Roberta on the Arts
Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005 at Birdland
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005 at Birdland

- Jazz and Cabaret Corner

Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005
At Birdland
315 West 44th Street, NYC
Gianni Valenti, Owner
Tarik Osman, Manager

Produced by Stratta/Philips Productions
Ettore Stratta and Pat Philips


The Django Reinhardt Festival Group on tour: Oct. 27, 28 & 29 to The Kennedy Center, Oct. 31 & Nov.1 to The Dakota in Minn., Nov. 3 to The Napa Opera House, Nov. 4 & 5 to Jazz Alley in Seattle, Nov. 8 - 13 to Birdland in NY, and Nov. 16 to The Disney Concert Hall in LA.

November 11, 12, 13, 2005

French Ensemble – Dorado Schmitt (Gypsy Guitar, Vocals), Angelo Debarre (Gypsy Guitar), Ludovic Beier (Accordion), Pierre Blanchard (Gypsy Violin), Samson Schmitt (Rhythm and Lead Guitar), David Langlois (Washboard Percussion). Musical Director – Brian Torff (Bass). (November 8 – 13, 2005) Special Guests – Harry Allen (Saxophone), Ken Peplowski (Clarinet), Lew Tabakin (Saxophone), Roger Kellaway (Piano), Joel Frahm (Saxophone), Dominick Farinacci (Trumpet), Gordon Lane (Brushes).

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 11, 12, 13, 2005

(See November 2004 Django Reinhardt Festival Review).
(See Spirit of Django Reinhardt 2005 Review).
(See Debarre-Beier CD Reviews).
(See Dorado Schmitt CD Review)
(See Brian Torff CD Review).

November 11, 2005
(See Roger Kellaway CD Reviews).

On November 10, 2005, in advance of this Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005, I met Roger Kellaway at AC Pianocraft, Inc., so he could meet owner, Alex Kostakis, and warm up on a few antique Steinways. We next walked to Starbucks for a brief interview over latte and cappuccino. Roger spoke about his work and the inspiration of Oscar Peterson, who, he says, was inspired by Nat King Cole. Roger hopes to see Peterson in Toronto or elsewhere to play for him, as an homage.

Roger spoke about his professional goals for his trio and his desire to pass to the younger generation the legacies of Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson. He mentioned the skills of his current trio (Bruce Forman and Dan Lutz) and their ability to draw a crowd. Roger turned to Bobby Darin (He was Darin’s Musical Director for two years, on the road, culminating in the album, “Bobby Darin Sings Dr. Doolittle”. They went to Vegas, the Copa, Flamingo, all the grand, old supper clubs.

Roger also did 55 concerts with Joni Mitchell and created a video, which is now on DVD. He has written a ballet for Balanchine, and he was able to conduct its third performance. Roger remembers the highlights of NYC Ballet, and Ed Villella’s role in “Prodigal Son”

Roger Kellaway and Alex Kostakis at AC Pianocraft, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Matty, Piano Technician, Roger, and Alex
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Roger Plays an Antique Steinway
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

(Second Set). Tonight was the fourth night in of a six-night Festival at Birdland, same format as usual, which is really quite lovely and comforting, with Pat Philips (Co-Producer with Ettore Stratta) making all the introductions each night, thanking sponsors, re-introducing the guest artists with various combinations of performers. The Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005 included tonight, from France, Dorado Schmitt (Gypsy Guitar, Vocals), Angelo Debarre (Gypsy Guitar), Ludovic Beier (Accordion), Pierre Blanchard (Gypsy Violin), Samson Schmitt (Rhythm and Lead Guitar), and David Langlois (Washboard Percussion), plus American Musical Director, Brian Torff (Bass) and Special Guest, Roger Kellaway (Piano).

Samson Schmitt and Ludovic Beier began the set with Samson (a growing presence in the gypsy jazz community, and Dorado’s son) in the lead, and, for The Sheik of Arabee, volume built with a split-timed ending. The next piece, rapturous and romantic, for accordion and gypsy, rhythm guitar, had Ludovic in the lead for True Blonde Bolero. Angelo Debarre, a serious musician with great black clothing and matching hat, came onstage, and his guitar took off like a train out of the station. This could have been a background score for a great chase scene, but with humor, as Ludovic and Angelo took turns looking at their watches as the other guitarist played.

Days of Wine and Roses never sounded better, with swing rhythm lead by Brian Torff, on bass, and then elegantly performed by Roger Kellaway on Birdland’s Bösendorfer piano. Ludovic and Roger complimented and conversed with each other on large and accordion keyboards. Samson soon took the theme a third time, with a more syncopated style. Another duet brought Dorado Schmitt onstage to play with son, Samson. Samson, in a bright yellow suit and shiny black shoes, cut quite a figure with his muscular build. Pierre Blanchard, a wizard on violin, played as fast as Ludovic does on accordion. Sad but Beautiful, by Dorado, fused Ludovic’s accordion with Dorado’s sensuous guitar, with flourishes, fugues, and melancholy, meandering music. At times the accordion mimicked the violin and vice versa.

