Harmonia Mundi
374 1330

Tchavolo Schmitt is an enigma. Insiders consider him the best Gypsy Swing guitarist alive. Hardly anyone but hardcore aficionados have ever heard of him. He dances to his own tune, shows up of a sudden, disappears just as unpredictably and in general seems to have successfully eluded capture - on polycarbonate or vinyl that is.

Lantcha is a full-length document to monster chops, hard-driving swing, very potent tone, muscular handling and layers of indescribable nonchalance and effervescence, all terms of admiration and being smitten that'd be utterly lost on the artist who sees himself as merely one of many felicitous living heirs to the Django legacy.

Tchavolo Schmitt seems to have a particular fondness for Gypsy waltzes which incarnate the age of the musette to perfection. While certain guitarists in this metier wear technical virtuosity on their sleeves to impress; while others are rhythmically a bit stiff; others again unncessarily sloppy or bedeviled by somewhat thin and glassy tone; Schmitt always sounds slower and more metered than he really his, likely because his tone is so ebullient, his flageolets so athletic rather than flighty.

Power Swing would be an apt attempt to capture Schmitt's unique aural aspect. He pops like a slap bass and drives like a locomotive yet never evidences the "blunt instrument" charge M levied at the newly minted James Bond. In best Gypsy tradition -- he's bona fide Manouche by birth -- the recorded repertoire is anything that captured his fancy. There are Shelton Brooks, Irving Berlin and Victor Young tunes back to back with Leo Chauliac and the Maria Grever/Stanley Adams-penned "What a difference a day made", all interspersed with his own numbers. Costel Nitescu handles Stephane Grappelli's part on violin, Mayo Hubert and Marti Limberger sit in on rhythm guitars and Claudius Dupont provides the underpinnings on upright bass. And as a Chant du Monde/Harmonia Mundi production, Lantcha isn't only a hit on the musical charts but hits all the audiophile hot buttons as well.

Lantcha could be a very rare appearance indeed if the producer's wishes for followups fall on deaf or itinerant ears. Unpredictability is part of the Tchavolo Schmitt phenomenon. Who knows when he'll feel like visiting a recording studio again. Lovers of this music are advised to stock up on a few extra copies just in case one'll get unduly worn or misappropriated by a visitor with the brains and good taste to know what a rarity you were spinning. Like the Rosenberg/Romane outings, Lantcha is as good as it gets on this front. Django lives on!