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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Joe Craven

By Tom Orr
Published June 22, 2007

Django Latino
Compass

With Django Latino, Joe Craven fulfills his longtime ambition of recasting the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in a Latin American mood. Craven’s visionary style and finely honed skills on mandola, violin and an array of percussion serve him well as he turns “Swing Mineur” into a Puerto Rican plena, gives “Douce Ambiance” an Afro-Haitian majesty that's truly marvelous, puts a bolero beat beneath Reinhardt’s swan song “Anouman” and does further respectful spicing-up with rhythms from Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Reinhardt/Grappelli purists may grumble, but close listening reveals true musical kinship between the originals and what Craven’s done with them (such as the retained gypsy swing within the lurching tango arrangement of “Tears”). Hitting upon a proper blend of whimsy and genuine feeling, and despite some slightly campy moments, this disc is a refreshing and inventive take on a classic sound.