Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Silk and Steel" - Luke Hendon

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sometimes coincidences are just that - coincidences, this despite the oft-repeated cliche to the effect that there “aren’t any coincidences.”

I mean what’s the likelihood of a recording that “touches on the tradition of the legendary gypsy guitar of Django Reinhardt” crossing the threshold of the editorial offices at JazzProfiles while said group is working on a feature about Peche à la Mouche, the great Blue Star sessions of 1947 and 1953 fabled Django?

But that’s exactly what happened recently with the arrival of guitarist Luke Hendon self-produced CD Silk & Steel courtesy of Chris DiGirolamo of Two for the Show Media.

But let me be clear here: while there are similarities with Django, Luke Hendon is his own man. Sure, the Django influence is immediately identifiable in the choice of instrument - acoustic guitar, accompaniment - more acoustic guitars, violin, bass and sax/clarinet, and repertoire with its Swing era, foot-tapping up-tunes and slow ballads, each infused with a certain folkloric, gypsy lyricism.

But what sets Luke apart from Django is the Aristotelian adage that “We are all different with regard to those things we have in common.”

Hendon’s improvisations are his own; they are not derived from Django. It takes a brave musician to improvise using an approach to Jazz so dominated by one of its iconic figures and yet to hold the belief that you have something original to say to say in that style of playing.

And that’s what’s going on in Silk and Steel - an homage to Django’s influence accompanied by Luke’s statement of independent creativity.

What is also going on in Luke Hendon’s music is a reaffirmation of Jazz as “fun.” It’s very apparent here that no one is taking themselves too seriously. Luke and his associates are very accomplished musicians who create music that they obviously take a great delight in making; music that is well-played and entertaining.

If you have an affinity for the music of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelly and The Quintet of the Hot Club of Paris, then get yourself a copy of Steel and Silk. I guarantee you’ll love it.

You can locate more information about Luke and the recording via his website at

Chris Di Girolamo send along the following media release which will give you more insights into Luke’s music.

Silk & Steel brings us a 2016 twist on the style made famous in the Woody Allen-Sean Penn biopic on the legendary Django Reinhardt. The album channels the supple, stiletto-like lead guitar approach of the eclectic Reinhardt, a Sinti (gypsy) genius who co-created the genre with violinist Stephane Grappelli in Europe between the wars.

Silk & Steel is the fruit of Hendon's study with genre icons Paulus Schafer and Fapy Lafertin, whose Sinti jazz master classes Hendon took in the Netherlands last year. The Hendon-penned album opener "Dinner with Paulus" is a tribute to the Sinti sound, featuring the sinuous strains of Pooquette on violin. The album title itself is based on Hendon's instrument:

"I think of this model as the French horn of guitars, because it has an unusual sound and is also difficult to play," Hendon said, "It uses silk and steel strings, and the initial models were built to project enough to play in ensembles without amplification. It is the same style of guitar used by Django and his predecessors, who use a lot of vibrato, bends, tremolo, open strings, staccato and energetic runs that aren't heard as much in American jazz. That appeals to me, and I was fascinated by the excitement Django and the gypsies created."

Hendon has opened for legendary acts like Al Green, Sun Ra, and Los Lobos, performed on Broadway, composed and recorded for TV and film, and worked with dance ensembles, cruise ships, theatre companies and bands. He founded Goodfoot, which took the Dallas, Texas area by storm in the nineties. He's also been a session guitar player on pop, funk, blues, folk, rock, jazz, and world music in a plethora of settings.

His recent obsession with Reinhardt's contribution to the catalogue moved Hendon to dive deep into the style, gigging around New York City as a sideman with a variety of gypsy jazz groups. Further studies under the internationally known Stephane Wrembel and Gonzalo Bergara helped Hendon create his offering to the genre some call hot-club jazz or gypsy swing.

Hendon's lead guitar solos shimmer through the 40 minutes and 15 seconds of the album's nine tracks, seven of them originals. Ben Rubens and Ari Folman-Cohen play bass, Ted Gottsegen, Josh Kaye and Hendi Looxe bring their rhythm guitars. Adrian Cunningham doubles on clarinet and sax, and Pooquette plays violin on four of the songs.”

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