Someone To Watch Over Me and I Got Rhythm were next, featuring Pierre Blanchard, a virtuosic violinist, captivating and charismatic. A samba followed, with Ludovic on an “accordina” (specialized harmonica with keys), and Pierre on vibrating, violin solos. Dorado sang a throaty vocal rendition that added richness and depth to the event. When Roger Kellaway returned for Honeysuckle Rose, a syncopated piano introduction ensued for a fusion of jazz and gypsy swing. Roger has experience and presence, and this piece was riveting.

Willow Weep for Me, one of my favorites, was led by Brian Torff, with abstract accents that seemed to transport the audience to the heart of the American South. The final piece, with David Langlois onstage with washboard and silver finger picks, brought out a full eight musician ensemble, and the violin even added percussive effects. This dervish of a gypsy dance let loose in mood and moment.

November 12, 2005

(Second Set). Tonight’s special guest was Joel Frahm, on saxophone, who also performed at last year’s Festival. Tonight, Birdland was packed again, and Pat Philips again served as gracious and organized host. Ludovic Beier took off on accordion, with loose, rousing swing, after Brian Torff thanked the bartender for getting the musicians ready for this set. Ludovic’s accordion sounded like a saxophone, full-throated and textured. Them There Eyes was wild, rapid, and torrid. Joel Frahm joined the ensemble for a second night’s interpretation of Days of Wine and Roses, smooth, swinging, sensual. Joel closes his eyes and repeats the refrain. His staccato sax solo was enhanced with Angelo Debarre’s strings that resonated like clanging bells, aided by Ludovic and Samson.

Pierre Blanchard joined the musicians for A Lover’s Aria, and his energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Samson and Dorado, son and father, soon created a raging duo, later expanded by Pierre on screaming strings. This piece had the evocative mood of tango, hardly the signature upbeat Django gypsy swing, as Pierre rippled his string in tremolo effects. When Dorado (switching instruments) and Pierre took two violins to the microphones, a gypsy rhapsody ensued. Samson remained on rhythm guitar, and Brian held the fort on bass. A split-timed finish was exciting.

Joel Frahm, on sax, returned with Pierre Blanchard, and fingering flourishes fused straight jazz to this gypsy ensemble. Ludovic took out his new “accordina” (harmonica with keys), and the Brazilian mood was reminiscent of old Tania Maria songs, plus jazz and bass solos intact. The samba rhythm on Dorado’s composition generated a roller-coaster ride of dance music. Minor Swing, with full ensemble, brought Joel Frahm to the mix in Hot Club of France styled, playful sound. David Langlois, once again on washboard, was included in the final work, and his sensational solo syncopation was enthusiastically received by this most enthused audience.

November 13, 2005

(Second Set). Pat Philips announced Dominick Farinacci as guest on trumpet tonight, and the set opened with True Blonde Bolero, with Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier, and Brian Torff. Angelo Debarre joined the next piece, with his consistent, charismatic technique, and a rapid lead soon switched to Samson Schmitt, as Angelo played with charming chords. Ludovic and Angelo conversed with force and texture, prior to the next song, a red hot swing. A wild train ride, once more, of guitars, accordion, and bass, and Ludovic and Angelo switched themes, rhythms, and leads.

Dominick Farinacci, a rising star on trumpet, was smooth and seamless in his approach to this gypsy rhythmic event. Samson and Dominick seemed to be featured in this song, and they glowed with power. Dorado Schmitt’s composition, Chanson D’Amour, brought him back on vocals and guitar, and Ludovic took the early theme on “accordina” (harmonica-keyboard invention). Dorado draws on Aznavour’s romantic, grainy vocals, and this Chanson melted with a sweet ending.

Pierre Blanchard was now back, and violin, accordion, bass, and guitars blended and switched melodies and moods. Brian Torff finally had a luxurious solo, and his talents are versatile. Pierre soon used the violin as a percussive instrument, and Dominick returned to really showcase his skills with elongated, breathless passages. Melba Joyce, a vocalist, formerly with the Count Basie Orchestra, appeared onstage for After You’ve Gone in a rousing, resonant rendition. Angelo Debarre, also onstage again, took intriguing interludes. Ms. Joyce is powerful, sexy, and a really good singer, and this gypsy jazz ensemble rose to the occasion, as did she, for a great finale to a week of Django Reinhardt genre, memorable music. Of course, once again, David Langlois, on washboard, joined the final piece, and his prolonged solo garnered wild accolades.

Kudos to Pat Philips, Ettore Stratta, all the musicians from France, the guest artists, Brian Torff, and Birdland for a memorable and wonderful Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2005.

Angelo, Pierre, Dorado, Brian, Samson, Ludovic, David
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Pat Philips and Dorado Schmitt
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Enrico Granafei, Guest, and Erika, Hostess
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Ettore Stratta and Brian Torff
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Dorado, Samson, Ludovic, David, Angelo
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Pat Philips and the Guys
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Joel Frahm, Saxophonist
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Gianni Valenti, Dominick Farinacci, and Melba Joyce Join the Performers Onstage
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Samson Kisses Pat
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Dorado Schmitt and Tarik Osman, manager
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at