Zazou City, Liar’s Moon (Jumping Man Records)

Zazou City, Liar's Moon (Jumping Man Records)

It seems unconscionably trite to say that a band “brings a New Orleans flavor” to their chosen genre, but I’ll say it anyway. Bart Ramsey’s accordion and Chris Edmunds’ busy, percussive guitar leave no doubt about Zazou City’s gypsy jazz idiom. But when Aurora Nealand whips out the soprano sax, Matthew Shilling starts blowing his clarinet, or Charlie Miller gets going on the trumpet (often simultaneously), the group’s collective energy takes on a distinctively native hue. How could it not? Many of the players here are polystylists well versed in New Orleans jazz. The music of Liar’s Moon always maintains the sensitivity and chromaticism characteristic of its French origins, but it’s hard not to hear a musical nod and wink in the record’s most kinetic moments.

The album opens with a Django Reinhardt number, “Swing 48”, but the lion’s share of the tracks are Ramsey originals. He adds a mournful, bluesy vocal to “Redemption is the Long Way Around” and a world-weary rasp to the troubled love song, “She Asked Me to Stay”. Ramsey collaborator Neti Vaan (the two played together in the now-defunct gypsy jazz group Vavavoom) adds fiddle to two tracks. The arrangements are often sparse, but some of the record’s best moments are found in the energetic density of full-band breakdowns, like the dueling accordion/sax finale of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

Buy Zazou City’s Liar’s Moon on iTunes