypsy jazz. Their arrangements are well-rehearsed, show a lot of character, great playfulness and inventiveness, and yet do not step so far outside the gypsy jazz genre as to be incongruous. The presentation is balanced-- no one overwhelms or steals the spotlight. They are warm, vivacious and with those solid rhythm chords holding up the bottom - you can't help but move to the music.

They seem to perform mostly in their home state of RI. The Bull Run says they will be back in March 2011. I hope we will see them again in Northampton MA at Django in June.

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