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Django Latino – Joe Craven

Crow Art Records 055232

Having the post-election blues or maybe your spirits turn as grey as the cloud covering during the fall and winter months?

Well, here's something that can help turn things around: Joe Craven's "Django Latino." On his second solo album, the multi-instrumentalist from the David Grisman Quintet merges the material of string jazz legends Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli to a number of Latin styles. Each of the 14 songs then becomes a vibrant tribute to the magic of their Gypsy jazz creation via the evolution of their compositions.

Craven enhances this endeavor by providing an instructive musical travelogue, which takes us to such locales as Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Spain, Argentina and the United States and presents to us such lesser-known musical forms as ibo, jarocha jurbo and more.

On the opening number, he weds plena rhythms from Puerto Rico to "Minor Swing." Together, this creates a joyous burst of melody and rhythm that would cause Snoopy to lift his head high, point his nose to the heavens, let loose and dance.

While the first portion of the album sets an energetic tempo, it slows down in order to work through other moods from the Reinhart/Grapelli partnership. The notes for each track are illuminating. "Babik/Festival 48/Micro" mines the self-described terrain of "jazz-rengue." Here, tenor sax player Heath Walton brings out the be-bop that influenced Reinhardt's work. His improvised playing magnifies its presence by not overpowering the merengue rhythm from the Dominican Republic.

"Hungaria" echoes the classic number, "Brazil." The bossa samba sounds on "Melodie Au Crepuscule/Manoir De Mes Reves" contains the smooth uplifting feel of Vince Guaraldi's work —- the jazz artist who is best known for his "Peanuts" scores. Then, there's the cumbia form, based in Columbia, on "Double Scotch/Artilerie Loure," which sounds like some late night session from Los Lobos.

If you're a fan of DGQ's Dawg music or need something that's upbeat yet has some intellectual meat to it, you'll find a satisfactory source here at Django Latino.

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