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django à la créole: press + reviews
Djam La Revue FRANCE
28.06.2014 - Les reprises du maître manouche offrent toutes un regard nouveau sur son œu
Le manouche a tout d’une secte, où on oblige les guitaristes à jouer à trois doigts, où l’on récite des accords diminués comme autant de je vous salue Marie, où ne pas connaître son Minor Swing vous conduit au bûcher. Depuis quelques années, la secte a réussi (c’est donc une religion) et le manouche s’est fait quelque peu envahissant, donnant aux plus fidèles l’impression qu’il tournait en rond dans une carriole publicitaire du tour de France. Blasphème des blasphèmes ; Django m’a soûlé. Il fallait juste l’envoyer boire du rhum et manger du boudin créole sur des accents swing néo-orléanais. Depuis 2007, les hérétiques de l’ensemble « Django à la Créole » dirigé par Evan Christopher s’y emploient, accueillant le premier guitar hero de l’histoire dans leur univers marqué par le swing et de lointains relents de biguine. Leur premier album live fait bien ressentir le mariage travaillé entre la musique de Django et le paysage sonore de la Nouvelle-Orléans. Evan Christopher revendique trois héritages : Ellington, Armstrong et Reinhardt. Cet album rend hommage aux trois, quitte à tomber parfois dans une musique nostalgique qui sonne comme des clichés sépia en hommage aux trois maîtres du jazz. La reprise de Johnny Hodges, (« One for the Duke »), impeccable et lumineuse, fleure ainsi bon les années 50. Le band impressionne, y compris dans ces sets classiques, par sa clarté et le soin mis aux mélodies. La reprise de Jelly Roll Morton « Mamanita » impose ainsi un blues aérien où les improvisations syncopées de David Blenkhorn à la guitare et le phrasé quasi céleste d’Evan Christopher font léviter longtemps. L’évidence technique et mélodique du set est toute entière mise au service du projet de rencontre entre deux univers musicaux, le manouche et le swing de la Nouvelle-Orléans. La reprise du classique « Douce Ambiance » de Django en ouverture est d’une lenteur audacieuse et rafraîchissante pour qui a trop entendu le titre. Les reprises du maître manouche offrent toutes un regard nouveau sur son œuvre, revigorée par la rencontre avec ces sonorités New Orleans. Seul véritable bémol dans ce paysage enchanteur : le caractère live de l’album est atténué par une production qui a sélectionné des extraits de quatre concerts différents, comme cela devient de plus en plus systématique pour les enregistrements live. Ce choix réduit l’ambiance d’une musique jouée en publique à quelques secondes d’applaudissements éparpillées çà et là, alors que les improvisations collectives qui font l’originalité du groupe renvoient un aspect très « studio », dans leur maîtrise et leur propreté. Il ne faut pas pour autant bouder une musique fidèle à son credo de « rendre les gens heureux » dans la lignée des grands noms du jazz, qui retrouvent dans ce paysage sonore inédit une nouvelle jeunesse. Il ne faut surtout pas ignorer le talent de clarinettiste d’Evan Christopher, à qui son phrasé mélodique et syncopé donne des ailes retros qui en font un grand monsieur de l’instrument.
Pierre Tenne

Jazz News FRANCE
01.06.2014 - Un disque remarquable
Dans son excellent ouvrage « Swing Under the Nazis, Jazz as a Metaphor for Freedom », Mike Zwerin, tromboniste et critique de l’ “International Herald Tribune” décrit autant qu’il imagine un jeune Django Reinhardt âgé de dix ans, vers 1920, faisant la manche en jouant sur banjo déglingué au marché du Kremlin-Bicêtre : « Sa musique était, disons, étrange. On avait l’impression que quelqu’un d’autre que lui grattait les cordes. Quiconque ayant fréquenté La Nouvelle-Orléans aurait même pu reconnaître des bribes d’un phrasé rappelant le blues. Vraiment étonnant car Django, bien sûr, n’y avait jamais mis les pieds. » Quatre-vingt-dix ans plus tard, le clarinettiste louisianais d’adoption, Evan Christopher accompagné de deux guitaristes, David Blenkhorn et Dave Kelbie, et d’un contrebassiste, Sébastien Girardot, ressuscite, développe, réinvente ce lien ténu et miraculeux qui semblait unir le génial improvisateur manouche aux talentueux pionniers créoles de Tremé et de Back O’Town. Ce premier « live » du groupe capté au Royaume-Uni reprend standards de l’entre–deux guerres (Jelly Roll Morton, Duke, Johnny Hodges) et quatre thèmes de Django tel « Douce ambiance » où la rythmique marquée par la clave caribéenne permet à la mélodie de planer avec une grâce infinie. Et un « Songe d’automne »débridé conclut en véritable apothéose ce disque remarquable. A signaler que le guitariste et banjoïste Don Vapie remplace désormais David Blenkhorn au sein du groupe ce qui devrait « créoliser » un peu plus cette belle aventure.
JEAN-PIERRE BRUNEAU

Jazzman FRANCE
06.05.2014 - Un des musiciens le plus passionnants de son époque
Qu’Evan Christopher soit le meilleur clarinetiste actuel dans le Style New Orleans, digne en tous points des grands ancêtres pour ce qui est du swing, du son , de l’inspiration ; qu’il s’inscrive sur son instrument, tous styles confondus, parmi les meilleurs techniciens de l’histoire de jazz, pas un amateur qui n’en convienne. En témoigne le succès de ses albums précédents, en particulier « Django à la créole » (Frémeaux, 2008) dont le titre pourrait laisser penser qu’il en propose aujourd’hui une resucée. Erreur. En dépit des apparences, il ne s’agit nullement d’un doublon. D’abord parce que si la formation reste identique, le répertoire, lui, ne conserve que les deux compositions de Django, Douces Ambiance et Manoir de mes rêves, dans des versions largement renouvelées. Pour le reste, outre Féérie du même Django, deux thèmes de Jelly Roll Morton, Mamamita et The Crave, des standards du jazz traditionnel, tel Dear Old South, et des morceaux au climat ellingtonien signés par Duke, Jonnhy Hodges et Rex Stewart. Deuxième différence de taille, la captation live lors de quatre concerts durant une tournée au Royaume-Uni en 2012. Elle produit sur les musiciens une incontestable stimulation et tout le disque baigne dans une atmosphère chaleureuse. S’en trouve magnifié l’énergie de chacun, singulièrement de David Blenkhor, auteur de quelques solos superlatifs de guitare électriques, et de Sébastien Girardot, en valeur dans Riveboat shuffle, The Mooche et Solid Old Man, blues que Django enregistra en son temps avec des musiciens d’Ellington. Une musique généreuse, tour à tour explosive et recueillie, swingante, mariant avec bonheur des influences et des couleurs diverses. Elle porte la marque d’un des musiciens le plus passionnants de son époque.
JACQUES ABOUCAYA

JAZZ NEWS
08.04.2014 - D’irrésistibles voluptueuses volutes sonores gorgées de swing
Réécriture originale de la saga « gipsy swing », le projet Django à la créole, déjà six ans d’âge et un troisième CD à paraître début 2014, est un concept imaginé par Evan Christopher, Louisianais d’adoption et « l’un des meilleurs clarinettistes de tous les temps », dixit Ahmet Ertegun, fondateur d’Atlantic Records. Cette idée de créolisation de la musique du Quintette du HCF est venue à Christopher après l’écoute des sessions enregistrées par Dajngo avec le clarinettiste Barney Bigard en 1939. Evan Christopher développe d’irrésistibles et voluptueuses volutes sonores, qui empruntent aussi à la Caraïbe et au Brésil, mais toujours gorgées de swing.
JEAN-PIERRE BRUNEAU

Sunday Times UK
23.03.2014 - EVAN CHRISTOPHER’S DJANGO A LA CREOLE LIVE! Frémeaux & Associés FA8501
Is there a more graceful band at work at the moment? On a mission to celebrate the legacy of Django Reinhardt and olde New Orleans — not forgetting Duke Ellington — the American clarinettist Evan Christopher adds plenty of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Spanish tinge” to the drummerless quartet’s repertoire. Morton’s tune The Crave is one gem among many on a disc recorded on the road in the UK. The bassist Sebastien Girardot and the guitarists Dave Kelbie and David Blenkhorn are their usual debonair selves, but have no trouble turning up the heat on a glorious version of Duke’s standard The Mooche.
CLIVE DAVIS

Djangostation FRANCE
14.03.2014 - CD Django à la créole live Fremeaux 2014
Si vous n’étiez pas au Duc des Lombards, club où les conditions sont idéales (proximité, intimité, ambiance, communication entre public et musiciens), et bien précipitez vous sur ce live ; vous y retrouverez la plupart des titres ci-dessus nommés mais aussi une version de 9’ de Dear Old southland, morceau emblématique des jazz funérailles à la Nouvelle Orléans, d’abord interprété comme un cantique religieux puis à la manière des vieilles fanfares, One for the Duke de Johnny Hodges, dans un traitement bluesy, Mamanita et The crave, deux compos pour piano de Jelly Roll Morton représentatives de la syncope latine (dixit JRM cité par Evan dans les notes de pochette) que le groupe interprète à sa manière. Voilà une musique et un disque qui rendent heureux et devraient être remboursés par la sécurité sociale.
FRANCIS COUVREUX

Djangostation FRANCE
14.03.2014 - Django à la créole Paris 6 mars duc des lombards premier show
Les 5 et 6 mars, Django à la créole présentait son nouveau disque » live » au duc des lombards. Petit changement au sein du quartet ; c’est maintenant Don Vappie, ami et collègue néo orléanais d’Evan Christopher qui officie à la guitare (et au banjo), à la place de David Blenkorn qui, lui, est encore présent sur le disque live.
Le set débute par Blues in the air ; impeccable et imperturbable (Sébastien Girardot fait ronfler sa contrebasse et Dave Kelbie distille de beaux accords et un swing léger) la section rythmique déroule le tapis aux solistes ; quand il ne chorusse pas, Evan descend au milieu du public et écoute ses petits camarades. 7 ans déjà qu’il a rencontré Dave et lui a proposé, fasciné qu’il était par les sessions de 1938 de Django avec quelques musiciens d’Ellington, notamment le néo orléanais Barney Bigard, de développer cette expérience, à savoir combiner traditions néo orléanaises et musique de Django, cela sans passéisme et en louchant aussi vers d’autres traditions aux influences africaines (Cuba, Brésil, Caraibes). Le groupe interprète ensuite Douce ambiance dans une version créolisée, servie par un superbe arrangement et une grande intelligence musicale ; à l’inverse il djangoïse les morceaux new orleans comme ce superbe Riverboat shuffle d’H. Carmichael, dans une version qui swingue à mort et où tout le monde envoie fusée sur fusée (interventions toujours mélodiques des uns et des autres, beau solo slappé du contrebassiste). Emotionnellement palpitant, le jeu sensuel à la sonorité chaude et boisée du clarinettiste, conjugue expression, énergie et virtuosité exceptionnelle ; Musicien complet au swing terrible qui dirige le Créole jazz serenaders à la nouvelle Orléans, le nouveau guitariste est un sacré client qui alterne jeu en accords et en single notes et tire l’ensemble vers les traditions new orléanaises (pour sally down, compo d’Albert Nicolas, il troque la guitare pour le banjo et chante en créole), alors que Dave Blenkorn avait un profil plus jazz. Solid old man, blues enregistré par Django avec les musiciens de Duke est l’occasion de mettre en valeur Sébastien Girardot. Le quartet a une pêche d’enfer et met le feu, sans oublier pour autant sens de la nuance et musicalité, enchainant tropical moon de Bechet, The mooche d’Ellington, i know that you know de Jimmy Noon ( avec un remarquable exposé à la guitare et un chorus époustouflant d’Evan), et bien sûr Django à la créole développé à partir du thème d’Improvisation n°3 de Django. La classe !
FRANCIS COUVREUX


Thejazzmann.com UK
14.03.2014 - Evan Christopher’s Django a la Creole, Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, 08/03/20
A band that always delivers and which really stands out amongst the scores of Django Reinhardt inspired acolytes. A performance by Evan Christopher is both an entertainment and an education.
Evan Christopher’s Django a la Creole, Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, 08/03/2014.

