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sweet chorus: press + reviews
Jazz Journal
04.10.2010 - highly rewarding
John Etheridge can play in many styles but he seems very much at home in this flexible QHCF setting celebrating his association with the great Stephane Grappelli. Chris Garrick, another free spirit with broad musical tastes , makes an ideal soloing partner. Their passages of inventive interplay with touches of playful humour are amongst the album's high lights.
Neither adopts a copyist approach - they are too strongly individual for that. The links with Django and Steph are reflected in the passion of their playing, a similar melancholy of feeling at slow tempo and a thrilling joie de vivre at speed. Chris, in particular, that touch of sadness which characterises Steph's more reflective improvising. Bass and rhythm guitar are experts in this style and they support the principals magnificently.
The mix of standards and John's originals is very effective with the new compositions Places Between and I Saw You Passing By being especially attractive. The arrangements are pleasantly varied - only Swing 39 and Don't Worry 'Bout Me hew the close to their QHCF pattern. Most tracks are by the quartet but variety is offered by John's flamenco-tinged short solo features on Porte and Millieu and his use of the electric instrument for more robust outings on Sweet Way and Manha.
Recording equality is superb, capturing every nuance of this skillfully executed music. It is an album to play repeatedly to fully appreciate its subtlety. Lovers of gypsy jazz who welcome a fresh view of the tradition should find this record highly rewarding.
BOB WEIR

The Guardian, UK
04.10.2010 - Small Hotel
John Etheridge can handle just about any style from 1930s Hot Club swing to flat-out bebop, Frank Zappa avant-rock and Claptonesque blues. This set catches him in the Sweet Chorus mode, in which he recalls the vivacious unplugged music of guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli (Etheridge is a one-time Grappelli sidekick), but with the stomping, four-square swing and graceful serenading of that style updated with some originals - plus a little amplification invoking the groundbreaking 1940s guitarist Charlie Christian on Seven Come Eleven. Etheridge's full and emphatic sound mixed with superb violinist Chris Garrick's languid top notes and cascading codas makes for an ebullient musical chemistry. Garrick's ideas are in the tradition but arrestingly modern in their incisiveness; the electric interludes and Andy Crowdy's bass provide just enough variation; and one or two resolving episodes border on free-floating improvisation
JOHN FORDHAM

Sunday Times
04.10.2010 - Small Hotel
Listeners who know him best in Soft Machine may be surprised to hear that the guitarist has carved out another life with Sweet Chorus, a small but beautifully formed band who celebrate the legacy of Django Reinherdt and Stephane Grappelli. Chris Garrick fires off another round deft violin solos as the group scampers through a collection of standards and originals. The ghost of another pioneer, Charlie Christian, looms largest of all on Seven Come Eleven, while the disarmingly concise Geantology draws inspiration from vintage Coltrane. Etheridge isn't afraid of wearing his heart on his sleeve when required to, either.
CLIVE DAVIS

The Scotsman
30.08.2010 - Live at Edinburgh festival
that includes swinging with Stephane Grappelli, playing jazz-rock with Soft Machine and recreating the music of Frank Zappa, he has much experience to draw on and over two nights, working with his Sweet Chorus quartet and with just his own hands and a quartet of guitars, he covered those fields and more.
Sweet Chorus is Etheridge’s tribute to Grappelli and guitar icon Django Reinhardt. Tunes the violin-guitar partnership made famous are celebrated with an immediacy that makes them sound familiar yet fresh, with Etheridge and the violinist Chris Garrick spurring each other into ever hotter variations over guitarist Dave Kelbie and double bassist Andy Crowdy’s admirable rhythm patterns.
A duet on Louis Bonfa’s Gentle Rain took the Reinhardt-Grappelli template into more contemporary, impressionistic territory, with scintillating extemporisations from both Etheridge and Garrick, and if Seven Come Eleven utilised a post-hot club riff, its electricity and passion, allied to stop-on-a-sixpence ensemble discipline, continued an honourable tradition.
RAB ADAMS

Glasgow Metro
24.02.2003 - The Tron, Glasgow
Stephane Grappelli was one of the most remarkable artists produced by a remarkable musical period, the flowering of jazz in the early 20th century. His death at the age of 89, six years ago, brought to an end a career that practically spanned the history of jazz. He is one of those extraordinary musicians whose sound is both instantly recognizable and constantly surprising. To staples such as Tea for Two and The Lady is a Tramp, as well as the fruits of his epoch-defining collaboration with guitarist Django Reinhardt, he brought an exquisite technique and the freedom of a man who thought through his fingers. No jazz violinist has since come close. So a tribute is a tricky business - won't the poor incumbent just be plying in Grappelli's shadow? Well, perhaps - but none better to take on the job than phenomenally gifted young violinist Christian Garrick. He has been plying the Grappelli part in this tribute act since they formed three years ago - when he was just 26. He wouldn't have even been given the gig unless he was truly remarkable: the band was formed by John Etheridge, who played as part of Grappelli's own quartet for five years in te 1970s. So he knows he's found something special. Etheridge is, if anything, an even more exciting musician than Garrick. His astonishing technical prowess is always kept subordinate to a genuine feel forwhat the music is supposed to be doing. Grappelli would have approved. DAN BYE


