Guitarist Craig Sharmat Releases Gypsy-Jazz Inspired Album 'Nouveau' To Smooth Jazz Audiences
Instead of immediately following up his hit 2013 urban jazz album Bleu Horizons with a like-minded sequel, guitarist Craig Sharmat immersed in the music scene of his new adopted hometown of Santa Barbara and formed The Idiomatiques - which became the first Gypsy Jazz band in history to score a hit on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart with the track 'C'est La Vie.' True to its title, Sharmat's latest collection Nouveau is a fresh, visionary work that finds the multi-talented artist in full on hybrid mode, artfully fusing the funky urban side of smooth jazz with Django Reinhardt inspired gypsy jazz guitar.
The spirit of Django Reinhardt is the emotional core of the new 11-track collection which includes explosive twists on three of the Belgian born legend's classics. The opening track "Groove En Mineur," an original composition highlighted by the exuberant duality of Sharmat's snappy guitar and Nick Coventry's sensual violin; a sensual, string-sweetened bossa nova spin on Django's "Melodie Au Crepuscule, featuring beautiful French accordion played by Brian Mann; and an R&B/funk swirl through the normally swinging "Place De Brouckre" featuring dancing violin and Greg Manning's old school soul-jazz Rhodes flavored key textures. "I'm especially proud of 'Melodie,'" Sharmat says, "because traditionally the song is a Django swing thing and he never heard bossa in his life!" Sharmat pays homage to Django on two infectious originals, "Get Your Djang On" (a swirl of guitar silk, simmering horns, and dreamy atmospheres) and the whimsical, old-timey jam "Cutie Pie," a colorful dance featuring Sharmat's snap and Christiaan Hemert's high energy violin.
Other key tracks on Nouveau are Sharmat's flirtatious, light funk/blues romp through "Coquette," a late 1920's Guy Lombardo gem that's become a gypsy jazz standard; the seductive, gently exotic, string caressed "Rio Lullaby," which features the Ludovic Beier's glorious and romantic accordina solo and weavings throughout; and the stark, dusty, atmospheric new agey closer "Setting Out Alone," which musically chronicles the emotion of leaving one phase of life and starting anew. Perhaps the most urban jazz oriented tune is the burning, bluesy, brass and organ fired "Line It Up" (featuring a burning electric guitar solo by Sharmat) and the feisty, hypnotic synth-driven dance track "Swing This," which finds the guitarist on a buoyant, trippy pop/electro-swing adventure.
Sharmat surrounds his transcendent and deeply soulful guitarisma with three core members of the Idiomatiques: renowned accordionist, keyboardist and composer Brian Mann (Larry Carlton, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald), bassist, vocalist and jazz educator Kim Collins and the group's newest member, George Quirin, who adds his flamenco guitar energy to a snappy yet sensual twist on the traditional French valse (waltz) "Indifference." The song is a standard high in the gypsy jazz repertoire that serves as a showcase for Sharmat's imaginative acoustic brilliance.
Other contributing musicians include keyboardist Greg Manning, accordina master Ludovic Beier, electric bassist Hussain Jiffry, drummers Rayford Griffin and Eric Valentine, violinists Christiaan Hemert and Nick Coventry, saxophonist and flutist Mark Hollingsworth and trumpeter Chris Tedesco.
"Except for when I'm doing my TV and film-related composing work, you can find me sequestered in my studio, obsessively working on my gypsy jazz guitar technique," says Sharmat. "The Idiomatiques' song 'C'est La Vie' set the tone for the new album in a sense because I realized that if the strings were played in a certain way that still incorporated proper gypsy jazz technique it could be great as a lead instrument in a funky groove jazz context."
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