Hearing that the wonderful Gypsy swing trio, Swing de Gitanes, would be playing with the Ramat Gan Chamber Orchestra, I was a bit wary. One of my friends, who avoids classical music like the plague, wouldn’t even try it (after all, “It Don’t Mean a Thing…”) I was accompanied by one who actually attends classical concerts and met another such friend there. I won’t keep you in suspense, it meant a lot!
The Ramat Gan Theater has a nice concert hall with good acoustics. The only problem there is finding parking on the surrounding residential streets – no parking lot. As I used to live In the neighborhood and have a friend who still does, I know the ins and outs and was able to park in the vicinity.
The conductor Aviv Ron first announced that the Chamber Orchestra would play a few numbers on its own as a warm-up band (a cute touch) and they launched into I Got Rhythm – a statement of intention? Things really heated up when guitarists Yaakov Hoter and Ori Ben Zvi and bassist Oren Sagi came out on stage and began to play. I had been wondering to what extent they would actually be playing with the orchestra and was pleasantly surprised to find that, on most numbers the orchestra really backed them up and complemented their music beautifully, maintaining a good swing feel and keeping the audience tapping their feet and otherwise enthusiastically moving with the music. At one point, the orchestra’s violinist even took a short solo.
The audience seemed to be mainly made up of subscribers to the Ramat Gan Chamber Orchestras concert series, but they were supplemented by devotees of Swing de Gitanes, like me. In general, there was thunderous applause at the end of each number (this time, Yaakov announced them as pieces, as one would in a classical setting), but none for solos. However, at one point, Oren Sagi got enthusiastic applause after a solo anyway! I believe that was when they played a Bach improvisation and when the members of the orchestra also applauded!
You could really see and hear that Swing de Gitanes was really thriving in the fantastic atmosphere, bouyed up by the congenial accompaniment of the orchestra. All three had smiles on their faces most of the time (so did I – I was transported by the music). What added to the enjoyment is that we could see the smiles spreading on the faces of the members of the orchestra as the evening went on!
The program was mainly the Gypsy swing repertoire, along with Oren Sagi’s Autumn Sidewalks and Yaakov Hoter’s Rhythm Israel, which are catchy tunes already very familiar to their fans, and very well received by the audience. In fact, I’ve rarely, if ever encountered such an enthusiastic audience and Swing de Gitanes always evokes a strong response.
The last tune on the program was the Love Theme from the God father, which I’ve heard has become a kind of Gypsy anthem. This was followed by a long lasting ovation, bouquets to each member of Swing de Gitanes and the conductor, the arranger being called upon to take a bow, etc. Finally, Swing de Gitanes and the orchestra played an encore – Mister Sandman; What could be more appropriate (it was around 11 PM already)? I believe it was Yaakov Hoter, who did a lot of the announcing here as he often does, who said to the audience, “You aren’t tired? Neither are we!”
My friends and I came out intoxicated with the excitement, gushing over the wonderful music and seeing great things in the future for Swing de Gitanes.
It would be great if this performance could be repeated elsewhere! For now, I’m looking forward to hearing Swing de Gitanes on their own again (well, almost, with some swing dancers) at the lovely Inbal Hall in Tel Aviv on June 30th.