The progress of clarinettist Evan Christopher’s Django a la Creole project has been well documented on the Jazzmann web pages. Born in Los Angeles Christopher made New Orleans his home for a number of years before moving to Paris in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. However Christopher’s years in New Orleans cemented his profound affection for the music of the Crescent City, a love that finds its expression in Django a la Creole’s recordings and performances.

Django a la Creole made its live début in 2007 and the group has since recorded three albums “Django a la Creole” (2008) “Finesse” (2010) and the recently released “Live!”(2014). This latest instalment was recorded at four different venues at the end of the group’s 2012 UK tour and follows a similar format to the brilliant performance I saw in the intimate confines of the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse just a few days before the actual recording. All three albums are highly recommended as are the group’s live performances which combine great playing with informed and entertaining comment on the music involved. A performance by Evan Christopher is both an entertainment and an education.

Following the recent flooding in the UK it was great to get and see some live music once again. I’d been forced to abandon planned trips to Abergavenny, Shrewsbury, Birmingham and even nearby Presteigne due to the weather so it was perhaps a touch ironic that the first gig I went to in what seemed like ages should be in Worcester, a city particularly badly afflicted by the recent deluge. I’m pleased to report that life in the city is now back to normal and that Huntingdon Hall itself appeared to be unscathed. The venue is a converted church with an excellent acoustic and I’ve seen a number of memorable performances here over the years, mainly in the jazz and folk genres although the Hall also presents other types of music from rock to classical plus comedy and theatre. A genuine across the board arts centre it is largely staffed by a band of loyal volunteers. And while we’re talking of Worcester let’s hope the County Cricket Club manages to repair the damage done to the pitch by the recent flooding before the start of the new season.

I had originally intended to combine a review of tonight’s show with a look at the recent live album. My thanks to rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie for furnishing me with a copy of the album and also for putting my wife and I on the guest list for tonight’s show. However tonight’s performance was so substantially different I feel that it’s probably best if tonight’s gig and the album are treated as separate entities. The reason for this change of heart is the result of a significant line up change. Christopher, Kelbie, double bassist Sebastien Girardot and lead guitarist Dave Blenkhorn have constituted the group since the beginning but for this tour Blenkhorn has been replaced by the remarkable Don Vappie, a multi instrumentalist and vocalist from New Orleans.

Vappie not only plays convincing lead guitar in this context but is also a highly accomplished banjo player who has recorded a number of albums on the latter instrument. He’s played bass with Wynton Marsalis and is also a more than useful vocalist. Christopher and Vappie played regularly together in New Orleans before the clarinettist moved to Paris. Vappie remained in his native city where he performs regularly with his own jazz orchestra, the Creole Jazz Serenaders.

Vappie’s inclusion adds extra authenticity to the Creole part of the equation but one shouldn’t under estimate the influence of the great Django Reinhardt. As I’ve observed in earlier articles about this project there’s still a lot of Reinhardt influenced music around but none of the many gypsy jazz groups sound quite like Django a la Creole. Christopher’s group is one of the most distinctive Reinhardt inspired groups around and adds a contemporary, often exotic twist to the Reinhardt legacy through the use of Latin and Brazilian rhythms.

Although tonight’s performance included several items from the quartet’s albums the presence of Vappie cast the music in a new light, particularly so with Vappie’s banjo and voice increasing the range of sounds available to the group. Tonight’s show was also notable for being virtually all acoustic, Vappie deployed a small amp but the other three members were essentially unplugged with the acoustics of the hall ensuring that all four were clearly audible and with the sound particularly well delineated. I don’t think I’ve heard Kelbie’s rhythm lines in such sharp definition before.

Vappie, Kelbie and Girardot took to the stage first with Christopher making something of a grand entrance as the quartet opened with “Linger A While”with solos from Christopher on clarinet, Vappie on guitar and Girardot on double bass, his use of the slap technique frequently adding to the music’s rhythmic drive. This was the group’s second gig of the day following a lunch time appearance at a well attended jazz festival at Colston Hall, Bristol, this following a delayed overnight trip on the Eurostar following a show in Paris – and yet they showed no signs of tiredness. Instead they exuded a genuine sense of fun allied to a sense of discovery as they explored the possibilities of this new international configuration featuring two Americans, the English Kelbie and the Franco/Australian Girardot.

Christopher’s love of his source material is expressed both in his playing and in his instructive comments on the music throughout a performance. Each tune is introduced with both background information as to its provenance and further explanation with regard to the group’s interpretation of it. The listener learns a lot at an Evan Christopher show, he’s a fine educator and a good ambassador for this music. The group continued with Reinhardt’s “Douce Ambiance”, the composition that opens the recent live album. Christopher explained how he liked to “Creolize” Reinhardt’s tunes, in this case adding the Cuban habanera rhythm to achieve something of Jelly Roll Morton’s famous “Spanish Tinge”.
Of course the process also works in reverse, Christopher also likes to “Django-ize” New Orleans tunes, in this case a lively version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “River Boat Shuffle with Kelbie’s breakneck rhythms fuelling solos from Christopher on clarinet, Vappie on guitar and an extensive feature from Girardot on elaborately slapped bass.

The next item saw a radical departure for the group with Vappie switching to banjo to sing the Creole song “Salee Dame”, a piece that originally appeared on the 1940’s recording “Jazz A La Creole” featuring clarinettist Albert Nicholas, bassist Pops Foster, drummer Baby Dodds and others.
The sung verses alternated with instrumental solos by Christopher on clarinet and Vappie on banjo.
Kelbie described Vappie’s banjo playing as “funky” but it’s much more than that. He’s a brilliant player on this often maligned instrument and his playing of it in the second set was frequently jaw dropping. He’s no slouch on the guitar either and it’s remarkable to think that he may consider the guitar as his second, or even third instrument.

Introducing the next tune Christopher told us of Django Reinhardt’s meeting with the Duke Ellington band in Europe in 1938. Reinhardt subsequently recorded with members of the Ellington band including trumpeter Rex Stewart and clarinettist Barney Bigard, the latter a major inspiration for this project. Stewart’s tune “Solid Old Man” is a popular item in the repertoire of the Christopher group, here something of a feature for the excellent Girardot who demonstrated his fluency as a soloist without recourse to the slapping technique as Kelbie provided the necessary rhythmic drive.

“Mamanita” was an arrangement of a solo piano piece by Jelly Roll Morton with a renewed focus on Morton’s “Spanish Tinge” through the inclusion of clave and habanera rhythms as Christopher and Vappie enjoyed a series of scintillating clarinet and guitar exchanges.

The first set concluded with a rousing version of Reinhardt’s “I Know You Know”, originally a celebration of the shared language of jazz featuring the European Reinhardt and the American Bigard. Vappie’s solo guitar intro gave way to Kelbie’s ferocious rhythmic drive and Christopher’s solo also evoked the spirit of Jimmie Noone. Vappie returned for another fleet fingered guitar feature and Girardot also featured before Christopher played us out with a second solo, complete with quote from “Swanee River”.

Set two began rather incongruously with “The Farewell Blues”, originally by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and later recorded by Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. Here we heard suitably hot solos from Christopher on clarinet, Vappie on guitar and Girardot on slapped bass.

A marvellous version of “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” (aka “Funky Butt”) featured Vappie’s voice and banjo. His banjo solo was a real tour de force, I’ve never seen this instrument, often the butt of musicians’ jokes, played so brilliantly, except perhaps by Eugene Chadbourne or Bela Fleck. However compared to the post modern approach of these guys Vappie’s playing stays much closer to his New Orleans source, even allowing for a quote from Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”.

The music of Sidney Bechet is another touchstone from Christopher. From the album “Finesse” came “Tropical Moon” in an arrangement that incorporated the merengue and habanera rhythms of Haiti. Members of the audience could be seen swaying in their seats as they enjoyed solos by Christopher on clarinet and Vappie on guitar.

Reinhardt’s “Manoir de Mes Reves”, often known as “Django’s Castle” was written in the 1940’s and revealed the influence of modern classical music, particularly that of Ravel and Debussy, upon the composer. Christopher’s arrangement combines Reinhardt’s balladry with a Cuben bolero and here provided a setting for Vappie’s coolly elegant guitar and Christopher’s almost flute like clarinet tones.

A strutting, high tempo version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “ Jubilee” was dedicated to the memory of Louis Armstrong with exceptional solos from Christopher on clarinet, Vappie on guitar and Girardot with the now familiar slapped bass.

In his liner notes to the recent live album Christopher describes his arrangement of Duke Ellington’s 1929 hit “The Mooche” as “African”. It certainly offered plenty of dynamic contrasts, smouldering one moment, red hot the next with Vappie on guitar the stand out soloist.

A knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience numbering around eighty (not quite enough to make it the EVENT the Shrewsbury performance had been -fewer people but a sell out in a very intimate venue) gave the quartet a great reception and they returned to play an encore of W.C. Handy’s “Careless Love” featuring Vappie’s banjo and vocals in conjunction with Christopher’s clarinet and a surprisingly lyrical Girardot bass solo.

This was the third time I’d seen Django a la Creole following previous visits to Builth Wells and Abergavenny and it’s true to say that whatever the line up this band always delivers. Christopher is a brilliant soloist, a talented arranger and a great ambassador for the twin strands of Creole music and gypsy jazz. He surrounds himself with highly talented band mates (Kelbie is a great organiser as well as the UK’s go to rhythm guitar player) and has created a band that really stands out amongst the scores of Reinhardt inspired acolytes.
IAN MANN

London Jazz news
10.03.2014 - Evan Christopher's Django À La Creole at The Quecumbar, Battersea
If there is a better living exponent of the New Orleans Creole clarinet style than Evan Christopher, then it’s a discovery I have yet to make. He has the big, woody tone of a Bechet, the control of glissandi of a Bigard, the filigree decorative skills of an Albert Nicholas, the warmth of a Jimmie Noone, and the fire of an Ed Hall. And yet, he always sounds like himself. On pieces such as Jubilee or One for the Duke he proved his credentials as a peerless performer in this idiom. The Quecumbar gig was the UK launch of the third album by the band Django À La Creole, which takes the common ground between traditional New Orleans music and Django’s manouche guitar as its starting point.

The summit meeting between Bigard and Django Reinhardt in May 1939 is a good launch pad for understanding the development of this group’s music. Two of the tracks from that session were included in this concert, a feature for bassist Sébastien Girardot “Solid Old Man” and a blistering solo vehicle for Christopher “I Know That You Know”. On previous tours, the Australian guitarist David Blenkhorn has assumed the Django role, with just enough of Reinhardt’s plangent acoustic sound combined with a fleeter amplified guitar tone to evoke early ‘50s Django. For this brief UK visit, his place has been taken by the New Orleans string specialist Don Vappie.

