So back to the New Northern on Saturday night (23/04) for a sumptuous feast of some of the best live music I’ve ever heard! DJANGO LINGO, named for Django Reinhardt of course, the guitarist with the gypsy soul who made a gift of it to a world so very much in need of it at the time.
Django Lingo. . . rolls off the tongue, hinting at Romany magic realism wrapped in exotic language made flesh by the supreme competence of its communicators who are: Gillian Eastoe, vocalist and percussion and Terry Murray, Howard Malkin and Nic Lyon, guitarists extraordinaire.
So the gig begins with Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” upbeat, Django-ised and featuring the three brilliant guitar soloists. This followed by George Shearing’s beautiful “Lullaby of Birdland” explicated in Gillian’s smoky-bourbon voice. “I’ll See you in My Dreams” with more virtuosic guitar and then a light-hearted Billy Holiday as Gillian singing “Nothing Can Be Done”, Terry imitating the patter of rain at her words, “comes a rainstorm.”
We were then given a very high-energy version of “Concrete and Clay” (“My feet begin to crumble”) and then the gaspingly glorious rendering of the Beatles song, “Norwegian Wood.” Nic’s haunting bass guitar was accompanied by what seemed like celestial bells from Terry’s lead. Pure magic. Transporting.
Tonight I realised “There’ll Never Be Another You” is actually “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”—or they’re so close it doesn’t matter. I’m open to debate on this one, of course. This was pure Django and pure Howard. Terry started playing mandolin on his guitar, while chatting—musically of course—to the rest of the gang. Was it Satchmo who said that jazz was a form of gossip? Well I heard a fair bit of gossip going on in this number, an intimate conversation between friends. This, it suddenly occurred to me, is what Django Lingo is all about. It is perfectly named.
The Stevie Wonder song, “Isn’t She Lovely?” gave us more of Gillian’s wonderful voice, plus an explanation of just what the song meant to her. Then, after a short break, Howard started the conversation again. This time Nic was on Double Bass—well it has been said that Nic can play any musical instrument he wraps his hands around—with Terry offering Hawaiian-style riffs. Once again Django Lingo made it seem so effortless, so e-a-s-y.
“Bossa Derado” had Howard playing up such a storm he could easily have been given a standing ovation, but we were all so besotted with the music no one wanted to interrupt it. Gillian gave us a gutsy rendition of “You Don’t Know Me”, her feistiness making it all her own song and then the boys launched into Duke Ellington’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” It was simply the best version I have ever heard.
But then Gillian offered her sweetly agonised “Cry Me a River” which would no doubt have left other chanteuses known for this song themselves weeping—or fulminating—and once again, Howard’s solo was amazing.
“Fascinating Rhythm” was sheer virtuosity and then “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” revealed a new Gillian, exuding happiness with Terry offering a cheeky wolf whistle on his guitar at the mention of kissing.
The next number apparently came from a French jazz band and Howard carried this one with some more musical commentary from his friends. “Honeysuckle Rose” completed the set.
And what a set! It was exceptional concordance of brilliant musicianship and generosity which would have absolutely thrilled their beloved Django—as it did indeed thrill us.