By some strange quirk of fate, I’d never before been to the jazz haven that is Pizzeria Lauretano in Bethel, Connecticut, though it isn’t that far from where I live.
But the bill on July 26 proved irresistible. Swing du Jour is Southern New England’s premiere gypsy swing band. Guitarist Larry Urbon, a neighbor of mine, is a keen student of “jazz manouche,” the style favored by the late Django Reinhardt. With ace standards singer Noreen Mola, he is half of Cafe Musette (see them regularly at Luc’s in Ridgefield, Connecticut). Fiddle player Howie Bujese is conversant in many different forms but is especially fluent in the swing of the late Stephane Grappelli. Guitarist Norman Plankey, in the rhythm chair, is also a bluegrass adept and has played in an old-time duo (with Bujese) on my WPKN radio show.
They get together all too infrequently. I almost didn’t make it to Bethel, and arrived after the first set, but it was well worth the drive on rural roads, skirting pastures and mini-mansions. For players who don’t gig often, their chemistry was amazing. The fast call-and-response between Bujese and Urbon was telepathic, reminiscent of what I’ve heard classical Indian players do.
They played Django’s most famous composition, “Nuages,” plus “Moto Swing,” “Caravan” (lacking only the drum solo that Frank Zappa mentions in “America Drinks and Goes Home”) and even “More.” And don’t forget “Daphne,” another Django tune I was fortunate enough to get on videotape:
There wasn’t always jazz at Pizza Lauretano. “It started very organically,’” said publicist Judith Joiner. “At first, it was 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It was an occasional concert, and it was free. Then we started having music every Sunday. We gradually added a cover charge. Now, you have to call ahead for reservations every week.”
You especially need reservations for Swing du Jour’s occasional visit, but there’s plenty more where that comes from. Upcoming shows in September include Ray Blue/Warren Byrd Quartet (Sept. 13), Marvin Stamm Quartet (Sept. 20) and swinging chanteuse Nicole Pasternak and her quintet (Sept. 27).