As a result the group is slightly differently balanced from its earlier incarnation. Vappie is a fine guitar soloist with a post-Charlie Christian vocabulary, but his forays into the Reinhardt area sounded rather like latterday Al Casey (the ex-Fats Waller guitarist who heard Django in New York and changed his style accordingly). The overall results are definitely more Bourbon Street than Montmartre. That’s not a bad thing, and Vappie’s vocal reinterpretation of the Creole Song “Salée Dame”, complete with banjo solo, and with Christopher nodding in the direction of Albert Nicholas, was a joy. Rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and Girardot set up an infectiously lilting backing, A vocal version of “Buddy Bolden Blues” would also have gone down well in the Crescent City, not least for Christopher’s complete avoidance of cliché. He is a study in concentration when he plays, but the results are simply brilliant. His control of dynamics, nuance and tone are extraordinary, and he projects this onto the group, notably in a version of “Riverboat Shuffle” that included intricate unison passages with Vappie and sharp contrasts in volume between one section and the next.

The band has hit upon a winning formula, and sustained it through a major change in personnel. Its eponymous theme, a reworking of Reinhardt’s “Improvisation No, 3”, brings the Latin Creole lilt together with Reinhardt’s melodic gift. The most attractive, and unexpected, success of the evening was “Tropical Moon” from Sidney Bechet’s unusual Haitian Orchestra session of 1939. The original pieces by this quintet were by no means great records, but Evan Christopher’s lyrical exploration of this song showed the wonderful depth of music lurking in those largely forgotten 78s.
ALYN SHIPTON

The Times UK
10.03.2014 - Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival at Colston Hall, Bristol
They made it by the skin of their teeth. After taking the Eurostar from a gig in Paris, the clarinettist Evan Christopher and his inspired chamber quartet, Django à la Creole, dashed into the Colston Hall’s Lantern venue and set about playing after a minimalist sound-check. They looked a little weary — no surprise since they’d been on the road for so long — yet the music floated effortlessly.
Christopher’s drummer-less fusion of Hot Club swing with New Orleans’s famed “Spanish tinge” produces sotto voce dialogues of the highest quality. With a new live album to promote, and with the Crescent City guitarist and banjo player Don Vappie sitting in alongside the rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and the bassist Sebastien Girardot, the quartet unleashed a set that climaxed with Duke Ellington’s The Mooche. Old music, yes, but when it is played with so much spirit and intelligence, everything becomes utterly timeless.
Christopher’s soloing blends raw blues with flourishes of grand opera. Jelly Roll Morton would have loved it. A very different New Orleans tradition was on display in the main hall later when the wisecracking drummer Zigaboo Modeliste led his band through a cheery set of funk work-outs spiced with Meters riffs.
In its second year, with the programme squeezed into one weekend, the festival made a canny job of spanning the spectrum, local luminaries Get the Blessing exploring intelligent, gimmick-free jazz-rock while the I Got Gershwin show brought Jacqui Dankworth together with a big band, string quartet and choir.
Where Christopher had made a virtue of understatement, the 18-year-old Georgian piano prodigy Beka Gochiashvili set off one detonation after another with his trio. As befits a protégé of Chick Corea, his improvising can be overbearing — he fired off more strings of notes in his first two numbers than Christopher managed in an hour — but the best of the pieces, including John Coltrane’s Mr P.C.,were strikingly mature.
CLIVE DAVIS


The Scotsman UK
09.03.2014 - Evan Christopher’s Django a La Creole
Star rating: * * * * *

This international group has a loyal following thanks to its exhilarating fusion of Evan Christopher’s exotic clarinet sound with the Hot Club format of the trio, and invariably provides a five-star live listening experience, so it’s no surprise that this selection of numbers recorded during their autumn 2012 tour is nigh on sensational. As ever, Christopher thrills with his dynamic, dramatic soloing and exciting interplay with guitarist David Blenkhorn. While most of the titles feature on the quartet’s previous CDs, there is a handful of new tunes – among them One For The Duke, a sublime take on the Ben Webster-Johnny Hodges number I’d Be There.
ALISON KERR

thejazzmann.com UK
24.10.2012 - A superb evening of music that informed and entertained in equal measure
There are a lot of Django Reinhardt inspired “gypsy jazz” outfits around but I think it’s fair to say that none of them are quite like clarinettist Evan Christopher’s group Django a la Creole. An album title before it became a group “Django a la Creole” was released to great acclaim in 2008 and its success saw New Orleans based Christopher forming a working band around album personnel David Blenkhorn (lead guitar), Dave Kelbie (rhythm guitar) and Sebastien Girardot (double bass).

This international quartet (Kelbie is English, Blenkhorn and Girardot Australian) has toured extensively, particularly in the UK and Ireland, and they have become a highly exciting live unit who take an obvious delight in their playing. I saw them give an excellent performance at the Wyeside Arts Centre in Builth Wells back in 2009 (reviewed elsewhere on this site) but seem to recall that the event was rather sparsely attended. There were no such problems tonight at a sold out Coffeehouse. An audience of around sixty crammed into this intimate venue for a superb evening of music that informed and entertained in equal measure.

Most of the music heard tonight was sourced from the group’s second album “Finesse” (2010), a collection that proved to be even more assured and successful than its predecessor. Things began quietly with Christopher tantalising his audience with the slow and sophisticated syncopations of Django Reinhardt’s “Douce Ambience”, appropriating the tune as his own by subtly introducing the Cuban “Habanera” rhythm into the arrangement.

Tonight’s performance in a “club” setting was more relaxed and informal than the one at Builth had been with the musicians exchanging banter and, in the true jazz tradition, musing about which tune to play next. If Christopher had been teasing us with the opener then a breakneck version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Riverboat Shuffle” gave the audience what it wanted to hear. Christopher and Blenkhorn fairly rattled through their solos, freely exchanging ideas along the way, and Girardot excelled with a theatrical, highly percussive bass feature that involved the slapping technique, something Girardot regularly deploys to give the group an added rhythmic impetus. This was hot stuff in every sense of the word, on a mild October night the Coffeehouse was positively steaming. Sweat was dripping off me so god knows what it was like on the bandstand. As the number finished the barista handed out towels to the musicians so that they could rub themselves down. As Coffeehouse proprietor Jess Kendrick observed it was hot and sweltering enough for us to actually BE in New Orleans.

Christopher’s enthusiasm for his sources is palpable and infectious. Tonight’s show proved to be something of an education as Christopher, speaking confidently and eloquently without the aid of a mic, explained something about the history, geography and context of his group’s music. This was fascinating and I’m sure that everyone in the audience learned something new about the music, myself included. If this jazz thing doesn’t work out Christopher could make a career as a great teacher. We acquired two new words “Django-ise” and “Creole-ise”, both pretty self explanatory I guess as Christopher talked of Reinhardt applying his methods to American jazz standards and US musicians taking Reinhardt’s ideas back to their side of the pond. Christopher’s vision of this productive process of cross fertilisation is very much rooted in the New Orleans tradition but he adds a further contemporary twist by adding rhythms from Cuba, the wider Caribbean and even Brazil to his group’s music yet emphasised that all these had grown out of the West African diaspora and the clave rhythm. He illustrated his points by demonstrating how the song “Dinah” was recast in the Hot Club style by Reinhardt as “Dinette” before adding a little inventiveness of his own and transforming it into a playful cha cha cha.

The lesson continued with Christopher talking of Jelly Roll Morton and the importance of the “Spanish Tinge” taking Morton’s “The Crave” as his example with the interplay between himself and Blenkhorn particularly impressive.

The initial inspiration behind the Django a la Creole project were the 1939 recordings made by Reinhardt and New Orleans born clarinettist Barney Bigard who was visiting France with the Duke Ellington band. Others involved in those sessions were trumpeter Rex Stewart and bassist Billy Taylor and it was Stewart’s blues “Solid Old Man” that Christopher chose to depict this period. Here the piece was a feature for bassist Sebastian Girardot who soloed superbly as well as providing an appropriately solid platform for the interplay between Christopher and Blenkhorn.

From the same 1939 session Billy Taylor’s “Finesse” was based on The Ellington composition “Night Mood”, originally a feature for saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Christopher’s group delivered the piece in relaxed and languid fashion, gradually building momentum through solos by Girardot, Christopher and Blenkhorn with Kelbie nonchalantly directing the pace on rhythm guitar.

To close the first half the group stoked the fires again with a brisk gallop through the technically demanding Reinhardt composition “Feerie” with Blenkhorn, Christopher and Girardot demonstrating their formidable soloing abilities above Kelbie’s driving rhythms.

In the second set Christopher continued his world tour with the music of Sidney Bechet, a New Orleans musician who migrated to France where he was much loved. Bechet’s “Tropical Moon”, also from 1939, incorporated Haitian rhythms but Blenkhorn’s solo, played making use a finger slide, also seemed to bring yet another element to the table. There were moments when he sounded almost Hawaiian as Christopher explored the upper registers of the clarinet.

New Orleans’ most famous son Louis Armstrong was a huge influence on Reinhardt. It was Armstrong who made Hoagy Carmichael’s “Jubilee” famous when he performed it in the 1938 movie “Every Day’s A Holiday”. In the film Armstrong was leading a street parade but tonight it was Christopher’s authentically hot clarinet solo that grabbed the attention with Blenkhorn following suit on feverishly picked guitar.

Duke Ellington’s influence on all styles of jazz was explored on the bluesy, playful “The Mooch” with solos by Blenkhorn and Girardot and the more sombre “Mood Indigo” with Blenkhorn on slide guitar and Christopher on clarinet again combining well. “Mood Indigo” is one of the best known Ellington pieces but Christopher made a compelling pitch suggesting that the authorship should be credited to Lorenzo Tio Jr. a member of a well known New Orleans musical dynasty and Barney Bigard’s clarinet teacher!

Inspired by Nina Simone’s vocal version the traditional Irish folk tune “Black is The colour Of My True Love’s Hair” was a surprising but highly effective inclusion with Christopher emoting above the shimmering backdrop of the two guitars and the rich, dark drone of Girardot’s bowed bass.

The group returned to the Reinhardt repertoire for Django’s “Manoir De Mes Reves” (translation “Castle Of My Dreams”), a beautiful piece that embodies Reinhardt’s romantic side and embraces a distinct classical influence. Christopher advised us that Reinhardt harboured unfulfilled ambitions to complete a large scale classical work. However it could be argued that his perfectly realised three minute masterpieces still loved by musicians (and particularly guitarists) around the world are legacy enough. Here Christopher’s long melodic lines provided the backdrop for Blenkhorn’s delicately picked solo with Christopher later picking up the reins to deliver his own statement.

The second set concluded with a stunning set piece, the musical recreation of a New Orleans jazz funeral in “Dear Old Southland”, a piece that also incorporates the spirituals “Sometimes I feel Like A Motherless Child” and “Deep River”. Here we had it all, Girardot’s solemn bowing and his pounding of the instrument’s body to recreate the sound of the funeral drum, similarly mournful clarinet and then the moment when the “body is cut loose” to join the spirit world, the hymns stop and the jazz kicks in. This “second line” section included dazzling solos from Blenkhorn and Girardot as Kelbie strummed furiously and Christopher shouted encouragement. Christopher’s own solo was stunning, emotionally charged and virtuosic as he swooped up and down the registers ending on a triumphant high.

The audience gave the group a thunderous reception, many of them getting to their feet and an encore was inevitable. This proved to be the final stop on Christopher’s world tour as Sidney Bechet’s “Passport To Paradise” was rendered as “Passaporto ao Paraiso” as the group gave it a Brazilian samba arrangement with Christopher urging the audience to sing along with the melody. This was a good natured way to round off a terrific evening’s entertainment, and one that also educated along the way.

Christopher’s take on the gypsy jazz tradition and his own New Orleans heritage is unique. He’s an awesome technician and an inspired soloist and in Blenkhorn, Kelbie and Girardot he has an absolutely terrific band. His presentation is spot on, delivering just the right amount of pertinent information without resorting to rambling. The music/history/geography lesson was an essential component in the success of the evening. The audience was hot and sweaty but delighted.

