Ameranouche, the trio’s moniker, is a synthesis of “American” and “Manouche” (gypsy). It helps explain not only the band’s name but three musicians’ amalgamation and reverence for the feel and flow of the gypsy repertoire infused with jazz improvisational brilliance. Although
faithful to the spirit, energy and instrumentation of Gypsy Jazz, this trio transcends mere mimicry.
This is Ameranouche’s second release and ten of the eleven tunes are originals and much of their compositional menu earns five stars. They dish out large helpings of harmonic complexity and structural sophistication from their “Gypsy Jazz” table settings.
Soon after their first CD was unwrapped, Ben Wood, their original bass player, died tragically. With “Ben’s Waltz,” they’ve presented a sensitive and poignant tribute to their departed band mate.
“La Foule” the 1957 classic from France’s most famous “Chansonnier” and “Little Sparrow,” Edith Piaf, is rendered in the Flamenco Gitane style,
adeptly rebirthing an original rather than reheating leftovers.
“Thanks to the Gypsy” and “Ameranouche Swing” are traditionally crafted originals that saute with the burners on high.
“Awake” is one of the most interesting pieces and has a pleasant and soaring feel. Ryan’s rock-solid rhythm and Xar’s rotund bass notes simmer while Shepp’s fragrant and ethereal solo rises skyward.
“Closer than the Touch” is a beautiful bossa inspired ballad that evokes a sated feeling after a romantic summer picnic.
“Into the Free” and “Secret Promises” have vocals layered over the traditional Pompe, but they are equally ripe for the savoring.
“Time Rize” has dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists and turns reminiscent of many early Thelonius Monk recipes.
Shepp’s (lead guitar) playing is dazzling, unpredictable and dense with right hand flurries, double stops and chord fragments eschewing many of the single note clichés.
The rhythm section is critical to delivering the essence of the hot swing genre. Ryan on guitar and Xar on upright bass, both technically fluent and artistically accomplished themselves, play sous chef to Shepp’s flambé. Ryan measures Shepp’s pyrotechnics with a focused traditional Pompe while adding many world music based patterns to his authentic rhythmic recipe book. Xar consistently and faithfully provides the rest of the essential ingredients that go into the making of this
masterful musical mélange.
Ameranouche cooks with a passion and vibrancy usually served up only by the Manouche Masters They are no vin ordinnaire, but truly “Nouche” Nouvelle Cuisine!
Ernie Pugliese (Ernie has written for Jazz Improv Magazine and Green Mountain Jazz Messenger)