Offbeat: Russell Welch Hot Jazz Quartet

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Fresh off Mardi Gras 2015, Frenchmen Street came alive again on Saturday, February 21, as the Louisiana Music Factory hosted an in-store performance by gypsy jazz connoisseur Russell Welch.

The Mardi Gras Indian songs were still resonating through the walls of the Louisiana Music Factory and the funky vibrations were slowly dissipating after an opening performance by the 79rs Gang when  Russell Welch and his Hot Quartet prepared to present their recent release, Mississippi Gypsy.

A pair of straight-laced shoes on his feet, a colored feather stuck in his bowler hat, and a guitar in his hands, the kid from Jackson, Mississippi, kicked things off with an avalanche of notes, backed by Molly Reeves on the rhythmic guitar, Josh Gouzy on the upright bass and Dr. Sick on the violin.

The record, Welch’s third release, is a continuation of his work in the tradition of gypsy jazz and of his fascination for the music of Django Reinhardt, which has spread through the world and has seen a certain revival in recent years.

But Mississippi Gypsy reflects the guitarist’s spirit and character better than any previous projects. It exhibits Welch’s chops as a young composer writing songs that respect the heritage of Django, while looking to find a new voice and paint a different portrait.

“We had brilliant people with amazing microphones and beautiful studios helping to make every instrument sound right,” said Dr Sick about Richard Burton at Jazzology Records and Eric Heigl, who handled the final mix at The Parlor Recording Studio.

In the process of recording the song “Explaining Places,” Dr. Sick committed a harmonic mistake.

“I was not very happy with what I had played,” the violinist remembers. “Russell looked at me and said ‘I want you to do that, four times.’”

The result is a confusion in the chord changes that only adds to the composition’s mood.

“It sounds rock’n’roll. It sounds right,” Welch said.

Russell tells the tale of a city we know in a language old as the hills, and yet born again each day.

Improvisation, central to this art, serves as the ultimate tool of expression and embellishment for this group of gifted musicians to complement Welch’s compositions, which are simple in nature but not devoid of charming intricacies that make the story of these streets unravel as a fable.

Welch belongs to a generation of young musicians who bring new ideas and modern influences and yet make sure to maintain comfortable place for tradition and heritage in their music.

Check out the Hot Quartet performing “Explaining Places” live in the Louisiana Music Factory.


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