A couple nights ago, in our very own neighborhood, we had the great pleasure of experiencing the gypsy jazz band Pearl Django. The venue was the North City Bistro, which is a charming little wine shop/bistro in the middle of the North City area of Shoreline, that features top-notch jazz performances most weekends. Friday night the place was packed, and we were seated in a corner spot so tight the table was tucked under our chins like a napkin, but no matter. We relaxed with some wine nibbling delicious small plates of baked goat cheese, tender crab cakes and assorted other tasties, comfortably chatting with our friends and when the music started we all fell under their spell. Surrounded by racks of wine, deep maroon curtains, cellar-like walls and the soft glow of candlelight, the fiddle player (who spoke into the instrument for his microphone to my great amusement) said that if you took the roof off the restaurant you’d think you were at a sidewalk café in Paris.
If you’re not familiar with gypsy jazz, think of that Parisian sidewalk café where there’s a guitar, and a big upright bass, a violin, and perhaps an accordion. Or perhaps you’ve seen the movie Chocolat? Johnny Depp playing the guitar on the romantically lit riverfront? Gypsy Jazz. It makes you bob your shoulders up and down, snap your fingers like the Peanuts gang when they’re dancing, wiggle your hips in your seat, and in my case Friday night, anxiously look towards the door hoping Johnny Depp will make a surprise appearance. (A nicely dressed Latino gentleman with tidy long black hair, heart-melting eyes and a jazzy hat was a decent substitute.)
All the players in Pearl Django are exceptionally talented, possessing that ability of great musicians to make their craft appear purely effortless, like they’re just kicking back and having a good time. One of the guitar players was moving his fingers over the frets so fast they were an Entwistle-blur; it looked like he had about 12 fingers on one hand! He had a towel that he wiped the neck down with between songs. I was drop-mouth amazed, and told our table I was going to chop off both of my hands as I was too unworthy to play guitar ever again. (Obviously, as I am here typing, this was an idle threat. But mentally? Whack!) Come to think of it, they all played with lightning speed. The fast fingered-fiddle player Mike did distract me momentarily as he wore a black beret and I am now obsessed with the idea that my father should start wearing one all the time, because it would be so perfect on him, with his little pencil-thin mustache and suave attitude, but in two hours Mike had that fiddle smokin’!
It was the perfect end to a busy week and a sweet way to begin the weekend and I highly recommend both the music and the bistro. The owners of North City Bistro, Larry and Pat, started around the corner as a little parcel and post, card and gift shop with a little corner dedicated to wine, and I used to work nearby and use them for shipping regularly. It warms my heart at what they’ve accomplished and you can see they love what they do. You can experience Pearl Django next at Jazz Alley on June 15th and 16th. Also, on a recent trip to South Whidbey Island we heard of the Djangofest Northwest held in Langley every fall (this year in September), where django bands from all over the world will be featured, including Pearl Django. Maybe we’ll see you there?