Evan Christopher’s Django a la Creole, Live! (Fremeaux & Assoc.)

Evan Christopher Live, Album Cover, OffBeat Magazine, April 2014

Now this is a fun record that never falters in its energetic vibe or superior musicianship. Recorded at the end of a 2012 tour in the United Kingdom, Evan Christopher and the band Django a la Creole explore both popular and obscure cuts from the traditional, swing, and gypsy jazz repertoire. All the musicians here are at the top of their game.

Music seems to be pouring non-stop out Christopher’s clarinet, its husky, dark tone with quick interjections and long runs allowing his ideas to come to great conclusions. He can make his horn sound pretty, blow some high, winnying notes such as on “Dear Old Southland,” or almost turn his clarinet into percussive bird calls at the end of “Songe d’Automne.”

Guitarists David Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie play with intricacy and lyricism as the tunes call for it. Their heavy strumming on “Riverboat” pushes Christopher to even greater heights.

The band also plays two entries from the Jelly Roll Morton book, “Mamanita” and “The Crave,” where, despite lack of percussion or piano, they keep Morton’s unique sense of rhythm and melody. Their take on Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche” adds an almost Cuban section that adds to their interpretation of this standard. It has an energy that is prevalent on every song here.

The band has that loose, intimate feeling where it is easy to hear how much the musicians are enjoying the music and each other, but it is tight in that there is a precision in their playing. Christopher and his band get better every record, and this one is their best yet.