My thanks to Jess Kendrick and Chris Quinn for inviting me to this highly successful and enjoyable event and to Evan and the guys for taking the time to chat afterwards. The final four dates on the current Django a la Creole tour are scheduled to take place in theatres and are to be recorded with a view to releasing a live album in 2013. That should be well worth hearing.
IAN MANN

The Scotsman
06.08.2011 - Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2011: Django a la Creole
*****
There must be an awful lot of musicians who are kicking themselves for not having dreamt up the concept for Django a la Creole, the quartet which fuses the gypsy jazz style and line-up with that of the traditional New Orleans jazz clarinet. Why? Because it’s such a brilliant and inspired mix – and one which, certainly on the evidence of Wednesday’s jazz festival concert at The Hub, is utterly seductive and widely appealing.
The members of the band may live in different countries, but over the course of two albums and regular tours they have clearly established a terrific relationship, yet sparks still fly when they play – and, as with the original recordings of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, the atmosphere is of sheer joie-de-vivre.

On Wednesday night, they dished up one thrilling treat after another – from a lovely repertoire that ranges from 1850s New Orleans to Hoagy Carmichael classics. Of course, much of the appeal of this uniformally top-notch band is the gorgeous and downright mesmerising clarinet playing of the flamboyant Evan Christopher who injected drama and New Orleans-style colour into every tune. As with the late, great Kenny Davern, Christopher has a flair for the theatrical (both musically and, rather distractingly, in his stage presence): in Davern style, Christopher played such quieter numbers as Mood Indigo and Solid Old Man in the lower register to begin with before exploding into a soaring flight of fancy, after holding back and almost lulling the audience into expecting that the whole tune would be soft and gentle.
ALISON KERR

The Times
31.05.2011 - Magical quartet Django à la Créole produced a spellbinding performance
****
Magical quartet Django à la Créole produced a spellbinding performance, and more than lived up to expectations


A few weeks ago Hugh Laurie gave us a genial guided tour of New Orleans in his latest incarnation as a blues musician. Doctor House meets Professor Longhair. Evan Christopher’s approach to the Crescent City’s heritage is even more inspired. A youngish clarinettist from California, he made his home in the cradle of jazz and, when Hurricane Katrina forced him to pack his bags, headed for Paris, where he channelled his talents into a magical quartet, Django à la Créole.
The band’s most recent disc, Finesse, was my favourite album of last year, and this concert — a display of chamber jazz at its most nuanced — more than lived up to expectations. If the audience was modest, the performance was simply spellbinding.
When Woody Allen brings his New Orleans group to town, the power of celebrity means that he can sell out Hammersmith Apollo, which is no bad thing, of course. But while Allen never pretends to be more than an amateur enthusiast, Christopher is a hugely gifted player who wears his learning incredibly lightly. Nor is this an exercise in nostalgia. An unorthodox line-up, with David Blenkhorn’s deft electric guitar balanced by Dave Kelbie’s acoustic rhythm guitar and Sébastien Girardot’s double bass, gives the repertoire immense suppleness.
When the quartet swooped into Songe d’Automne, for example, Kelbie generated an infectious samba beat before Christopher dismantled his own instrument in order to add exotic, cuíca-like sounds on his mouthpiece.
The combination of Django-esque swing and a generous helping of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Spanish tinge” would have been a revelation to anyone who still associates New Orleans jazz with the chug-chug-chug of the banjo. In this largely unamplified concert, Christopher was capable of effortless shifts in dynamics, leaping from flourishes worthy of Sidney Bechet at his most imperious to the lightest of whispers. Tropical Moon added a touch of Haitian rumba, while the sensuous Mama Nita rolled its hips with pure abandon. They’re at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July. Don’t miss it.
CLIVE DAVIS

The Clarinet UK
01.03.2011 - Finesse
New Orleans resident Evan Christopher has been called “not only the greatest jazz clarinetist alive, but one of the greatest of all time” by no less of an authority than Ahmet Ertegun, the founding chairman of Atlantic Records and, historically, a major figure in the recording industry. That is an impressive endorsement, but Christopher is an impressive musician.
This is the latest recording by Mr. Christopher and the second by the group that he put together in Paris in 2007. It was recorded in December, 2009 and released in spring, 2010. Like the earlier CD, this one simultaneously pays tribute to two traditions: the distinctive Gypsy swing of the great guitarist Django Reinhardt (especially his quintet that included clarinetist Hubert Rostaing) and the Creole clarinet tradition of New Orleans and the French Caribbean islands (especially Martinique). As has been the case for the past decade or so, Evan is heard on an Albert-system clarinet bequeathed to him by fellow clarinetist Kenny Davern.
This recording opens with a Sidney Bechet composition that Christopher renders in an unmistakably Caribbean clarinet style. That is followed by the title track, a lovely composition here attributed to Ellington bassist Billy Taylor, which features an interpretation by Evan that brings to mind a Latinized Barney Bigard.
Moving on, a Christopher original, named after the band itself, reveals an interesting amalgam of the two traditions. “It’s based,” he says, “on three themes from Django’s solo, Improvisation No. 3 (parts 1 & 2), that I arranged in the manner of Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Spanish Tinge’ pieces like The Crave.” The rhythm – a tango or habanera – is again in the Latin idiom.
Indeed, Latin rhythms abound in this recording. In addition to those already mentioned, there is the tasteful samba feel that Evan gives to one of his favorite Reinhardt-Rostaing outings, “Songe d’Autumne.” Nineteenth-century New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk was the first to combine European forms with Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and Evan here revisits the composer’s “Creole Eyes,” a piece he first recorded with pianist Tom McDermott nearly a decade ago. The CD concludes with a tip of the hat to Brazil once again with Bechet’s “Passport to Paradise” rendered as a choro, a musical style that Christopher and McDermott often visited in their several “Danza” collaborations.
The program also includes a couple of good old Hoagy Carmichael evergreens, a couple of Ellington-influenced standards (I loved the bluesy shuffle of Rex Stewart’s “Solid Old Man” which features more of the Bigardian spirit), and another Reinhardt original (“Féerie”) that showcases Evan’s—indeed, the whole group’s—ability to negotiate a difficult number at breakneck speed. They’re really cooking on this one.
Mention of “the group” clearly requires that kudos be given to David Blenkhorn for his excellent solos on both accoustic and electric guitar and the solid groove laid down by Dave Kelbie and Sébastien Girardot. Combined, these four talented young musicians have given us a delicious taste of a different form of French cuisine, and I can heartily recommend it.
THOMAS JACOBSEN

Mondomix
15.11.2010 - Brillantissime
*****
Nouvel épisode d’une expérimentation qui fit mouche voici deux ans : la rencontre d’une section rythmique de style manouche et de Evan Christopher, clarinettiste habité et voluptueux sur lequel plane l’ombre du grand Sidney Bechet. Finesse est le titre qui convient exactement à ce second disque tout en exquise délicatesse, qui s’évade – mais pas totalement – du répertoire reinhardtien pour explorer d’autres rivages, plus proches qu’on l’imagine : choro brésilien, danzón cubain et délicieuses raretés néo-orléanaises signées Jelly Roll Morton ou Louis Moreau-Gottschalk. Brillantissime.
J.P.B

TRUFFAUTJAZZ
08.11.2010 - C'est calme et volupté, auxquels la joie s'est greffée
Question jazz manouche, le clarinettiste britannique Evan Christopher en connaît un rayon. Un rayon de grande surface et non du bouge du coin. Il le connaît tellement, le «djasse» à la Django et à la Grappelli, qu'il vient de se permettre une licence en lui greffant du Sidney Bechet, le Créole de La Nouvelle-Orléans que ce couillon de Napoléon a vendue pour trois roupies de sansonnet. Du Bechet, mais aussi du Duke Ellington. Oui, ma chère. Bon. Christopher vient de publier un album sur étiquette Frémeaux & Associés intitulé Django à la créole. Aux guitares, il y a David Blenkhorn et Dave Kelbie, alors que la contrebasse est entre les mains de Sébastien Girardot. Le programme est fait de compositions signées Bechet, Ellington — Mood Indigo, rien de moins —, Billy Taylor, Rex Stewart, Django et maîtres des standards comme Hoagy Carmichael. Le résultat est clair, limpide, cristallin. C'est calme et volupté, auxquels la joie s'est greffée. Sur un instrument réputé très difficile, Christopher se distingue par sa retenue. Par une retenue qui lui permet de sculpter LA note jusqu'à la quasi-perfection. Ce Django à la créole, c'est enfin et surtout de la sympathie.
Serge TRUFFAUT

CLASSICA France
27.09.2010 - D’une belle fraîcheur et d’une réelle originalité
Enregistrement raffiné, magnifiquement spatialisé.Finesse est un bon titre. Il rend parfaitement compte de la qualité première de cette musique, qui pour être d’une belle fraîcheur et d’une réelle originalité, se donne à entendre de façon privilégiée et choisie à travers le chuchotement, le raffinement mélodique, la souplesse des timbres. Mariant avec bonheur l’univers des séances haïtiennes du clarinettiste Sidney Bechet, la souplesse des petites formations ellingtoniennes, la musique créole, voire le choro brésilien, avec l’univers de Django Reinhardt, ce quartet d’une élégance à toute épreuve charme immédiatement. D’abord parce que la musique créole et la biguine ont une histoire en France. Ensuite parce que Sidney Bechet et Django Reinhardt furent aussi de grandes vedettes françaises. Enfin, plus important encore, parce que cette musique en demi-teintes, parfois presque diaphane, réveille au sein de notre mémoire musicale parfois assourdie ces magiques soirées de Pigalle où convolaient en justes noces le tango et le jazz, le musette et l’afro-cubain, où régnaient entre autre Robert Mavounzy, Sidney Bechet lui-même et Al Lirvat. Evan Christopher mérite toute notre admiration à l’écoute de ce disque enchanteur, sa musique comparable à nulle autre semblant faite de l’étoffe dont sont faits nos plus beaux souvenirs. On ne trouvait que chez le grand clarinettiste argentin, Giora Feidman, une telle suavité à la clarinette, comme cette rare faculté de fondre en un style musical singulier, comme le fait Evan Christophe, le talent personnelle et la mémoire des peuples

LE WEEKEND A MONTREAL - CANADA
27.09.2010 - Tout en finesse
Après un hommage bien senti au guitariste Django Reinhardt, grand patron du jazz manouche et des secrets harmoniques, le clarinettiste Evan Christopher revient avec son ensemble Django à la Créole. Né en Californie, mais établi à la Nouvelle-Orléans, ce jeune interprète (36ans) a fait ses classes au cœur même d’un jazz traditionnel. Pour éviter le déjà-vu, il a revu avec ses complices et de façon sublime 121 pièces qui ont fait époque. Cette nouveauté tout en finesse est un cadeau de première main pour qui voudrait connaître les fondamentaux du jazz en long et en large. Plus qu’un plaisir, c’est une autre manière de réentendre le sel d’un art qui perdure avec, en premier lieu, Riverboat Shuffle (Hoagy Carmichael), Féérie (Django Reinhardt), Mood indigo (Bigard/Ellington) et le méconnu Passaporte ao Paraiso, de Sydney Bechet. Usant des timbres et des couleurs (un vrai peintre, ce Evan Christopher), il fait ressurgir ici et là les ombres de Barney Bigard, Benny Goodman, Maxim Saury, Mezz Mezzrow et Sydney Bechet comme il se doit. Une rentrée sous le signe du soleil !
LE WEEKEND A MONTREAL