18.02.2003 - Sweet sound of golden era is a sheer delight!
TO award a top rating to this concert runs the risk of seeming to exaggerate. The standard was outstandingly high and the four performers succeeded superbly in conveying their tribute to the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. In 1934 Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt were founding members of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Their partnership continued until 1939 after which Grappelli lived in Britain and Reinhardt in France. Grappelli went on performing until the 1990s. He died just over five years ago. John Etheridge, who worked with Grappelli from the 1970s, reminisced about those years. In fact, what was on offer was a much a tribute to Reinhardt as to Grappelli. The other members of Sweet Chorus are Christian Garrick (violinist), Dave Kelbie (guitarist) and Pete Kubryk Townsend (double bassist). Their opening number, When You're Smiling, set the scene with an authentic Grappelli violin sound. Time and again there were reminders of his stylistic quirks. Tiger Rag nipped along as a sort of contest between violinist and lead guitarist. The latter's solo improvisation was given the first of several traditionally spontaneous rounds of applause as playing continued. Two original compositions, Chanson For Steph and Steam Train might be regarded as part of a logical progression on from what the Hot Club Quintet started. It was a great trip down memory lane for those who remembered the special sound of Grappelli's music.
SANDY SCOTT

Inverness Courrier
18.02.2003 - Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
Guitarist John Etheridge made an incongruous and unexpected leap from jazz-rockers Soft Machine to work with Stephane Grappelli in 1976, and remained with the French maestro for five eventful years. Sweet Chorus is a celebration of that experience. The quartet follows the classic model, with Christian Garrick on violin, Etheridge on lead guitar, Dave Kelbie providing propulsive rhythm guitar, and Simon Kubryck-Townsend on bass, but their music was not simply a routine retreading of Hot Club mannerisms. They played a lot of tunes associated with Grappelli, but often gave them a more contemporary twist, particularly in their soloing. Etheridge and Garrick were in highly inventive mood, both in ballad mode and at sizzling tempos. Neither attempted to replicate the style of their role models, Django Reinhardt and Grappelli, preferring to make their own statements within the hard-swinging Hot Club-style framework. Etheridge opened the second half with a solo feature which combined two standards with Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time", then recounted a number of anecdotes from his time with Grappelli before the band returned for a generous second set. This was the midpoint of their Scottish tour, which continues at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, tonight (Weds).
KENNY MATHIESON

The Herald
17.02.2003 - Concert at The Tolbooth
NICE SHIRTS. Monsieur, I'm sure, would've approved. That sartorial detail shouldn't suggest that, in remembering Stephane Grappelli through his Sweet Chorus quartet, John Etheridge has taken the cute tribute band route. Etheridge, whose musical alignments include Nigel Kennedy and Soft Machine as well as the French violin master, doesn't do cute. A guitarist for whom speaking into a microphone seems an unnatural formality, Etheridge chooses to pay affectionate tribute in a way that balances all-back-to-my-place mateyness with a determination to promote Grappelli and Django Reinhardt's Hot Club style as a serious, living tradition. Stylistic favourites including Swing 39, Sweet Chorus itself, and the inevitable Nuages are played with respect but with an edgy, off-the-cuff freshness that's as typical of Etheridge himself as it is of Grappelli, who, in failing health latterly, would come alive given his violin to play. Other tunes such as Don Grolnick's Nothin' Personal, better known in the electric bebop style of guitarist Mike Stern, have no Grappelli connection whatsoever. But that's not the point. On his high tensile, bright-toned acoustic guitar especially, and with the supertalented violinist Chris Garrick, son of English pianist Michael, Dave Kelbie's very aware rhythm guitar style, and Pete Kubryk-Townsend's on-the-nose bass playing, Etheridge consistently captures and renews the Hot Club spirit in a way that's both entertaining - Etheridge tells a good story - and musically satisfying. There extensive Scottish tour continues tonight in Linlithgow, moving on to points north, south, east, and west and finishing at The Tron Theatre, Glasgow on February 24. Go see - and if Kubryk bows/sings his charming When I grow too old to dream, that'll be a bonus. ROB ADAMS

The Independent on Sunday
26.01.2002 -
Although capable of whipping up an electric storm when the mood takes him, this album finds the versatile John Etheridge playing mainly acoustic guitar in Hot Club of France style. Chris Garrick is rapidly becoming one of the leading jazz violinists (admittedly, not a crowded field), and is a graceful foil to Etheridge's spiky, energetic picking, backed by Malcolm Creese on Bass and Dave Kelbie on rhythm guitar. Interestingly, more modern tunes like Don Grolnick's "Nothing Personal" work just as well in this context as old favourites like "Loverman", if not better. This excellent album is semi-trad jazz in style, but boppers will dig it too. SHOLTO BYRNES

The Guardian
10.01.2002 -
UK guitarist John Etheridge loves the Django Reinhardt/ Stéphane Grappelli dialogues (he accompanied Grappelli in the French violinist's later years), and Chasing Shadows features plenty of graceful, liltingly swoony music in that style, with Chris Garrick taking the fiddle part. Etheridge is no retro ostrich, however, and has remained alert to all kinds of post-Django guitar styles, as well as imposing a sound of his own on the 1930s music.

