Vipers Royal Garden
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Vipers Royal Garden

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The best kept secret in music


"The Vipers strike at the heart of the Hot Club"

Written by Alan Chase
Wednesday, 16 August 2006

The Vipers, the latest in a number of area bands playing music in the style of the Hot Club of France, will bring their unique spin on the music to the outdoors ArtSpace Concert Series at the Vaughan Mall in Portsmouth on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m. The concert is free and provides an opportunity to hear a talented group that’s making a name for themselves.

“We’re definitely trying to create music that is in the style of the Hot Club,” says lead guitarist Andrew Jalbert. “But we’re definitely not a repertory band in the sense of recreating this music note for note.”

The Vipers includes rhythm guitarist Zach Uncles, bassist Harlan Rollins, drummer Josh Fixlar and vocalist Cori Baldwin.

Jalbert says that in addition to the Hot Club of France, the group draws upon the influences of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives & Sevens and the big band sound of the swing era. “What appeals to me about this music and the music of Armstrong and others is that it swings in an effortless way and it has an upbeat vibe. It’s not frenetic the way a lot of contemporary jazz can be.”

The Hot Club of France was founded in 1934 by French guitarist Django Reinhardt in collaboration with violinist Stephane Grappelli. The music that the group played was directly influenced by the jazz sounds of Armstrong, often known as “Hot Jazz” back in the day, and the sounds of the swing era. The group also incorporated elements of French folk music into their sound, giving the band a unique blend of styles that has often been referred to as “Gypsy Jazz,” a reference had as much to do with Reinhardt’s youth living in a gypsy camp outside of Paris as the music’s sound.

The music is known for its intricate weaving of various musical lines from a violin and guitar over a light but steady swing of the rhythm section. It’s music that lives for the dance floor.

Jalbert became interested in Reinhardt and his music while majoring in jazz studies at Mount Holyoke College.
“At the time, I was more into Wes Montgomery and was exploring that aspect of jazz guitar. I came across a Django CD compilation, so I picked it up on a whim and found myself becoming gradually more interested in the sound of the Hot Club. The more I have become involved with this music since, the more I find it appealing to play and listen to,” Jalbert says.

Finding some like-minded friends, Jalbert put together The Vipers and soon began playing gigs around the Seacoast.

“We prefer to call our music Hot Jazz,” Jalbert says. “We feel it better describes what we do than the more common Gypsy-Jazz reference. We do play a lot of music from Django’s repertoire, but we also cover Armstrong and Holiday and other musicians like that.”

A recent performance, opening for saxophonist Karl Denson at The Stone Church, revealed the group’s unique sound. The Vipers indeed interpret the music in the style of the Hot Club of France, but without sounding overly derivative. At the center is Jalbert’s incisive guitar work, accompanied by Uncles’ steady rhythm guitar and Rollins’ bass, where the music catches the listener with its weaving of lead lines and rhythm accompaniment, rendered with a focused, subtly burning swing courtesy of Fixlar’s pleasantly unobtrusive drum work. Vocalist Baldwin offers fine, casually sultry vocals that give the band an added unique edge. The group was enthusiastically received by the young audience in attendance.

“We’re definitely looking for gigs like the one at The Stone Church in order to get this music out to younger listeners,” Jalbert says. As for the name of the band, He explains that it comes from an old traditional jazz tune called “If You’s a Viper.”

Currently, the band is the focal point of all the members’ musical energies.

“Basically, this is what we are focused on,” Jalbert says. “We are all very good friends and spend lot of time hanging together when we’re not rehearsing or gigging. So, this group is our commitment for now.”
The band is currently working on a CD for a possible fall release.

The Vipers with Murkadee Thursday, Aug. 17, freeArtSpace Concert Series at Vaughan Mall, Portsmouth 603-427-0403 - The Wire


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The Vipers Royal Garden began when Harlan Rollins and Andrew Jalbert met working freelance jazz gigs in the seacoast New Hampshire and southern Vermont areas during the summer of 2004. Expressing similar interests in genres of music, they began gigging together first as a duo. Booking more gigs in the area, they began integrating additional pieces into the ensemble which has included as many as eight musicians. The core creative force of the band, however, has always been Harlan and Andrew. The most recent addition to the group is now moving the sound of the band in a new direction as rhythm guitar player, Jovi Federici, comes from the Brasillian guitar tradition.

The Vipers are still most heavily influenced by the hot jazz sound of the 1920's and 1930's made popular largely by Louis Armstrong and in Europe by Gypsy guitar player, Djengo Rhienhardt. The Vipers are a young band, with its members in their twenties, they are also influenced by a myriad of musical styles. This brings a youthful and inclusive energy to their sound.

The Vipers are a music act dedicated to the study of their instruments and the music that they play as well as to bringing their music to a large and continually growing audience. The music they play, while naturally appealing to an older audience is equally exciting to audiences of any demographic. The Vipers have done shows with bands playing in styles of music from bluegrass, country, reggae, ska, surf rock, New Orleans jazz, Gypsy jazz, and jazz/funk fusion. They have opened for internationally touring jazz acts such as Karl Denson and John Jorgenson.

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