So Jazz FRANCE
27.09.2010 - Une grande fraîcheur
Evan Christopher s’est taillé un franc succès avec son Django A la Créole et il aurait bien tort de ne pas récidiver. L’idée reste la même : mêler les effluves néo-orléanaises de sa clarinette au parfum de jazz manouche. Comme si Bechet avait rencontré Django, qui aimait la clarinette mais ne joua jamais avec le plus français des Louisianais. Jamais incongrue, mais au contraire d’une grande fraîcheur, cette Finesse a tout ce qu’il faut de délicatesse, d’indolence et de charme pour n’être pas usurpée.
VINCENT BESSIERES

Djangostation FRANCE
27.09.2010 - On ne change pas une équipe de gagnants
Après le succès unanime tant critique que public du premier volume Django à la Créole, il était évident qu’un second opus se devait de voir le jour. C’est aujourd’hui chose faite avec la parution de Finesse, toujours chez Frémeaux en partenariat avec le Jazzetal de Dave Kelbie. On ne change pas une équipe de gagnants, et le clarinettiste new-orléanais d’adoption Evan Christopher a tout naturellement pour l’occasion réuni à nouveau ses guitaristes David Blenkhorn (solo) et Dave Kelbie (rythmique) et son bassiste Sébastien Girardot en studio, ce qui n’a pas du être forcément facile quand on sait qu’il y a dans l’équipe un américain, un anglais et deux australiens dont l’un vit en France... ! Si le répertoire de Finesse fait moins la part belle à Django Reinhardt qu’il ne le faisait précédemment, l’esprit de sa musique reste toutefois toujours bien présent, notamment grâce aux deux guitaristes. On retrouve au programme un titre du génial manouche, Féérie : son rythme très soutenu permet aux deux solistes d’exposer tout leur savoir-faire technique et Blenkhorn à la guitare électrique (qu’il utilise généreusement sur tout le disque) sonne comme le Django d’après-guerre. Le titre Django à la créole est quant à lui ouvertement inspiré de l’Improvisation #3 de Reinhardt : la relecture et l’arrangement du thème, tout en nuances et en douceur sont particulièrement réussis. Pas d’esbroufe, mais en revanche quelle jolie musique ! Très lyrique, le solo de Blenkhorn combinant notes et accords fait encore mouche. Le blues de Rex Stewart Solid old man rappelle lui aussi le Django des années 50, et sa décontraction n’est pas sans évoquer l’ultime et session éthérée Barclay, tandis que Songe d’automne pris ici en samba rappelle immanquablement la version jazz qu’en feront le manouche et Hubert Rostaing en 1947. Une autre présence se fait également sentir ici : Sidney Bechet. Si le célèbre clarinettiste et Django n’ont jamais enregistré ensemble, les très érudites "liner notes" de Philippe Baudoin nous rappellent que les deux hommes se sont vraisemblablement rencontrés entre 49 et 53, et que Bechet enregistra Nuages 12 jours après la mort du guitariste. Au répertoire, on retrouvera de Bechet le très dansant Tropical Mood bien chaloupé à l’antillaise, et Passaporte ao paraiso encore une fois bien chaloupé, mais à la brésilienne cette fois-ci. Duke Ellington et son orchestre sont aussi à l’honneur, on ne s’en étonnera pas, avec Finesse, morceau de son bassiste Billy Taylor. On retrouve d’ailleurs ce titre au répertoire la légendaire session d’avril 39 de Django et des ellingtonien Barney Bigard (cl), Rex Stewart (cornet) et Billy Taylor (cb). La boucle est bouclée... Evan Christopher en conserve la délicatesse même quand le tempo double. Également au programme le fameux mood indigo co-écrit par Barney Bigard et Irving Mils : l’arrangement est un éloge à la lenteur, et Evan Christopher arrache à son instrument des sons déchirants à donner le vertige... Enfin, on sortira également du lot Créole Eyes, remarquable composition en forme de danse et signée du pianiste néo-orléanais Louis Moreau Gottschalk mêlant influence cubaine, orléanaise et sud-américaine. Cette version n’est pas sans rappeler les excursions exotiques de Fapy Lafertin à la guitare portugaise sur l’album Fleur de lavande.
Finalement, Evan Christopher et ses acolytes confirment avec Finesse tout le bien que l’on pensait d’eux. Son Django à la Creole continue à explorer avec intelligence les passerelles entre la musique des caraïbes et le gipsy swing de Django. Pour notre plus grand bonheur... Après Samois l’année dernière, à quand un grand concert parisien au New Morning ?
STOCHE

Journal de Montréal
06.09.2010 - Django a la Creole - Finesse
****
Après un homage bien senti au guitariste Django Reinhardt, grand patron du jazz manouche et des secrets harmoniques, le clarinettiste Evan Christopher revient avec son ensemble Django a la Creole. Né en Californie, mais établi à La Nouvelle-Orleans, ce jeune interprète (36 ans) a fait ses classes au Coeur meme d’un jazz traditionnel. Pour éviter le déjà-vu, il a revu avec ses complices et de facon sublime 12 pieces qui ont fait époque. Cette nouveauté tout en finesse est un cadeau de première main pour qui voudrait connaitre les fondamentaux du jazz en long et en large. Plus qu’un plaisir, c’est une autre manière de réentendre le sel d’un art qui perdure avec, en premier lieu, Riverboat Shuffle, (Hoagy Carmichael), Féerie, (Django Reinhardt), Mood Indigo (Bigard/Ellington) et le méconnu Passaporte ao Paraiso, de Sydney Bechet. Udant des timbres et des couleurs (un vrai peintre, ce Evan Christopher), il fait ressurgir ici et là les ombres de Barney Bigard, Benny Goodman, Maxim Saury, Mezz Merrow et Sydney Bechet comme il se doit. Une rentrée sous le signe du soleil!


All about Jazz USA
23.08.2010 - Finesse Evan Christopher's Django a la Creole | Lejazzetal Records (2010)
The epithet "flawless technique" does not even begin to describe Evan Christopher's manner of playing, perhaps, the most challenging reed instrument: the clarinet. His polished intonation is marked by the perfect annunciation of the notes that gush forth from his clarinet sometimes at great speed. His rhythmic attack is so full of surprise, especially when he injects elements of Brazilian and other Latin American colorings into the long, loping lines he plays. He has a spiritual connection with Django Reinhardt and the Romani tradition of Europe, and it is as deep and enduring as the one he shares with George Lewis, Barney Bigard, and the magicians in the New Orleans Creole tradition. This is beautifully brought out in the swaggering glissandos and with tremulous wonder in the stately version of "Mood Indigo" that he and the quartet play on the memorable Finesse, a joint release by lejazzetal and Fremeaux & Associates, in France.
It is Christopher's reverent sense of history that enables him to revisit the work of New Orleans' great legendary son, Sidney Bechet. The album opens and closes with the great clarinetist's "Tropical Moon" and "Passaporte ao Paraìso." His rendition of Bix Beiderbecke's bustling masterpiece, "Riverboat Shuffle," is a snorter. His own "Django à la Créole," which is based on Django's solos on "Improvisation No. 3 (Parts 1 and 2)," melded into Latin pieces played by that other master of the New Orleans idiom, Jelly Roll Morton. This remains the centerpiece of this second memorable album that brings Gypsy music together with jazz from that charmed era, cooked in the place of its birth, New Orleans.

Throughout this magnificent album, Christopher's control over melodic content is matched by his inspired use of harmonic ingenuity. On songs such as "Finesse," "Féerie Eyes" and "Mood Indigo," it sometimes feels as if Christopher has a hidden reed in his clarinet, which enables him to create a harmonic force that adds density to the colors he is able to paint, from a palette already rich in hues from the luscious tones that he is able to draw out of his beautiful woodwind instrument. Christopher's genius emerges further as he fuses together musical idioms from the Caribbean, Brazil and Cuba into the Creole world of New Orleans with rare finesse and charm; more than that, it's the clarinetist's ability to create all this in an environment that is at once reverential as well as completely new and timeless, so that it appears wholly new.

Christopher's mission is enhanced by the accompaniment on his journey from three other musicians equally passionate about the roots of swing: guitarists Dave Kelbie, who has almost single-handedly kept the flame of Gypsy music burning brightly—not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world—and the talented David Blenkhorn, who plays his Django-like role to perfection throughout; and the remarkable bassist Sébastien Giradot, who contributes more than solid rhythmic accompaniment, brilliantly showcased on the spectacular title tune of this album of rare beauty.
Raul d'Gama Rose

The Herald Scotland
09.08.2010 - Django a la Creole, The Hub, Edinburgh
****
The Django Reinhardt strand of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival came to an end on Saturday evening with a knockout performance by one of the most exciting Django-inspired groups. Django a la Creole has a Django-style line-up – of two guitars, bass and clarinet – but its accomplished lead guitarist, David Blenkhorn, doesn’t try to sound like the great gypsy jazz pioneer. And nor is its repertoire your typical Django one: this band, as the name suggests, dishes up its tunes with a variety of exotic flavours and rhythms. Some of the tunes were written that way; others benefit from the Creole treatment.

Of course, the band’s trump card is the American clarinet virtuoso Evan Christopher, whose passion for the New Orleans style of Sidney Bechet and Barney Bigard fuses beautifully with the Django set-up. On Saturday, he was in great form, whether playing finger-busting duets with Blenkhorn on Riverboat Shuffle, I Know That You Know and Feerie or seducing listeners with his passionate playing on such intoxicating Caribbean-tinged tunes as Tropical Moon and Passaporte ao Paraiso.
>B>ALISON KERR

LYLO
03.08.2010 - Finesse
Voyage imaginaire, à vent et à cordes, de Django aux Antilles, un sourire complice accroché à sa moustache fine et ondulante, à l’image du swing décontracté de ce fin quartet

The Scotsman
29.06.2010 - Evan Christopher's Django a la Creole, Finesse
****
Get in the mood for this year's Django Reinhardt strand at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival with this excellent second CD by New Orleans- based clarinettist Evan Christopher's international band.

