Gypsy jazz: Center for the Arts show features swing duo

Lance Shearer

If you closed your eyes while listening to Gypsy Sojourn, you could imagine yourself in a Paris café, circa 1935, sipping pastis and soaking up the atmosphere and “le jazz hot.” The duo played Tuesday evening at the Marco Island Center for the Arts, part of the center’s “Musical Interlude” series, which will continue on March 7 with Irish fiddle tunes from West of Galway.

Violinist Jeff Leigh displays his mastery of the instrument. Swing jazz duo Gypsy Sojourn performed Tuesday evening at the Marco Island Center for the Arts, part of the center's "Musical Interludes" series, which continues March 7 with Irish music from West of Galway.

Gypsy Sojourn violinist Jeff Leigh did play much of the evening with his eyes closed, swaying to the music and using his entire body to pull an amazing quality of sound from his instrument, so maybe he was spiritually in France between the wars. Demonstrating his mastery, he improvised freely, held notes longer than seemingly possible, and playing supple flowing lines.

Guitarist Richard Battaglia, the other half of the duo, provided the swinging musical bed, a subtle progression of jazz chords, occasionally looping his rhythm tracks to allow him to solo ala Django Reinhardt. Legally blind, he played up and down the neck without the luxury of looking at the neck of his classical guitar.

The duo played tunes from “Django’s Castle” and “Minor Blues” to “Georgia on My Mind” and George Harrison’s “Something,” which Battaglia performed unaccompanied. The crowd of about four dozen sat surrounded by the artwork hung in the center’s main gallery, an eclectic mix of their “Members Only” show. At the show’s conclusion, the audience rose as one and gave the musicians a standing ovation.

For more information and upcoming events, call the Marco Island Center for the Arts, 1010 Winterberry Drive, at 239-394-4221 or visit the Center’s website: