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Swing Gitan Brings Diversity to Green Mill Print E-mail
Written by AUGUST FORTE / Photos by BRAD MEESE   
Thursday, 02 August 2007
The subject of the recent documentary A Gypsy Jazz Odyssey, Alfonso Ponticelli specializes in the rollicking, guitar-driven jazz pioneered by Django Reinhardt in the 1930s.

Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan
Entertainment
Art

Green Mill
Chicago, Ill.
June 20, 2007

As the bandleader of Chicago’s Swing Gitan, Ponticelli has become a local fixture on the live music scene. His fluid gypsy and flamenco-inspired guitar has taken center stage at diverse venues including Pops for Champagne, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Field Museum. He has also made several pilgrimages to the annual Django Reinhardt festival in France.

Catching up with Ponticelli at Uptown’s historic Green Mill proved to be a special treat. As the historic jazz haunt celebrated its 100th year in typical low-key fashion, the gifted guitarist took the stage with bassist Louie Marini, drummer Joe Adamik and guest violinist Tim Kilphuis for a spirited Wednesday night set.

The intense musical exchanges between Ponticelli and Kilphuis recalled Reinhardt’s heyday with violin virtuoso Stéphane Grappelli, while Marini and Adamik proved to be an especially tight rhythm section. Kilphuis, looking a bit like a young Grappelli in the flesh, proved to be both bouncy and precise even after coming off a delayed flight from his native Holland. His leads on the Fats Waller tunes “Honeysuckle Rose” and “After You’ve Gone” had the audience hanging on every dramatic rise and fall.

An unexpected take on Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” transported the listener back not to the wonderful 1970s, but to some smoke-filled club of the ‘30s, while standards like “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Misty” benefited from the gypsy jazz treatment. All four musicians soloed marvelously throughout both of the night’s sets. Ponticelli was equally comfortable playing somber notes or frenetic leads; Kilphuis was dexterous as he hand-plucked notes out of thin air; Marini’s fingers sailed down the neck of his standup bass; Adamik was equally effective with sticks, mallets or brushes.

Ponticelli, like every great bandleader before him, knew when to sit back and when to reign in his musicians. His control of the stage rivaled his command of gypsy jazz and his chosen instrument.

For a night of silky café atmosphere and nightclub swing, catch Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan at a venue near you.

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