What makes it stand out from many of the other Django-style bands is the Creole twist: Christopher's sweet and swinging Sidney Bechet-inspired playing blends beautifully with the familiar Reinhardt sound (of two guitars and bass). Among the highlights are Bechet's Passaporte Ao Paraiso, Hoagy Carmichael's Jubilee and two classic numbers associated with trumpeter Rex Stewart.
ALISON KERR

Jazzman FRANCE
25.06.2008 - Django à la Créole - french
****
Le clarinettiste Evan Christopher est l’un des meilleurs musicians actuels s’exprimant dans le style Nouvelle-Orléans qu’il a appris aux meilleures sources. Dans ce disque, il appliqué les recettes toniques du gumbo musical de la Cité du Croissant à l’oeuvre de Django Reinhardt qu’il admire profondement. Cette démarche est moins surprenante qu’il n’y paraît puisque le guitariste avait enregistré avec le clarinettiste Barney Bigard, un natif de La Nouvelle-Orléans, des faces restées fameuses. Sans oublier le fait que Hubert Rostaing fut longtemps son partenaire. L’intérêt supplémentaire de cette réalization réside en la façon don’t la touché habanera qui, selon Jelly Roll Morton, est indispensable à la réussite d’une interprétation de jazz, se marie avec le répertoire de Django Reinhardt. Pour s’en convaincre, il suffit d’écouter avec quell naturel les contours de la mélodie de Douce Ambiance exposée par Evan Christopher s’appuient sur les rythmes des Caraïbes distillés par la section rythmique. D’autres climates sont évoqués avec Manoir de mes rêves et son ambiance bolero ou Mélodie au crépuscule qui crépite comme une samba. Evan Christopher sait faire sonner sa clarinette et expose rune ligne mélodique avec autorité. Sa sonorite, chaude et veloutée, fait tout le charme de Low Cotton, la composition de Rex Stewart. La cohésion de l’orchestre est remarquable et génère un swing constant, en particulier dans Farewell Blues qui se termine en apothéose. Un swing qui éclaire aussi les interventions de Dave Blenkhorn, indispensable partenaire et complice. Une relecture épicée.
ALAIN TOMAS

Jazzman FRANCE
25.06.2008 - Django à la Créole - english
Clarinetist Evan Christopher is one of the best musicians currently expressing himself in the New Orleans style learnt from the best sources. In this recording, he applied the homegrown recipes of this Crescent City musical gumbo to the work of Django Reinhardt whom he clearly admires profoundly. This approach is less surprising than it first appears because the guitarist had already recorded with the clarinetist Barney Bigard, himself a New Orleans native, and one who’s recordings remain celebrated. Not forgetting the fact that the clarinetist Hubert Rostaing was his sideman for a long time. The supplementary interest in this endeavor stems from the way the habanera influence etc, which according to Jelly Roll Morton is essential to a successful approach to interpretation of jazz music, marries itself so well with the repertory of Django Reinhardt. To convince oneself of this you only have to listen to how naturally the contours of Douce Ambiance lean so well on the distilled Caribbean grooves of the rhythm section. Other climates are also evoked with the bolero-like Manoir de mes Reves and Melodie au Crepuscule which “crepite” like a samba. Evan Christopher knows how to get a great sound out of his clarinet. He exposes his melodic lines with authority and his warm creamy sound all but makes the charm of Rex Stewarts’s composition Low Cotton. The group generates a remarkably cohesive and constant swing, in particular in Farewell Blues which finishes in “apotheose”. A swing that also inspires indispensable accomplice Dave Blenkhorn’s interventions.
A spicey revisit.
Alain Tomas

The Times UK
04.05.2008 - Django à la Créole
****
It’s only a matter of months ago that the thirtysomething New Orleans clarinet revivalist Evan Christopher set out his wares on Delta Bound. His latest outing turns out to be an equally confident mixture of Crescent City passion and je ne sais quoi. Christopher possesses a ravishing tone and receives unfailingly crisp support from the double-bassist Sebastien Girardot and guitarists Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie. Even that old Reinhardt standby Nuages sounds fresh, the rhythm section dancing a gentle beguine in the background. And Christopher shifts gear into Benny Goodmanesque swing on the ultra-brisk I Know That You Know. Timeless stuff.
CLIVE DAVIS

Jazz Classique FRANCE
10.10.2008 - Django à la Créole - french
Souvent, dansles chroniques de jazz, nous pouvrons lire, parfois à juste titre, des appréciations du genre: “pure merveille”, “vrai regal”, “magnifique joyau”, “swing terrible”, “aisance suprême”, “exposés flamboyants”, feeling énorme”, etc. Eh bien, tous ces qualificatifs peuvent être employés sans retenue à propos du dernier Evan Christopher. Dès la première écoute, ce fut pour moi un éblouissement.
Quelle idée géniale de vouloir interpreter Django à la sauce louisianaise, antillaise et brésilienne et le tout sans oublier le swing et le blues… Toutes les qualités vantées dans mes precedents chroniques des CD d’Evan (avec Dick Hyman, J.Cl #49, avec Duke Heitger, J.Cl #28-34-47), explosent dans le présent enregistrement. Evan est réellement “le” clarinettiste #1 sur la scène actuelle du jazz et je pense que, dans l’histoire du jazz, il figurera parmi les plus grands de tous les temps.
David Blenkhorn a maintenànt atteint une réelle maturité et une grande aisance. Je me demande combien d’heures il a passé à écouter et réécouter les enregistrements de Django car, sans jamais le copier, il montre ici qu’il a tout compris du jazz du génial Django et nous l’évoque de façon magistrale. Dave Kelbie a une grande expérience de son travail de guitare rythmique. En effet, il a depuis plus de 20 ans eu l’occasion de jouer avec des pointures comme Fapy Lafertin, Bireli Lagrene ou Angelo Debarre. Il démontre ici sa discrète efficacité. Signalons aussi qu’il est le manager de Lejazzetal et le producteur de ce CD. Enfin, notre Sébastien national est lui aussi parfait tout au long du disque.
Lorsque les thèmes interprétés ici ne sont pas des compositions de Django, ce sont des themes enregistrés par lui: Low Cotton et I know that you know en 1939 en compagnie de Rex Stewart et Barney Bigard, Farewell Blues avec Benny Carter en 1938, Insensiblement avec Hubert Rostaing en 1947. Chaque interprétation mériterait d’être disséquée en détail tant il y a dans chacune d’elle des trésors de subtilité, de swing et de sentiments. Par son tempo, son ambience, son inspiration, son rhythme, chaque morceau diffère du précédent et du suivant, ce qui donne 50 minutes de superbe jazz que l’on écoute sans un seul instant de lassitude. Evan est non seulement un instrumentiste hors pair, un jazzman superbe mais aussi un arrangeur subtil et un “chef” d’orchestre exigeant. Le résultat est là: une très très belle réussite.
JEAN-MARIE HUREL


Jazz Classique FRANCE
10.10.2008 - Django à la Créole - english
Often, in jazz reviews, one reads comments that are sometimes fair – such as: "absolutely marvelous," "a true feast," "a magnificient jewel," "great swing", "flamboyant," "enormous feeling" etc. Well, all these may be used without a doubt about this last album by Evan Christopher.

From the first listen, one thing was clearly evident for me. What a great idea to interpret Django with the flavors of New Orleans, the Caribbean, and Brazi,l and without forgetting swing and blues. All these qualities mentioned in my former articles of Evan's CD's (with Dick Hyman no. 49, Duke Heitger no. 28, 34,47) literally explode in this new recording. Evan is truly THE #1 clarinetist on the current jazz scene and I think that, in the history of jazz, he will be amidst the greatest of all times. David Blenkhorn has now reached a real maturity and a great effortlessness. I wonder how many hours he has spent listening and listening again Django's recordings because, without ever copying him, he shows here that he has understood everything about the brilliant Django and evokes this for us in a masterly way. Dave Kelbie has a lot of experience with his rhythmic guitar playing. Indeed, he has, for more than 20 years, played with some big names like Fapy Lafertin, Bireli Lagrene or Angelo Debarre. He shows here his subtle effectiveness. He is also the manager of LeJazzetal and the producer of this CD. Finally, our French national Sebastien Girardot is also perfect all through the disc.

When the interpreted themes are not Django's compositions, they are themes he recorded. ("Low Cotton" and "I Know That You Know" in 1939 in the company of Rex Stewart and Barney Bigard, and "Farewell Blues" recorded in 1938 with Benny Carter) Each interpretation will deserve analysis in more detail, as there are in each one subtle treasures of swing and emotion. With its tempo, it's atmosphere, its inspiration, its rhtythm, each track differs from the preceding and following one, giving 50 min of superb jazz that one listens without a single moment of lassitude. Evan is not only a unique instrumentalist, a superb jazzman but also a subtle arranger and demanding bandleader.
The result is a very, very beautiful success.
JEAN-MARIE HUREL

Wall Street Journal USA
13.09.2008 - Django à la Créole
Clarinetist Evan Christopher, a California native, moved to New Orleans in 1994. In his frequent duets with Tom McDermott, and as a standout member of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his erudite and personalized approach to traditional jazz commands attention. After Katrina, Mr. Christopher relocated to Paris for two years. There, he formed two new bands: Django à la Créole, featured on this CD, revisits the storied Hot Club band co-founded by guitarist Django Reinhardt, distilling and emphasizing that music's New Orleans elements. Mr. Christopher draws particular inspiration from Mr. Reinhardt's work with clarinetists, including Ellington sideman and New Orleans native Barney Bigard.

Beginning with the habanera beat dancing beneath "Douce Ambience," the bass and rhythm guitar of Mr. Christopher's drummerless quartet announce a strong rhythmic emphasis. But it's Mr. Christopher's finely calibrated control -- his fluid lines, piercing high notes, and exquisite quiver of vibrato -- and his rapport with the equally expressive guitarist Dave Blenkhorn that steal the show. This is repertory music of the best kind: informed by sincere study, yet never derivative; playful, more so than reverent; aimed at extending, not rehashing, a legacy.
LARRY BLUMENFELD

Djangostation FRANCE
23.05.2008 - Django à la Créole - french
Intéressante initiative que ce petit disque issu des productions anglaises Lejazzetal de Dave Kelbie. Reprendre du Django façon créole ? Diable, heureuse et bienvenue idée à l’heure où le soleil pointe enfin le bout de son nez par chez nous !
Evan Christopher fait partie de ces très nombreux musiciens de la Nouvelle Orléans forcé de s’expatrier face aux catastrophiques inondations d’août 2005. En séjour forcé en France, ce brillant clarinettiste spécialiste des musiques de Louisiane, New Orleans, créole, cajun et autres zydeco ne perd pas son temps puisqu’entre concerts, conférences et master-class, il crée plusieurs groupe dont ce Django à la Créole au projet assez simple : pimenter la musique du Hot Club d’influence new orleans, blues et créole.
Pour cela, Evan Christopher et son guitariste australien Dave Blenkhorn ont d’abord réécouté les échanges de Django Reinhardt avec les musiciens américains, notamment celles avec les clarinettistes new orleans ; à ce titre, impossible d’ignorer les superbes et lumineuses faces de 1939 gravées en compagnie du cornettiste Rex Stewart et du clarinettiste Barney Bigard, tous deux sidemen de Duke Ellington. Evan Christopher reprend d’ailleurs deux titres, Low cotton et I know that you know issus de cette légendaire séance. Au programme également, le typiquement new orleans Farewell blues déjà enregistré en 38 par le génial manouche en compagnie de Benny Carter, et Insensiblement magnifique ballade de Misraki pris ici avec une remarquable douceur dans le registre grave de la clarinette. Le reste du répertoire est reinhardtien, mais dans des arrangements rafraichissants évoquant Cuba, les Caraïbes ou le Brésil : Dinette est pris en cha-cha, Manoir de mes rêves en boléro, tandis que Nuages nous transporte à La Havane et Mélodie au crépuscule à Rio de Janeiro ! Enfin, l’exceptionnelle relecture syncopée de Douce ambiance qui ouvre l’album nous plonge dans un stupéfiant climat de tension tout à fait inédit...
Une très belle réussite !
SEBASTIEN LEGE

Djangostation FRANCE
23.05.2008 - Django à la Créole - english
What an interesting initiative this little disc is from the english production company Lejazzetal. Redo Django's music in a creole style?? Wow, what a happy and welcome idea as spring and the sun are making their first visits into France.

Evan Christopher is one of the numerous New Orleans musicians forced to expatriate himself following the catastrophic floods of August 2005. While in France, this brilliant clarinetist,who specializes in the musicial styles of Louisiana (New Orleans, Creole, Cajun and Zydeco) never lost a beat, because between concerts, conferences and master classes, he put bands together. The most recent being Django à la Créole which has one simple goal : spice up Hot Club music with new orleans, blues and creole influences.

