Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019

by Ian Mann

November 06, 2010


The group's bebop and Latin leanings offer a fresh slant on the much visited Reinhardt repertoire.

Inspector Gadjo Trio featuring Casey Greene

“Samba 48”

This self released CD features a trio led by guitarist Will Barnes. Based in Newtown, Mid Wales the group also features bassist Tommy Mills and drummer George Jackson. The popular Shrewsbury based reeds player Casey Greene augments the group on some numbers contributing saxophone, flute and clarinet.

The trio have begun to accrue something of a following in the Welsh Borders and this album is a timely reminder of their talents. Barnes and his colleagues take the Django Reinhardt legacy and give it a bebop twist with guitarist Kenny Burrell another primary influence.

Inspector Gadjo began as a more orthodox “gypsy jazz” set up with two guitars, double bass and violin. Following the departure of violinist Sarah Smith Barnes reconfigured the group and brought a more pronounced bebop flavour to the music. Mills and Jackson are an experienced rhythm section who have worked right across the musical spectrum and were once part of another popular regional trio (Luke, Mills and Jackson) alongside guitarist/singer/songwriter Dave Luke. Jackson started out as a big band drummer before moving on to a session career including credits with such different artists as Roy Harper and Sting. 

The trio’s guest, Casey Greene hails from Sydney, Australia but is now based in Shrewsbury. In addition to his obvious skills as a multi reed player he is also a composer and educator. Greene leads Quiver, an excellent Latin sextet whose work both live and on record is reviewed elsewhere on this site. He is also a frequent collaborator with other artists, among them another Jazzmann favourite, singer Laura Collins. 

Despite the obvious bebop influences “Samba 48” still has the music of Django Reinhardt as it’s corner stone. Of the ten tracks heard here half are by Reinhardt, or are associated with him, with the other five coming from the pen of Barnes himself. In live performance the group also include versions of tunes by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others.

The album kicks off with a lively version of Reinhardt’s “Bellevue” with Barnes and Greene doubling up on the initial melody line. Barnes solo combines Django stylings with slippery bebop runs, he’s a hugely gifted technician, a fact confirmed by his excellent live appearances. Greene is   similarly fluent and on this highly energised opener there are also features for Mills and Jackson, the latter outstanding on a series of quick fire drum breaks.

Reinhardt’s “Nuits De St. Germain Des-Pres” is almost as vivacious with Barnes on Burrell inspired guitar and Greene on darting, frothy flute. The Australian is a particularly good flautist and features the instrument prominently in his own groups. Mills and Jackson offer sympathetic but propulsive support, deep bass grooves combining well with pattering, brushed percussion.

Things quieten down a little with Dino Olivieri and Nino Rastelli’s ballad “J’attendrai” (“I Wait”), a tune indelibly associated with Reinhardt. Barnes’ delicately picked guitar intro is followed by Greene’s tender soprano sax and Mills rich melodic bass. It’s a beautiful rendition of a lovely tune.

The first of Barnes’ originals is the blues “Baggin’ It Up” (a dedication to Milt Jackson perhaps?)  which lopes along attractively courtesy of Mills’ deep groove and Jackson’s crisply brushed drums.  Solos come from Barnes and Mills, it’s simple but effective.

Barnes’ “Shapes” is more obviously influenced by bebop and is centred around tricky, slippery, Parker like phrases. Barnes is given the chance to demonstrate his chops and Greene weighs in with a relaxed, swinging saxophone solo.

Another Barnes original “Miles Away” draws its inspiration not from the so called “Prince of Darkness” but from the rather more relaxed environs of Aberdovey beach. Here Barnes throws another of his influences into the equation, the Brazilian sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Given its provenance the tune is a suitably relaxed samba with Greene on breezy alto.

Barnes’ “Little Me” is an attractive solo guitar piece with the composer playing acoustically. In many ways it’s the most personal track on the album, the influences of Reinhardt and Burrell are less pronounced here than elsewhere.

Credited to Barnes “Samba 48” takes its inspiration from Django’s “Swing 48” and brings all his influences together. A Latin groove underpins the piece and there’s a great flute solo from Greene, his playing often taking on a vocalised inflection (shades of Roland Kirk, or even Jethro Tull if you must).

The album ends with two more Django Reinhardt pieces. Firstly comes “Nuages”, probably Reinhardt’s most famous composition. The Gadjo version does justice to the famous old melody with Greene on warm and woody clarinet, sympathetically supported by the rest of the trio.

“Swingtime In Springtime” takes the album in rousing fashion fuelled by Mills’ bass walk and Jackson’s neatly energetic drumming. Barnes is at his fleet fingered best and there are brief solo features for bass and drums as Greene sits out and lets the trio bring the curtain down on their own.

“Samba 48” isn’t the most profound album you’ll ever hear, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. Barnes and his colleagues are unpretentious musicians who are clearly having great fun playing their chosen material. The standard of musicianship is very high throughout and Barnes’ bebop and Latin leanings offer a fresh slant on the much visited Reinhardt repertoire. It’s refreshing to see this music cast in a fresh light and Barnes’ original tunes stand up well too.

Live, (with or without Greene) the trio certainly deliver the goods and if you live in their catchment area they are well worth seeing. Also their myspace page indicates that they are spreading their wings with an appearance at the famous Le Quecumbar venue in London due in January 2011. See or for further details.

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