Jazz with a touch of sass

WITH a generous dollop of Romany, a Sacre Coeur-sized slice of Parisian style and a bucket load of homage to Uncle Sam, Sassafras is set to get toes tapping with its brand of gypsy jazz at the Brisbane Hotel.

The breakneck jazz will combine with wistful French ballads and re-worked standards: “In a vibrant and engaging mix of acoustic music, all performed with the dazzling virtuosity and passion that is so intrinsic to the gypsy jazz tradition,” double bass player Pete Jeavons says.

Regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all times, Belgian-born French national, Django Reinhardt fused Romany music with the “new” sounds coming out of the US in the early 1920s to create gypsy jazz: “It was an amazing cross-pollination of things,” Jeavons says.

• Sassafras channels Django in their gypsy jazz.

• Sassafras channels Django in their gypsy jazz.

Music is central to Romany life and Reinhardt would have learnt to play guitar as a child: “As as many Romany did,” Jeavons says.

Badly injured when his caravan caught fire, Reinhardt was left with just two working fingers on the hand used to make chords on the guitar and doctors thought he’d never play again. But he re-taught himself to play guitar, and today is lauded as one of the greatest of all times and celebrated in Django Reinhardt festival’s across the US and France.

Always on the move a Romany lifestyle meant instruments had to be portable, and guitar, fiddle and accordion were central to gypsy jazz.

A double bass probably doesn’t fit the bill, but it does add a thumping good beat.

Sassafras’ show includes Adrian Galante on clarinet, along with Lachlan Gear and Aaron Deacon on guitar.

And with the return of vocalist Jessie Gordon after a six-month stint in Europe, the band will be pulling out all stops on some Piaf tunes.

“This is something of a homecoming for Jessie,” Jeavons says.

The band will also be playing international jazz favourite Dark Eyes, a reworking of a traditional Russian song.

“It’s the one that always gets people’s attention….they stop…and listen,” Jeavons says.

Put on your dancing shoes and head down to Lazy Susan’s Den at the Brissie, Thursday December 29.

Tix $20. You could try your luck at the door, or pre-book at trybooking.com/book/event?eid=247377 to make sure you get in.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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