To achieve this, Evan Christopher and his Australian guitarist Dave Blenkhorn first studied the early collaborations between Django Reinhardt and the American musicians, especially the New Orleans clarinetists. How can one not look back fondly on the superb and beautiful sides recorded in 1939 with Rex Steward and Barney Bigard, both sidemen in the Duke Ellington band. Evan Christopher revisits two songs from these legendary recordings, Low cotton and I know that you know. Also on the program, the quintessentially new orleans tune Farewell Blues, that was recorded in 38 by the wonderful gypsy, this time accompanied by Benny Carter. Insensiblement, Misraki's magnificent ballad, which is played here with a remarkable sweetness in the lower register of the clarinet. The rest of the repertoire is pure Reinhart but with refreshing arrangements reminiscent of Cuba, the Caribbean and Brazil ; Dinette as a cha-cha, Manoir de mes rêves as a bolero, while Nuages takes us on a trip to Havana and Mélodie au crépuscule to Rio de Janeiro ! Finally, the exceptional syncopated version of Douce Ambiance which opens the album helps us to dive into an amazing climate of tension never heard before. What a beautiful success!!
SEBASTIEN LEGE

The Observer UK
04.05.2008 - Django à la Créole
As 'fusion' projects go, this looks a bit unlikely at first glance. Fiery European Gypsy jazz and the limpid Creole clarinet style of New Orleans may not seem like natural bedfellows, but the result is enchanting. Clarinettist Evan Christopher has been winning awards since the age of 11. His tone is gorgeously light and fluffy and he creates sparkling improvisations, while guitarists Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie and bassist Sebastien Girardot supply spirited accompaniment. Django Reinhardt's tunes have rarely been more sensitively played, and old warhorses like 'Farewell Blues' sound fresh and new.
DAVE GELLY

The Scotsman UK
20.04.2008 - Django A La Creole
****
CDs invoking the memory of the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and his recorded output are ten a penny, but this one has star quality in the shape of the charismatic and flamboyant American clarinettist Evan Christopher – a favourite at recent Edinburgh and Nairn festivals. With an international, Reinhardt-style trio (Australian Dave Blenkhorn and Briton Dave Kelbie on guitars and Frenchman Sebastien Giradot on bass), Christopher serves up his exuberant and passionate interpretations of mainly Djangly numbers.
ALISON KERR

Etudes Tsiganes FRANCE
01.09.2008 - Django à la créole - french
Nouvelle production du label anglais dirigé par le guitariste Dave Kelbie, ici à la guitare. Forcé de quitter la Nouvelle Orléans après le passage de Katerina en 2005, le clarinettiste Evan Christopher, spécialiste des musiques de Louisiane, crée en France le groupe Django à la créole avec Dave Kelbie et l'australien Dave Blenkhorn aux guitares et le français Sébastien Girardot à la contrebasse. Le nom du groupe est tout à fait explicite : reprendre Django façon créole c'est-à-dire en le mâtinant d'influences New-Orléans mais aussi brésiliennes et caribéennes. La relecture syncopée tout à fait convaincante de " Douce ambiance " qui ouvre le disque donne le ton. Ces arrangements originaux (cf. " Dinette " en cha-cha, les accents brésiliens de " Mélodie au crépuscule " et le petit air cubain de " nuages ") apportent une fraîcheur bienvenue à un répertoire de standards dont les innombrables versions sont souvent interchangeables. Rappelons qu'en 1939 Django enregistra quelques morceaux avec Rex Stewart et Barney Bigard (clarinette), tous deux musiciens de l'orchestre d'Ellington. Evan Christopher reprend 2 titres issus de cette séance, " Low cotton " et " I know that you know ", swinguant à souhait, propulsé par une pompe d'enfer, ainsi que " Farewell blues " enregistré en 38 par l'illustre manouche en compagnie de Benny Carter. Son style s'inscrit dans la tradition du style New-Orléans des premiers maîtres de la clarinette comme S. Bechet ou B. Bigard ; Dave Kelbie a accompagné un temps Fapy Lafertin et joue régulièrement avec Angélo ; une excellente école ! Est-ce lui qui prend les chorus de guitares, limpides et inspirés, conjuguant à la manière d'un Fapy, sérénité et poésie ? Ce n'est pas précisé. Un groupe tout à fait convaincant en tous cas, tant sur tempo vif que sur les ballades (cf. " Manoir de mes rêves " version boléro ou " Insensiblement " tous deux d'une musicalité exceptionnelle). Voilà une manière personnelle et intelligente de rendre hommage à Django Reinhardt. L'un des plus beaux disques parus cette année dans le style. A écouter de toute urgence !
FRANCIS COUVREUX

Etudes Tsiganes FRANCE
01.09.2008 - Django à la créole - english
New production of the British label directed by Dave Kelbie, here on guitar. Forced to leave New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, clarinetist Evan Christopher, a specialist in the musics of Louisiana, created the group Django à la Créole in France with Dave Kelbie and the Australian David Blenkhorn on guitars and the French bassist Sebastien Girardot. The group's name explains everything: A retake, Django in a Creole fashion, so to speak, with influences of New Orleans but also Brazil and the Caribbean. The quite convincing syncopated new version of Douce Ambiance, which opens the disc, sets the tone. These original arrangements, such as Dinette as a cha-cha-cha, Melodie au Crepuscule with Brazilian accents, and the slightly Cuban air of Nuages, bring a welcome freshness to a repertoire of standards whose countless versions are often interchangeable. We recall that in 1939 Django recorded a few songs with Rex Stewart and Barney Bigard, both sidemen with Duke Ellington's orchestra. Evan Christopher takes two titles from this meeting, Low Cotton and I Know That You Know. Also very Swinging and propulsed by a solid rhythm isFarewell Blues recorded in 1938 by the famous Gypsy with Benny Carter.
Christopher's style places him in the New Orleans tradition of early clarinet masters like Sidney Bechet or Barney Bigard. Dave Kelbie has accompanied Fapy Lafertin and plays regularly with Angelo Debarre, an excellent schooling! Is it he who takes the guitar solos, clear and inspired, like Fapy combining poetry and serenity? It is not specified. The group is quite convincing in any case, both at quick tempos and on the ballads: a Bolero version of Manoir de mes Reves or Insensiblement, both of an exceptional musicality.
Here then is a personal and clever hommage to Django. One of the best discs released this year in this style. A compelling recording and "an urgent listent"
FRANCIS COUVREUX

All about Jazz USA
11.12.2008 - Django a la Creole
For clarinetist Evan Christopher, Django a la Creole is the result of a forced journey from his home in New Orleans. In what might be seen as a positive aftermath of the Katrina disaster in 2005, Christopher temporarily relocated to Paris, focusing his actions on raising awareness for the musical culture that had put New Orleans on the map rather than that of Katrina. His "Django a la Creole" project debuted in August 2007 with concerts in Great Britain and Norway. The album was recorded in December, just before Christopher—who had been commuting to the United States since February 2007—moved back to New Orleans, and was proudly released at the 25th anniversary of the French Quarter Festival.
Accompanied by three most eminent gypsy jazz ambassadors, Django a la Creole is not only an homage to the musical identity and legacy of New Orleans, but a weaving in of patterns celebrating the collaboration of Django Reinhardt with musicians like Frank Goudie, Rex Stewart, Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard and Hubert Rostaing. Christopher also adds distinct, warm Latin American- Caribbean-Spanish moods and sounds, bringing new angles to the six classic Reinhardt compositions found among the album's ten compositions.

It's like being presented a case of fine Cuban cigars where each has its own scent and recipe, making it impossible to pick the one that appeals the most. The Reinhardt tracks—from the opener "Douce Ambience" to "Dinette," "Manoir De Mes Reves," "Nuages," "Melodie Au Crepescule" and "Tears/Djangology"—each breathe their own rhythm without losing the master's original signature. The charm of "Manoir De Mes Reves" resonates through guitarist Dave Blenkhorn's gentle yet decisive touch and Christopher's lush vibrato. Blenkhorn originally hails from Australia, but moved to the UK in 2005. His chemistry with guitarist Dave Kelbie and bassist Sebastien Girardot (also from Australia) prove to hold the right sort of energy needed to make Christopher's clarinet sing, slide and sigh with ease on Rex Stewart's "Low Cotton."

Christopher almost turns the saxophone into a superfluous piece of metal junk on Reinhardt's "Melodie Au Crepescule" and the slow but intoxicating "Insensiblement," written by Paul Misraki. The range and sound of these tunes matches so closely to the saxophone that almost any reed player could deliver the melodies. Still, Christopher's mastery of his instrument—knowing that a clarinet is tougher to handle than a saxophone— promptly emphasizes the skill required to produce such intricate sounds. Both Blenkhorn and Christopher showcase their technique and intuitive approach, whilst Kelbie and Girardot offer balance where needed, allowing Girardot a rare moment in the spotlight on "Low Cotton."

"Farewell Blues" is extremely powerful in a colorful palette of classic, nuanced swing. "I Know That You Know" is another tune carrying a passionate torch for the Hot Club de France sound. If any comparison arises after having experienced the musical joy of these four musicians, it's the round, full, deep and lyrical tones of Christopher that might crown him the Stan Getz of the clarinet.
GINA VODEGEL

jazz.com USA
11.12.2008 - DOUCE AMBIENCE
You may not see much coverage of traditional jazz in the media (or even the jazz media, for that matter), but it is alive and well; and no sector of trad-ville is more vibrant than the gypsy caravan on the outskirts of town. Django has passed from jazz history and become a figure of mythic resonance: indeed, few jazz figures from before WWII have a more devoted following nowadays, or exert such a powerful ongoing influence on the current scene. (Jazz.com's Bill Barnes will give you an insider's look at this subculture here.)

Clarinet is not a common instrument in this style of jazz performance, which is heavily tilted toward the strings. But you wouldn't know it from Evan Christopher's deliciously languorous approach to "Douce Ambience." He elicits a rich, smoky tone from his horn, and puts such a personal stamp on his melody statement that you don't even need to wait for the solos to appreciate that you are in the hands of a master stylist. But please do wait for the solos. Christopher & Co. work their taut phrases over a dark, tango-ish swing and with no wasted energy. Très douce.
Ted Gioia


Jazz Dixie/Swing No60 FRANCE
03.11.2008 - Django à la Créole - french
Evan Christopher est entouré ici de Dave Blenkhorn (g), Dave Kelbie (g) et Sébastien Girardot (b) majoritairement connu de ce côté-ci des côtes de Normandie. Evan, un maître reconnu de son instrument évoque les plus grands Jimmie Noone, Buster Bailey, Barney Biggard (bien sûr!); Evan est identifiable moins pour son sens du swing ou celui du blues que pour ses audaces techniques confondantes fidèlement rendues par la prise son qui restitute bien ses notes étonnement graves ou aiguës! Comme il peut être constaté, le repertoire correspond surtout à celui enregistré à Paris avec des vedettes américaines autour des années ’40. L’esprit de la tradition respecté, avec en prime des mises au point d’Evan fouillées, des clins d’oeil par endroits à la musique de Sauguet (ainsi que d’autres auteurs de l’école française) ou orientale et, démarquages des nombreux disques enregistrés en l’honneur de Django, une quasi permanente “Latin touch”. La rythmique est bien soudée avec des interventions de Dave – comme à l’habitude l’autre Dave (Kelbie) reste très discret – dans l’esprit de Django (voire Crolla!) avec de belles phrases chantantes et nostalgiques (Manoir, Low Cotton…); celles de Sébastien, en plus d’une assise rythmique impressionnante, sont curieusement plus à-la Billie Taylor dans Nuages que dans low Cotton. Devant la faillite des Majors dans le domaine des enregistrements, nous retrouvons ici aussi, comme dans les années d’après guerre, des audacieux (ou inconscients!) qui se lancent dans l’aventure de l’enregistrement d’oeuvres originales et de qualité dans la grande tradition du jazz que nous aimons!
CLAUDIA et JEAN-PIERRE BATTESTINI

