Jazz manouche (‘gypsy jazz’), as it is called in French, is in the direct lineage of the great Django Reinhardt and is a key element in understanding why the French have developed such a passion for jazz music, and equally why jazz in France is equated with the battle for freedom and against totalitarian regimes. The Nazis in particular were scathing of music that they dismissed as ‘decadent’ and ‘perverse’ and from a minority group that they sought to systematically eliminate. In the 1930s the bal (dance) musette tradition of working class French life combined with the swing jazz prevalent at the time in the United States met head on and the major practitioner of this vibrant new from was of course guitarist Django Reinhardt. Father and son Dorado and Amato Schmitt are the modern day inheritors of this tradition, but have sought to give the tradition a uniquely modern twist while not losing anything of the essence of its source. Both in eastern France in Lorraine in 1957, guitarist, violinist and vocalist Dorado was influenced as a teenager by the guitar sounds of Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix, but in 1978 formed his own trio that included Gino Reinhardt on acoustic bass. A decade later, a serious car accident left Dorado in a coma for eleven days, but he was determined to come back from this adversity and in 1990 reformed the band. They have gone from strength to strength ever since.This new recording with a five piece band (four of whom are guitarists including Danish musician Esben Mylle Strandvig and minus any use of drums) was actually recorded live without any editing after having performed at a live concert. It is the second album for the Stunt label and is the follow up to the well received, ‘Amati and Dorado Schmitt live’ that came out in 2014. What is interesting about the sound created is that the virtuosity of the guitar work is such that the solos at times replicate the great saxophonist of the be-bop revolution, with Charlie Parker coming to mind. A groovy interpretation of, ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ is equalled by the highly melodic ‘For Francko’, where the guitar seemingly sings to the listener.
The music is easily accessible and a wider audience will be interested in hearing it provided that the music is sufficiently exposed. Dorado Schmitt is an undervalued artist with a direct link to the very roots of jazz manouche. In the current world order riddled by uncertainty and anxiety, it is reassuring to hear genuinely uplifting music that has stood the test of time remarkably well and expanded its roots to incorporate new elements.