Gypsy Jazz Reborn

[l1]A[/l1] friend recently returned from a trip to St. Louis, where she made time to check out the St. Louis Jazz Festival. Lucky for me she did. On her return to SoCal, she brought an autographed copy of the latest CD by the gypsy jazz phenomenon The Robin Nolan Trio.

When she mentioned ‘gypsy jazz’, like any music lover I immediately thought of Django Reinhardt (didn’t you?) Nervous about the unavoidable comparisons I knew I was going to make between the great Django and anyone who even attempted to emulate him, I gave the CD a listen. I was not disappointed.

Over the course of seven albums, Robin Nolan has advanced far beyond emulation to originality. The trio’s latest release, “Mediterranean Blues” is their first album comprised completely of original material, composed by Nolan and his bassist, Paul Meader. (The final member of the trio is Nolan’s younger brother Kevin, who plays rhythym guitar.) The tributes page at the official website makes it clear that Robin Nolan is a musician’s musician – anyone George Harrison would fly to his estate every year for five years running is clearly not an average guitarist.

“Mediterranean Blues” has all the fire I love in Django’s recordings, with a modern rhythmic flair I think he would have loved. The tracks, all instrumentals, run the gamut from the blazing title track which opens the album, through quietly romantic pieces, to languid daydreams set to music. “Luna Tango” is the track which most reminds me of Django’s work, but after a first listen, that comparison becomes unimportant. Since two of the band members list the Beatles first among their influences, it’s not surprising to hear a few bars from “Norwegian Wood” tucked into “Friar Park.”

Full of beauty and fire and joy, “Mediterranean Blues” is a special collection from an amazing group of musicians. Expect to hear more about the Robin Nolan Trio as I collect the rest of their albums.

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