Festivals - Tours - 2 new CDs - and Europe!

2016 was a busy year of new opportunities and the opening up of new possibilities.  Highlights include: Performing at Django By The Sea alongside Rhythm Future Quartet for the final day of the sold-out festival in Kittery Maine.  Performing at Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival with The Russell Welch Hot Quartet, who I liked so much I asked them to play our Charm City Django Jazzfest coming up Feb.24/25.  The other featured bands include Anouman who I met through an awesome rhythm guitarist I play with in NYC named Josh Kaye.  Anouman features lead guitarist Koran Agan who taught at Django in June in 2016.  Violinist extraordinaire Leah Zeger will also perform in Charm City at the festival and I will have the honor of backing her up along with Josh Kaye and the bassist Eduardo from Anouman.  This is going to be a blast!  

We also got the chance to go on three nice tours this year.  We played for a sold out audience at Napa Valley Jazz Society's main event at Silo's in Napa, plus did a bunch of cool gigs in Northern California and the bay area. We went up to Montreal and Quebec City to visit friends and play concerts all through the Northeast. We met so many wonderful people along the way. Then we did a tour down South to some of our favorite places like Asheville, Atlanta, Athens, Columbia, and Nashville before heading down to NOLA via Mobile Alabama where we performed an epic brunch after driving all night and getting about an hour of sleep in the car.  NOLA was gorgeous this time of year and the folks there were super friendly.  I think the most fun we had was jamming all night at Kala's house in Biwater near Marigny where we would later play our concert with Russell Welch and Connor Stewart.  

The seeds were planted for two new CDs in the fall of 2016 and those seeds sprouted finally in the winter of 2017, fertilized by our successful Kickstarter during that time.  As usual I proposed doing the impossible which was to complete two new full-length CDs in two months time.  The hardest part was rehearsing the challenging Ultrafaux original music, but we came together as a band to make it happen.  The Hot Club of Baltimore music was challenging too, but not quite as intense because they were familiar songs we have played before many times on gigs together.  

It was fantastic to work with our new violinist Matt Andrews who moved to Baltimore right  about the same time our previous violinist Patrick McAvinue headed to Nashville where he got a job performing for Dailey and Vincent.  Matt plays on 5 songs on the new Hot Club CD Impromptu.  I think we both love the traditional sound of Django and Stephane but we also enjoy contemporary gypsy jazz so I felt like we really enjoyed the process of rehearsing and arranging these tunes together.  Alexis Tantau is the vocalist for Impromptu and she does some amazing work on La Foule, Like Someone in Love, Blue Drag, My Melancholy Baby, and Moon Ray.  Then we have two songs featuring the incredible horns of Sam King, Nico Sarbanes, and Clarence Ward - an all-star Baltimore cast of characters!  

Ultrafaux's new release is completely different from our previous releases except for the new arrangement of our song Latcho Dromo which is more like the way we play it live at shows since first recording it in 2014. The rest of the songs are influenced a lot by Balkan music, funk, and musette, plus there is a contemporary twist on songs like Xiphoid Process and North Avenue Stomp.  The melodies are some of the most complicated I have written and they demanded a lot of work before finally going to the studio to record.  

The possibility of touring Europe finally came up after a few years of wanting to do it. We were invited to Samois Festival Django Reinhardt in France last year but could not go.  This year we will tour from Wales to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam in late May, then hopefully we will perform at Samois in July.  These trips are super challenging to coordinate but they are coming together and some things recently fell in our favor.  Plus, I just got word that we are opening for Bebel Gilberto at Ram's Head Live so that will help us gain momentum.  

Be well everyone! Be your best!  See you at an upcoming show!  

Michael Joseph Harris