Their sets are wildly eclectic, ranging from romps through Django’s “Rhythm Futur” and “Minor Swing” to interpretations of The Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” and the traditional Turkish folk tune “Hicaz Mandir” to refreshing originals like the gorgeous, contemplative “Miah Maull,” an homage to a lighthouse found on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay, and the flamenco “Andulusian Dreams.”
Equally inspired by Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz and Spain’s passionate flamenco music, the Boston-based trio Ameranouche brings a infectious sense of swing their second appearance at the Exit Zero Jazz Festival. “We create a vehicle for three people to express themselves in the most joyous fashion they can conjure in that moment,” says guitarist Richard Sheppard. “It’s about hooking into that energy that’s beyond human reasoning.” Along with fellow guitarist Jack Soref and bassist Michael Harrist, Ameranouche combines fleet-fingered fretboard work and a high-octane pulse that is highly rhythmic, surprisingly nuanced and deeply personal.
Shepp and Soref bonded over a shared love of Reinhardt’s great guitar work. The group’s founder Shepp has recorded and performed with artists like John Jorgenson, Rick Danko, Hot Tuna and Vassar Clements. He studied with guitar greats Pat Martino and Attila Zoller and has taught guitar, composition and music theory as a faculty member of Bennington College and Pittsfield Community Music School. As a teenager, Soref fell for jazz manouche one summer at the Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois-sur-Seine, France. “I knew when I heard it that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he recalled. Soref spent six months in Paris playing both with elder greats like violinist Florin Niculescu and up-and-coming gypsy jazz players on the Parisian scene. While both guitarists play off one another, effortlessly exploring the percussive and the melodic sides of the instrument, Harrist grounds their flights of fancy with solid bass work on his 19th century Ottoman instrument.
Beyond technical prowess or musical origins, the trio feels guided by the spirit of the sounds that have inspired them. “We feel that we’re within these traditions because they speak to us from that extramusical place,” Harrist notes. “That’s why we play the music we’re playing. We identify with it. So much of a deep part of us and our outlook on the world in terms of the way things flow. That’s how we can lean on something that seems steeped in the past.”