Reviews

Zazou City - A New Orleans Swing Band
The Man Who Couldn't Dream
Bart Ramsey, Zazou City’s founder and guiding force, continues his ascent into the musical stratosphere with this release.  Each succeeding record he comes out with gets better and better even when you think he can’t get any higher.  Known primarily for his virtuosity on the piano, accordion and vocals, his talent also extends to his writing and arranging skills and an uncanny knack for selecting only the best supporting musicians and recording engineers.  This CD combines all of the above.  With so many great cuts, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite one or two.  Eight of the twelve tracks are Ramsey originals.  A disciple of the gypsy swing genre popularized by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, most of the tracks on the CD are in that lively, 4/4 time signature, accentuated by the unbelievably rapid, dexterous guitar plucking of Raphael Bas and Ramsey’s very Mediterranean-sounding accordion melodies.  When the tempo slows down to a slower, more mournful one, as it does in “Chagrin d’Amour” (Heartache) great musicianship continues to shine through, especially on the dirge-like soprano sax solo by Aurora Nealand, and outstanding reed artist in her own right.  Other standouts on thie star-studded work of art include Matt Bell, Chris Edmunds and Rob Halverson (guitars); Matthew Shilling (alto sax); Charlie Miller (trumpet); Andy “Dr. Bone” Galbiati (trombone); Tarik Hassan, Nathan Lambertson and Tim Paco (bass) and Neti Vaan and Ruby Moon (backing vocals).  Vaan also pitches in with a sweet Grappelli-like solo on Django’s “Swing 39.”  A great record, with “All The Way Down,” by the way, one of the best tracks to be found here.
Zazou City - A New Orleans Swing Band
Liar's Moon (Jumping Man)
09/01/2011
It seems unconscionably trite to say that a band “brings a New Orleans flavor” to their chosen genre (gypsy jazz), but I’ll say it anyway. Bart Ramsey’s accordion and Chris Edmunds’ percussive guitar leave no doubt about Zazou City’s gypsy jazz idiom. But when Aurora Nealand whips out the soprano sax, Matthew Shilling starts blowing his clarinet, or Charlie Miller gets going on the trumpet (often simultaneously), the group’s collective energy takes on a distinctively native hue. How could it not? Many of the players here are polystylists well versed in New Orleans jazz. The music of Liar’s Moon always maintains the sensitivity and chromaticism characteristic of its French origins, but it’s hard not to hear a musical nod and wink in the record’s most kinetic moments.

The album opens with a Django Reinhardt number, “Swing 48”, but the lion’s share of the tracks are Ramsey originals. He adds a mournful, bluesy vocal to “Redemption is the Long Way Around” and a world-weary rasp to the troubled love song, “She Asked Me to Stay.” Ramsey collaborator Neti Vaan (the two played together in the now-defunct gypsy jazz group Vavavoom) adds fiddle to two tracks. The arrangements are often sparse, but some of the record’s best moments are found in the energetic density of full-band breakdowns, like the dueling accordion/sax finale of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
Zazou City - A New Orleans Swing Band
Jazzfest 2012
Zazou City (Americana/Jazz) Bart Ramsey is the composer/singer/ songwriter and jazz musician who formed Zazou City, which infused Gypsy swing into the New Orleans repertoire. In that blend, the New Orleans musician plays piano and accordion, backed by a four-piece band and moves between upbeat and mellow tunes.