Jazz Dixie/Swing No60
03.11.2008 - Django à la Créole - english
Evan Christopher is joined here by Dave Blenkhorn (g), Dave Kelbie (g) and Sebastien Girardot (b) who is mostly known on this side of the Normandy beaches. Evan, a renowned master of his instrument, evokes the great Jimmie Noone, Buster Bailey, and Barney Biggard (of course!); He is less identifiable for his sense of swing or blues than his amazing technical audacity which is clear in both the upper and lower register and by the great sound quality of this recording. As we can see here, the repertoire corresponds mostly to the recordings of Django with the visiting American stars of the 40's.
The feeling of the tradition is respected with the added bonuses of Evan's imagination and hints of the music of Sauguet (as well as others from the French school) but what make this so different to other recordings honouring Django is the almost constant "Latin touch".
The rhythm section is tight with interventions by Dave Blenkhorn (as usual the other Dave (Kelbie) remains discreet) in the spirit of Django (even Crolla!) with beautiful lyric and nostalgic phrases (Manoir des mes Reves, Low Cotton...); those of Sebastien, added to an impressive rhythmic stability are curiously more in the stlye of Billie Taylor in Nuages than in Low Cotton.
Faced with the lack of recording by the major labels, here we find, just like the years following the war, audacious (or foolhardy!) musicians throwing themselves into the adventure or recording original works of quality in the great tradition of the jazz that we love!!
CLAUDIA et JEAN-PIERRE BATTESTINI

Etudes Tsiganes FRANCE
03.02.2009 - Concert at Montargis - english
Blown away by the quality and the originality of their first album released a few months ago on the small label belonging to their guitarist, Dave Kelbie, how could I not drive the nearly two hours from my house to see their concert organized by the very active Hot Club du Gatinais. The live show confirms all the good things I thought about this quartet. Each one of its members participates equally to the [swing, sound, and balance of the group] ; an exemplary rhythm section (solid bassist, Sebastien Girardot, often featured and Dave Kelbie who mixes swing with fluidity on the rhythm guitar) lays it down for the two soloists. On the recording, Dave Blenkhorn uses an acoustic guitar; on stage he had switched to the electric; a wise decision, both for the acoustic color of the ensemble and the simple fact that the guitarist is essentially a jazzman, who's marvelous choruses are always varied and remarkably well constructed. The Australian clearly gets his inspiration from classic jazz of the 30's and 40's (Armstrong, Fats Waller, Basie, Nat King Cole...). His style is influenced by these greats, to which one must add Charlie Christian and Django, and he imposes fresh ideas and personal arrangements. Now to the leader, Evan Christopher on Clarinet. He is a master of his instrument. This New Orleans music specialist with his warm and woody tone impresses with his strength, his virtuosity, his precision and emotion as much on ballads as on hellish tempos. The quartet interpreted tracks from the CD: Douce Ambiance, Dinette, Nuages, Manoir de mes Reves (a beautiful chorus from Blenkhorn) and also played some standards from the illustrious gypsy (Songe d'Automne in a Brazilian style, Rex Stewart's Low Cotton, Farewell Blues...). As an added bones, two Jelly Roll Morton tunes, one from Armstrong and another from Hoagy Carmichael. All these arrangements transcended the original treatments with delicate timing and exceptional musicality. If you weren't in Paucourt, you can still catch them at the end of June at the Django Reinhardt Festival at Samois sur Seine. While you're waiting, if you havent already, run out and grab their album. One of the best recent releases in the style that is now available from Fremeaux and Associates. Long live Django a la Creole!!
FRANCIS COUVREUX

Etudes Tsiganes FRANCE
03.02.2009 - Concert at Montargis - french
Emballé par la qualité et l'originalité de leur premier disque paru il y a quelques mois sur le petit label de leur guitariste, Dave Kelbie, je ne pouvais manquer leur concert à moins de deux heures de route de chez moi, organisé par le très actif Hot Club du Gâtinais. Leur prestation live confirme tout le bien que je pense de ce quartet. Chacun de ses membres participe d'une manière égale à l'équilibre, au swing et au son de l'ensemble; une rythmique exemplaire (Sébastien Girardot, solide contrebassiste souvent mis à l'honneur et Dave Kelbie qui conjugue swing et souplesse à la guitare d'accompagnement) déroule le tapis aux deux solistes. Sur le disque Dave Blenkhorn est à la guitare acoustique; sur scène il est passé à l'électrique; choix judicieux, à la fois pour la couleur sonore de l'ensemble mais aussi parce que le guitariste est avant tout un jazzman, un merveilleux coloriste à la palette diversifiée dont les chorus personnels sont toujours remarquablement construits. Arrivé en Angleterre en 2005, ce musicien australien puise son inspiration dans le jazz classique des années 30 et 40 (Armstrong, fats Waller, basie, Nat King Cole...); Si son style est influencé par tous ces grands, auxquels il faut ajouter Charlie Christian et Django, il impose sa patte avec une grande fraicheur, de nouvelles idées et des arrangements personnels. Quant au leader, le clarinettiste Evan Christopher, c'est un maître de son instrument; ce spécialiste des musiques de Louisiane à la sonorité chaude et boisée, est impressionnant de puissance, de virtuosité, de précision et de feeling, tant sur les ballades que sur les swings endiablés. Le quartet interpréta les titres du CD, Django bien sûr: Douce ambiance, Dinette, Nuages, Manoir de mes rêves (chorus lumineux de Dave Blenkhorn) et les standards joués par l'illustre manouche (Songe d'Automne dans un style brésilien, Low cotton de Rex Stewart, Farewell blues...). En bonus, deux titres de Jelly Roll Morton, un d'Armstrong et une compo d'Hoggy Carmichael...tous ces standards transcendés par des arrangements originaux, une mise en place soignée et une musicalité exceptionnelle. Si vous n'étiez pas à Paucourt, vous pourrez vous rattraper fin juin et aller les applaudir au festival Django Reinhardt de Samois sur Seine. En attendant, si ce n'est déjà fait, précipitez vous sur leur disque, l'un des plus beaux parus cette année dans le style, maintenant disponible chez Frémeaux et associés. Vive Django à la créole!
FRANCIS COUVREUX

Hotclub News GERMANY
13.06.2008 - Django à la Créole - german
Dave Kelbie, der rührige Gitarrist, Labelbetreiber und Organisator steckt hinter dieser höchst interessanten Produktion. Dave hat wieder ein sehr gutes Händchen bewiesen. Nach seiner Zusammenarbeit mit Fapy Lafertin, Angelo Debarre, Lollo Meier und vielen anderen Größen, die jeweils in tollen CD-Produktionen mündeten (die zum Teil auch bei HCN zu erwerben sind), featured er auf seiner jüngsten Produktion Evan Christopher, einen amerikanischen Klarinettisten, der sein Instrument im alten New- Orleans-Stil bläst. Zusammen mit dem französischen Bassisten Sebastien Girardot und dem australischen Gitarristen Dave Blenkhorn begleitet er die Klarinette auf eine Art und Weise als Läge nicht ein Ozean zwischen zwischen Gypsy Swing und New Orleans Jazz. Das Experiment ist geglückt. Und wie. Douce Ambinace, Dinette oder Manoir de mes reves um nur drei Titel zu nennen kommen in ganz neuem Soundkleid daher, klingen neu, frisch und höchst originell. Der größte Teil der Titel entstammt dem Djangorepertoire, drei Nummern sind eher dem New Orleansreperoire (Farewell Blues, I know that you know, Low Cotton) zuzuordnen.
Ein Bravo für diese Produktion. Einfach fantastisch, wie es klingt, wenn zwei alte, ehrwürdige Musiktraditionen zusammengeführt werden.
BERNHARD GIERSTL

Hotclub News GERMANY
13.06.2008 - Django à la Créole - english
Dave Kelbie, the energetic guitarist, record label manager and organiser, is the mover behind this highly interesting production. Dave has again proved that he has a deft hand. His previous collaborations have included working with  Lafertin, Angelo Debarre, Lollo Meier and many other greats – each of which ended in a great CD (some of which can be purchased at HCN). This newest production features Evan Christopher, an American clarinettist who plays his instrument in the old New Orleans style. Dave accompanies the clarinet with French bassist Sebastien Girardot  and Australian guitarist Dave Blenkhorn in a way as if there wasn’t an ocean between Gypsy Swing and New Orleans jazz. The experiment is a success! Douce Ambiance, Dinette or Manoir de mes reves, to mention but three tracks, come sasheing along dressed in completely new outfits – sounding new, fresh and highly original. The majority of this title is taken from the Django repertoire. A big ‘bravo’ for this production. Just fantastic to hear what it sounds like, when two venerable old music traditions are brought together.
BERNHARD GIERSTLl

Journal de Montreal CANADA
30.03.2009 - DJANGO SOUS LE SOLEIL - french
Père spirituel de tous les guitaristes gitans et manouches, Django Reinhardt aura une influence considérable sur le rôle de cet instrument dans l’univers du jazz.

Indissociable du quintette du Hot Club de France avec le violoniste Stéphane Grappelli, fabuleux technicien et maître des couleurs harmoniques, il fait encore rêver. Dans la galaxie note bleue, il ne manquait plus qu’un Django version créole. Nous voici comblés !
À la fin août 2005, le clarinettiste Evan Christopher, originaire de la Nouvelle-Orléans, a fait partie des sinistrés de l’ouragan Katrina. Par un coup de chance inouï, le Consulat de France à la Nouvelle-Orléans, ou du moins ce qu’il en reste, lui propose une résidence artistique.
Puisant dans les saveurs de la musique créole, et l’histoire du jazz (Jelly Roll Morton, Frank Goodie, Barney Bigard, Jimmy Noone),
il décide de réinterpréter le répertoire du célèbre guitariste sur des rythmes chaloupés, avec des acolytes en provenance du Royaume-Uni, de Hollande et d’Australie.

BIEN-ÊTRE
Malgré le printemps, il y a toujours des petits matins frisquets, d’où « l’obligation » d’écouter ce disque pour votre bien-être. Que vous soyez grand connaisseur, ou pas, de l’œuvre du guitariste, cela a en fait peu d’importance puisque tout est dans l’interprétation, amplifiée par une clarinette au son boisé et des rythmes qui sortent un peu de l’ordinaire.
De Douce Ambiance bercée par plusieurs mesures de calypso au classique Manoir de mes rêves, maîtrisés de façon stupéfiante, nous sommes en extase. Une grande poésie, de la tranquillité qui fait oublier, pour quelques instants, les tumultes de ce monde.
CHRISTOPHE RODRIQUEZ



Le Devoir - Quebec CANADA
12.05.2009 - Django à la créole - french
Katrina est tombée en force sur Evan Christopher, et le musicien n'a pas sauvé grand-chose d'autre que sa clarinette en 2005. Dure période.
Mais quelques mois après le passage de l'ouragan, Christopher était invité en résidence à Paris, où il a monté deux groupes, dont Django à la créole. Concept simple: on reprend la musique du géant gitan en lui donnant quelques airs du bayou. Swing à La Nouvelle-Orléans, en somme. Deux guitares, une clarinette et une contrebasse. Et ça fonctionne diablement. Ce raccord de Django au blues, aux rythmes créoles et à l'impro du jazz coule de source, se dit-on d'oreille. La faute, d'abord, au naturel éloquent du jeu de Christopher, dont certains suggèrent qu'il est le Stan Getz de la clarinette tant le son est pur et fluide. La faute, ensuite, à une rythmique imparable qui s'accommode aussi bien des ballades (Douce ambiance) que des pièces plus relevées (I Know that You Know). On dira merci à Katrina pour la trouvaille.
GUILLAUME BOURGAULT-COTE


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