The Faux Frenchmen
8 p.m. Feb. 25 at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. $8. (859) 259-2754. Beetnik.com.
The timing couldn't be better. Last weekend, the spirit of Gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt was summoned during a fine Frankfort performance by the John Jorgenson Quintet (see The Week That Was review, right).
On Tuesday, Cincinnati-area guitarist George Cunningham was in town as part of the first Lexington performance by the folk-flavored quartet known as The Graveblankets.
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A case of different musical worlds at work? Not exactly. They will converge Friday at Natasha's in a return concert by The Faux Frenchmen. Cunningham is one of two guitarists in the ensemble, which uses as its primary inspiration the '30s Gypsy jazz Reinhardt popularized with the great French violinist Stephane Grappelli in the Hot Club of France.
Unlike Jorgenson's group, which utilizes numerous Eastern European influences along with a healthy dose of percussion, the Frenchmen stick to an all-string sound designed by Cunningham, co-guitarist Brian Lovely, bassist Don Aren and violinist Paul Patterson that draws more on Americanized jazz accents.
A fine summation of the group's style was offered on its 2008 album, Oblivion, when it took on the famed Harry Lime Theme. The tune was based around a haunting, carnival-like Greek melody when it was featured in the 1949 film noir classic The Third Man. In the Frenchmen's hands, it is slightly streamlined to emphasize a lighter, string-driven jazz arrangement that, in its own quirky way, still swings.
Together since 2002, the group released its fourth album, 3 a.m. Waltz, last month. The recording centers around 10 works composed by each of the Frenchmen and four interpretations — including a spirited take on Reinhardt's Daphne — that uphold the tradition of the Hot Club of France's still smoldering string sound.
On the accordion ...
Forget for a moment its pivotal role in tango, Cajun, polka music and more. For years, the accordion was a mainstay of the entertainment industry.
Touring comedians and singers, onstage and on TV, employed the wheezy keyboard instrument as a sort of portable band during the '50s and '60s.
Among the accordion greats of the time was Tony Lovello. The Buffalo, N.Y., native toured and performed with Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Cantor and others. Lovello is perhaps the only accordionist to have played the National Anthem at Rupp Arena and Yankee Stadium.
He eventually retired from performing and settled in Lexington. But during the past decade he has become an active concert and recording artist again.
This weekend, Lovello performs on his adopted home turf. He will play at 7 p.m. Friday at The Julep Cup, in The Woodlands, 111 Woodland Avenue. For reservations, call (859) 226-0300.
From Ecton to Montreux
At heart, the event will be a benefit to raise money for the University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble's journey to — and invited performance at — the Montreux Jazz Festival this summer. But Sunday's Ecton Indoors fund-raiser at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester Street, is also a concise (and enclosed) version of the long-running series of jazz programs presented each summer at Ecton Park. (1 p.m. $10.)
Performing Sunday will be O-Zone (1 p.m.), Young at Heart (1:30 p.m.), Dan Brock, Tom Senff, Lori Shelburne, Ron Davidson and Dave McWhorter (2 p.m.), The MetroGnomes (2:30 p.m.), Gail Wynters, Jay Flippin, Byron Romanowitz, Ron Davidson and McWhorter (3 p.m.), Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors (3:30 p.m.), Osland/Dailey Jazztet (4 p.m.) and UK Jazz Ensemble (4:30 p.m.). Call (859) 368-8871.