Garrick catches the foxy understatement of Grappelli - his singing tone and offhand flourishes - but with a more contemporary bluesiness. Meanwhile, Malcolm Creese's high-stepping basslines enhance the music's jaunty optimism, and Etheridge's mix of biting, hard-struck phrases and purring fast runs echoes Django Reinhardt's uncanny swing, while imposing his own spikier urgency. Someone to Watch Over Me features a touchingly eloquent solo from Garrick, Etheridge's unaccompanied original Lacuna is an object lesson in acoustic-guitar resourcefulness, and Don Grolnick's nervy postbopper, Nothing Personal, mingles the stalking tune with spooky impressionism and bursts of chugging Hot Club swing.

The Observer
08.12.2001 - Music Jazz CD of the Week
John Etheridge Chasing Shadows (Dyad DYAD023).

If John Etheridge weren't so brilliant, he might be more famous. His versatility is confusing. What other guitarist could have begun his career as a member of both Soft Machine and the Stephane Grappelli Quintet? For this set Etheridge revisits Grappelli territory, but in the spirit of exploration rather than nostalgia. His companions are rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie, bassist Malcolm Creese and Christian Garrick, the best young violinist in jazz today. The programme ranges from old ballads such as 'I'm Through With Love', to a death-defying version of Coltrane's 'Giant Steps' that would cause most other guitarists to fall apart after the first chorus. DAVE GELLY

The Sunday Times
12.01.2001 - Jazz: New releases: John Etheridge: Chasing Shadows
JOHN ETHERIDGE was rambling around the country not too long ago with his rambunctious Frank Zappa tribute band. The music is quieter, but even more incisive, on his homage to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Etheridge goes to great lengths to avoid making this just another visit to a jazz museum. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans will keep traditionalists happy, but the group - propelled by the partnership of the guitarist Dave Kelbie and the bassist Malcolm Creese - is happy to appropriate John Coltrane's Moment's Notice or Don Grolnick's Nothing Personal. The violinist Christian Garrick soars and dazzles: he can be sour as well as sweet, and Etheridge's canny shuffling of quartet, duet and solo settings lends the session a spontaneous ambience. Three stars [Outstanding] CLIVE DAVIS

Musician Magazine
17.02.1998 -
Sweet Chorus, John Etheridge's first CD since the mainly-electric 1993 'Ash', is dedicated to Stephane Grappelli and features the acoustic side of his musical persona. If John had to assume Django's chair in Stephane's group, then it is Christian Garrick who is cast in the Grappelli role on this CD. In the opening track, a Grappelli composition 'La Chanson de Rue' performed here as a guitar-violin duet, it is apparent that the casting department got it right. Garrick plays with maturity and confidence, sensitiv- ity and wit - a stimulating partner for Etheridge who lays down a beautiful harmonic framework. There are two further duets and a couple of superb solo guitar interpretations (including a spell-bind- ing The Nearness of You) but the duo expands to a quartet for the remainder of the tracks with the judicious addition of bassist Malcolm Creese and guitarist Dave Kelbie. The repertoire is drawn largely from the classic Hot Club repertoire such as 'Nuages', 'Shine' and 'I Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight', but freshly interpreted with strong, improvisations from two great players.


The Times - UK
17.02.1998 -
Etheridge was one of Stephane Grappelli's accompanists in the violinist's autumnal years, a period evoked in this lyrical collection inspired by memories of the dapper Frenchman. Just as guitarist Martin Taylor's Spirit of Django band is no carbon copy of the Hot Club quintet, so Etheridge's partners - violinist Christian Garrick, rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and bassist Malcolm Creese - follow their own muse. Etheridge makes inventive use of the various permutations too, reducing 'The Folks Who Live on the Hill' for instance, to a duet with Garrick and using 'The Nearness of You' and 'Isn't It Romantic' as vehicles for solo improvisation. The playing is admirably relaxed throughout. The musicians continue their voyage of discovery on their current tour.
CLIVE DAVIS

The Observer - UK
17.02.1998 -
Delightful tribute to Stephane Grappelli from his long-time guitarist. Like the late master himself it refuses to dwell on well-worn early hits, but draws material from half a century of popular song. Violinist Christian Garrick brings off the difficult task of suggesting Grappelli's style without slavishly imitating it.


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