Camelot Lounge, December 5
One of the biggest revolutions in jazz history belongs to the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, who proved that meaningful jazz could be made outside America; jazz that did not simply ape US models. Eighty years on and the fall-out still reverberates around the world from Norway to South Africa and Australia.
In so doing Reinhardt and his sidekick violinist Stephane Grappelli unwittingly spawned their own school of jazz, Gypsy swing, which thrives as much as ever, especially in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
From the latter country springs Lollo Meier, among the finest Reinhardt disciples around. Traditions die if they don’t evolve, but Meier leaves that work to others, preferring to concentrate on preserving the legacy by playing tunes by or associated with Reinhardt with such flair as to make it a living music rather than a museum exhibit.
His improvising in this Camelot Gypsy Festival performance was redolent with charm and panache. As important as his instinctive lyricism was his touch: a shaping of the notes so they were replete with character precisely because they were not clinically articulated. Perhaps, however, more breathing space may have made for more contrast between solos amid the spray of filigree detail.
Sharing the music’s foreground was local violinist Daniel Weltlinger, perhaps a superior improviser in terms of lyrical beauty and the ability to surprise. Weltlinger also deployed that rare knack of making the lines float against the groove; a trait shared by such towering figures as Grappelli, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis.
Unless underpinned by a crisp swing this music withers, and Meier and Weltlinger were ably supported by Ewan MacKenzie and Cameron Jones on rhythm guitars and Stan Valecos on bass. The band became an octet for the closing Dark Eyes and Minor Swing when joined by members of Spyglass Gypsies, who had opened the night with their own sprightly take on Gypsy swing, which could be further improved by being a little less earnest.