Everybody talks about the weather, or so the old joke goes, but nobody ever does anything about it. (Sharpies don’t count.) Hey, remember when nothing had to be done about the weather?
Likewise, gypsy jazz is another problem we didn’t know had to be solved, but Russell Welch is not about to be caught slipping—rather than just continuing the fine tradition of musicians celebrating the genre, he actually recreates it, using real acetate masters (hence the title); a mix of original instrumental compositions and jazz classics; his own take on gypsy’s famed acoustic “hot guitar” technique; and vintage recording equipment to make brand-new historical gypsy swing artifacts. It’s kind of like a master filmmaker using classic Hollywood B&W film stock to preserve the exact feel of a place and time—if you’re one of those people who likes to “hear the room,” this shotgun double’s practically laid out as a blueprint.
It could have easily gone wrong, a musical experiment turned into a mere exercise in academia. Fortunately, Welch and his merry band of cohorts don’t play like they’re museum pieces—these dozen tunes crackle with the energy of youth discovering someplace magical. Working with his own hot five of two guitars, upright bass, clarinet and violin, Welch makes these dozen classics sound as fresh as tomorrow, whether it’s Django’s own “After You’re Gone” (done with less speed but more bounce); local legends like Sidney Bechet’s “Georgia Cabin” and Joseph C. Smith’s “Hindustan”; Great American Songbook faves such as “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”; Ella’s “When I Get Low, I Get High”; and “I’m an Old Cowhand” (featuring an excellent vocal by Molly Reeves); or original instros like “Don’t Startle Her” and “At the Friendly Bar.” Now that the Great Gentrification has transformed the city that forgot to care about gypsy jazz, the hipsters are putting their own twists on our habitual musical archeology. If we’re all gonna melt and/or drown anyway, there are worse dance bands to play on while it happens, you know?