The New York City Jazz Record Review of Silk & Steel!

This just in from The New York City Jazz Record-pg 20!

By Mark Keresman

Luke Hendon is a NYC-area guitarist of the Django

Reinhardt school of Gypsy/Roma-infused small-group

swing. Drawing from a similar instrumental palette to

that of Django—acoustic guitars, bass, violin—with

the additional spice of a reed player (clarinet,

saxophone) and concentrating on a program of mostly

original songs, Hendon does the tradition proud. He

plays in a picked, crisp, clean, very articulate style; one

can almost see the vibrations of his strings in the

mind’s eye. He evokes Reinhardt’s sparkle without

overtly trying to emulate him—in fact, there is a strong

influence of American folk music picking to be


Opener “Dinner with Paulus” is virtually the

definition of elegance, with its rich, sultry, romantic,

slightly tango- and waltz-flavored theme and

immaculately picked guitar and sinuous, pensive

violin swirling in unison. It’s easy to imagine couples

dancing to this in a Parisian club (in the ‘20s or even

recently) into the wee hours. “Nothin’ But A Groove”

is just the opposite, a hard-driving swinger featuring

such forcefully strummed rhythm guitar you won’t

notice Hendon’s band has no drummer. It’s got

a jumping “Stompin’ At the Savoy”-like theme (with

an odd, progressive rock-style twist to it) and the

frontline is joined by the jaunty saxophone of Adrian

Cunningham. The latter’s solo brims over with gutsy

swagger and a slightly acidic tone, sneaking in a few

bebop licks and hints of Ornette Coleman-esque

dissonance too. It’s invigorating to both the probing

listener and the sophisticated dancer.

“Too Much Tequila” introduces a strong blues

influence in both the lanky, laconic melody and the

sustained, worried tone of Hendon’s solos. Pooquette’s

dark-toned violin solo is rich as anything by Sugarcane

Harris or Stuff Smith. “Paquito” is a slice of Latinhinted

bebop, Hendon inserting Wes Montgomerystyle

phrasings, albeit in a very forceful manner; the

bouncy rhythm of the tune, however, is very much in

that heavily (almost leadenly) strummed acoustic

guitar style of Reinhardt’s quintet.

When some hepcats go the Django route, they’re

too literal or polite. Hendon’s take on the style is to

inject some very modern energy along with judiciously

placed non-jazz undertones. That’s the crucial

difference between maintaining and enriching a legacy.

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