Review: Deborah Drayer – Pearl Django, USA

Pearl Django-Pic-Fix

Pearl Django and “Le Jazz Hot”  April 5, 2014 at the Westmoreland Congregational UCC.

The last concert of this season’s John E. Marlow Guitar Series left us on both an upbeat and a downbeat note.  The upbeat was the original sound of Pearl Django, a fine quintet of two guitars (Selmer Maccaferri style guitars), violin, accordion and bass from Seattle which dished out a unique blend of gypsy, jazz and bluesy sounds dotted with tricky improvisations that had the audience breaking into spontaneous applause, piece after beat-bopping piece.

The first set kicked off with Daphne, a saucy hit by Django Reinhardt that got things moving and it was all uphill from there.  The Marlow Guitar audience typically doesn’t applaud in the middle of a work (it’s not like a Bach fugue is going to get people clapping before it’s over); so, it’s a breath of fresh air for us to let loose for a night and take in the bohemian freedom that comes with a genre we don’t usually hear on the Series or WETA during morning/evening rush hours.  Perhaps if the station played an occasional Pearl Django ditty like Prozac Musette there might be less road rage noted during the traffic reports.  But, last night, we, at least, had our collective blood pressure lowered and drove home with a good grip of finger clicking energy.

I may have imagined it but I picked up on a hint of the Appalachian in Daphne that just goes to show our musical DNA is connected across continents and ages.  It’s not coincidental that a tune which may have started out in eastern Europe might find its way to the eastern mountains of the New World, but you should hear it for yourselves, if not in person, on their CDs:  my personal favorite is Modern Times (though Daphne‘s not on it), but there are more recent recordings including Eleven and other notables.  A quick visit to Pearl Django’ s website will provide you with many of the delightful sounds we heard last Saturday, so do yourself a favor and visit:  You’re sure to add a distinctive sound to your recorded collections.

Regarding the downbeat of the evening, the John E. Marlow Guitar Series’ long time Artistic Director, and impresario debonair, Regis Ferruzza, is retiring after a lifetime of service to the series and broader Washington community.  For 20 years, Regis and Tim Healy have been the dynamic duo behind this successful venture and Regis will be missed by all who know and have worked with him over his career… from serving his country in uniform, to accomplished performer, instructor and mentor to the many artists who have made their way to the stage of this exceptional series. Regis will be returning to his home town of Pittsburgh to take in the stellar Italian cooking of his beloved sister and kicking back to listen, no doubt, to all that cornerstone town of America has to offer.  We wish Regis all the best as he transitions to the next chapter and turns the page on a job well done.  One never knows until one has to walk in another’s shoes all that individual has shouldered; and, I can tell you from one who has helped a bit in the search for the right person to take his place how much Regis has contributed to this town’s musical aesthetic.  Please join me in wishing Regis the fondest of farewells.  We hope he will come back and visit to just relax, listen, and let others do the job of making six Saturdays a year the highlight of their season.  Thank you Regis!  We could not have done it without you.

— Deborah Drayer

Happy Memorial Day

Wishing you a contemplative Memorial Day!

Today, the John E. Marlow Guitar Series thanks our own military veteran – Regis Ferruzza.  Mr. Ferruzza was a classical guitarist with the United States Army Band of Washington, DC for 12 years.


Sophocles Papas and students

Source: Washington Post, 1961. Article: The Guitar Goes To College. Author: Harriet Griffiths, staff writer.

You may recognize some guitarist names and faces in this newspaper photo clipping. Enjoy!

Carole Marlow also supplied 2 more quotes from the article.

“Regis Ferruzza, who played the plectrum in dance bands and switched to classic about four years ago, says he ‘couldn’t get what I wanted out of the other guitar’.”

“Gordon Smith, head of the music department, was instrumental in getting the guitar degree program started at AU with Papas and Shearer as teachers.”