Live review: Manieres des Bohemiens

18 Apr

Manieres des Bohemiens played live at Cafe Bar Contemporary on Saturday 10 April 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

For one night only in our fair city of Nottingham, I was temporarily transported to a basement bar in a Parisien ghetto when I went to see Maniere Des Bohemiens at the Cafe Bar Contemporary. Inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington, Maniere Des Bohemiens have jazz in their blood and gypsy fire in their soul, producing improvised gypsy swing that is as passionate as it is skillfully played, which was truly exhilarating.

Manieres des Bohemiens

The band is fronted by violinist Rob Rosa, who was sometimes joined by Robin Hevness on soprano sax, underpinned by a solid, grounding rhythm section of Roger Rosa on guitar and Mark Lewandowski on double bass, and on occasion John Kerry on accordian. Their renditions of traditional gypsy-folk tunes, jazz/swing standards and little-known gems took the set from slow, emotive numbers to raptuous and highly charged upbeat tunes. Rosa’s violin playing, which is almost entirely improvised and technically outstanding, captured the audience’s attention with every flick of his bow but did not overshadow the skill of the rhythm section, and when combined with Hevness’ sax produced some interesting and imaginative solos which bounced between the two of them seamlessly.

Everything was in the true spirit of improv jazz, from the bass solo breakdowns to the unspoken communication between the musicians which steered each song through undulating sections and captivating solos. They are well schooled in the etiquette and deep-set traditions of their genre, but their interpretations incorporating French swing and Eastern-European gypsy-folk were refreshing and exciting. They also achieved something which I have rarely seen ’round these parts – they got people dancing. To see an audience go from fairly non-plussed at the start of the set, to quickly realising what fantastic music they were lucky enough to be listening to, to straight-up attempting to swing dance and crying out for more by the end was really something.

Stand-out tunes included jazz standards Autumn Leaves and Take the A-Train, which were given a new lease of life by the group’s arrangement and unique Bohemian/Romany/Parisian interpretation, and Romanian Train Song, which started out at a frantic pace and got so speedy that Rosa’s arm looked like it should have been falling off. The night as a whole was a right good frolic, full of dancing, merriment and music that would have made the old masters proud.

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