Perennial Bozeman pickers Montana Manouche, a Gypsy jazz quartet, have their second album out. Formed in 2012, the group continues to perform delicious dance music in the style of famed guitarist Django Reinhardt and his 1930s quintet, Hot Club of France.
Long-time bandmates include Nancy Padilla, violin; her husband Ray Padilla on rhythm guitar; Dave Sullivan, lead guitar; and jazz bassist Mike Carey. With a completely instrumental sound that reflects their live performances, the quartet is a favorite among the local swing-dance crowd.
Recording a live album is hard to do well, and they pull it off. The tracks were recorded at two concerts – four at the Big Sky Gypsy Jazz Festival in Billings in late 2018, the others at the Bozeman Public Library during the Django Reinhardt Birthday Celebration Concert last January.
Most standards are by Reinhardt and a couple were co-written with his Hot Club cohort, violinist Stéphane Grappelli; the rest are by other composers in the genre.
The lone exception is Nancy Padilla’s “Swing Cat Strut,” named for the MSU swing-dance community. It’s got a trace of David Grisman’s “Minor Swing,” cool harmony lead between violin and guitar, and sweet bent notes. Padilla bows a silky melody, saws a bit, then slides up high.
“Douce Ambiance” starts with unison guitar and violin, then segues into a jumpin’ rhythm featuring syncopated stops and long instrumental breaks, first violin, and then fluid guitar. Crisp notes abound!
The mid-tempo “Swing 39” has the two instruments harmonizing in half tones; and “Indifference,” a Spanish-inflected waltz, is almost classical in its nuances. Love it!
Even the bass gets a couple solos, in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Duke and Dukie.”
Cookin’ rhythm and terrific musicianship pervade this effort. If you like to dance, or just enjoy the Hot Club ambiance, this album is for you!
– Mariss McTucker