Swing music in the style of Django Reinhardt has influenced every bluegrass flatpicking guitarist from Doc Watson and Clarence White to Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, David Grier, and modern wizards Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge. Minor swing and many more Jazz era tunes today can be heard around campfire jam sessions at bluegrass festivals all over the world. To honor that tradition and lend their own take on this fascinating style, two of today’s most respected and accomplished flatpickers have come out of the studio with a brilliant pairing of guitar instrumentals, plus a few sweet vocals that perfectly demonstrate the appeal of this timeless style of music.
Robert Bowlin, the last fiddle player hired by Bill Monroe as a Blue Grass Boy, is an unmatched master of guitar. Here, his unrivaled technique and taste gives him the melodic freedom to play a range of swing tunes, from Django’s classic pieces “Nuages,” “Djangology,” and “Daphne” to the swing standards “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Rose Room.” That he does this on a Martin dreadnought with steel strings instead of a gypsy Jazz guitar with lighter strings is an amazing testament to his technical prowess.
Another string wizard of the highest order is Tim May, who’s played with David Harvey’s adventurous string ensemble Radiola. May has a long history teaching at major guitar camps. Together Bowlin and May take 11 jazz and swing standards and show how much that era of music has ultimately influenced today’s bluegrass. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a great example, as the two guitarists trade off playing delicate, melodic riffs, backed by Glenn Meyers on stand-up bass. And the gorgeous voice of Wil Maring adds the perfect sound to take the listener back to the jazz clubs of the 1930s.
One highlight here is the swinging trade-off on “Honeysuckle Rose,” where the two guitarists seem to feed off each other as they trade musical licks and build solos to emotional highs. “Take The A-Horn,” the classic Billy Strayhorn composition made famous by Duke Ellington, is the perfect closer for this great album of guitar-focused swing. This is a remarkably open and accessible CD for a set of (mostly) guitar-only instrumentals. And for fans of this style, May and Bowlin have done a superb job capturing the sound, tone and rhythmic feel that made the Swing Era music so infectious and enduring. (www.flatpick.com)DJM