‘ve been listening to “Rare Django” the last few days and wishing I knew more than five words of French. Nearly every song with vocals is in French, recorded during the master’s early days with various jazz singers in his home country. Years ago, when I first discovered this masterpiece, a friend offered to translate the songs for me. Since she spoke French (though with a decided Tahitian accent) and loved jazz it was a good deal for both of us.
Thinking about the translations in the desk drawer reminds me of things Tahitian; not that I’ve been there in body, but I go often in spirit. One simple method is a track from a truly memorable and evocative album by two guitar giants.
Twelve years ago, senior statesman and brilliant guitarist Chet Atkins teamed up with my favorite living guitarist, Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, and played a bunch of songs they liked. It was reminiscent of a couple albums recorded a long, long time ago, by Chet and a friend named Les Paul. All three recordings, “Chester and Lester” and “Guitar Monsters” with Les (combined into one CD), and the album I mentioned above, “Neck and Neck” with Knopfler, were recorded essentially live, as if the band had dropped by your living room to visit. They chat during the songs, they show off for each other; everyone is clearly having a marvelous time. It reminds me of Saturday night when I was a kid, and neighbors or uncles or anyone would come over with their guitars and such, and play and sing until long after us kids fell asleep on the great big couch in the living room.
“Tahitian Skies”, the eighth track on “Neck and Neck”, is a sweet melody which transports me to pleasant places. Written by country guitarist Ray Flacke, I first heard it on the Chieftan’s “Another Country” which is another fine alt country album. The “Neck and Neck” version is smoother, more polished; not better, just different. This is a soothing piece, treated gently by two musicians with style and grace.