Dorado workshop notes

The first thirty years are the worst

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Dorado workshop notes

Postby justjack » Mon Dec 08, 2003 8:48 pm

This was recently posted over on the Yahoo site, but I figured folks here would be interested as well, especially in light of the recent thread about rhythm styles. The best advice, though? "Spinach! Popeye!"

NYC Workshop "Notes"

The Django Reinhardt NY Festival Workshop was held in NY on the last
day of a weeklong schedule of shows. As many have already heard,
Dorado Schmitt had stitches across two fingers of his left hand and
had as a result switched from acoustic to electric to alleviate
further injury. However at the workshop, Dorado showed up with an
acoustic D-hole guitar and performed beautifully on 4 numbers – I'll
See You In My Dreams, Troublant Bolero, Le Reve D'un Soir (original
waltz) and another original (unknown), as well as playing Blues for
Ike with the participants.

What I have tried to capture are the main topics or themes that ran
thru this event, and organized them by musician. Overall, it was
much more like a seminar rather than a "licks" workshop, so there
were plenty of interesting observations and anecdotes from the
musicians. What is harder to capture is the style by which the
Schmitt's convey what they know – it is a direct "showing how it's
done" rather than a description… and those who were there can attest
to Dorado's musical intensity, his focused gaze, as well as Samson's
quick wit and laughter.

The following in order are comments from moderator & bassist Brian
Torff, accordionist Ludovic Beier, and guitarists Dorado and Samson

Brian Torff

"One point about rhythm… playing this style is not the same thing as
playing the same swing as Basie or Ellington or bebop… it's much
more aggressive, much more on-top-of-the-time. And so the rhythmic
feel, the where the beat is placed is much more – pushing… almost to
the point of pushing into a new tempo."

"…before I start to tour with (Dorado & Samson), I get the metronome
out and I really start playing tempo much faster than I play on any
other gigs I do… because I know it has to drive…"

"…I have noticed the difference between playing with some American
players who play the Django style, is that many of them don't get
that edge that I think the music requires."

"It's such a physical music. It's amazing, by the end of the night
your hands are just vibrating without touching the instrument… you
have to dig in a lot to play this music."

"…we're talking a lot about technique today, but one thing that I
really learned from Grappelli, is that the spirit of the music is
really what it's all about. We learn techniques, we learn chords
and tunes, but I think that is ultimately the test of whether the
music stands up or not. That's something you can't really teach, it
has to be absorbed culturally – I think a lot of homework has to be
done, and I think you have to almost put yourself in Django's place…
to understand what that music was about and why it's still such a
living force today."

"…and Stephane (Grappelli) too, every night would go into the
dressing room… have a little Chivas Regal and get the violin out and
play. The playing wasn't like `Ok guys were going to have a
rehearsal'…this was a celebration… aren't we happy that we're all
together and we're playing this music… and of course you were drawn
into this incredible spirit… and magical things could happen because
he had set it up that way."

Ludovic Beier

"…since playing the music of Django, and with Dorado, Angelo
DeBarre… jazz is something new, because you can't play jazz the way
you played it before. When I started to play jazz in the Django
style, I had to change my mind, change my point of view, change my
technique – change everything. "

"…with accordion you have to be prolific, you have to be a musician –
do you understand what I say, you have to be a musician? Not only
a player …you have to be a musician. It's very difficult because
with Django's music, with the tempo, with the
swing, to be a musician… And I have to improve some techniques to
play fast, but to play musically… "

"…I studied some (Django) solos, but accordion is very different
than guitar… sometimes it works, in Dark Eyes I found it can be a
way to have an exchange with guitar, violin, accordion… but I try to
develop my own perception of solo(ing)…"

Dorado (interpreted by Ludovic)

"When you play rhythm in the Django style, with no drums, the guitar
tries to imitate brushes, but with chords. Swing rhythm from
Django – classic - (he demonstrates the difference between a more
1920's feel and the bold Django "gallop" with strong lower string
emphasis on the one and three)."

When asked about the different rhythm styles – straight fours or
gallop and where he uses them, Dorado demonstrates both and comments
that the more staccato-like straight fours "sounds better with

"…guitar is different in this tradition – they have to make the
sound `more'…" (again he demonstrates - an open chromatic line. The
attack is very pronounced and loud. Later he stops in the middle of
Troublant Bolero to emphasize the use vibrato for effect -- very
tight, intense and Django-like)

"…Spinach! Popeye!" (referring to Samson's powerful right hand)

"…He played it better before!" (after Samson flubs his lines
demonstrating the Minor Swing solo, which was the first solo that
Dorado taught him)

"…we have to be fast to play Django, but Django was not always so
fast… just Dark Eyes, but Django is not fast always… there is swing."

"…Django created the first alternative to American jazz. The first

"…Django was always looking for something different" (Dorado plays
the opening line from Nuages twice, each time different)


On picks… "I have big (Wegen Fatone) and I have small (Dunlop 1.5
turtle)… the sound is softer (with the Dunlop)"

On Strings… "11… medium… John Pearse…"

On chord substitutions… Samson demonstrated an A minor 6/9 that he
uses for Minor Swing with his thumb on the bottom E string and his
pinky holding down the B and upper E string – a real Houdini!

Favorite guitar players… "Tchavolo Schmitt, Bireli Lagrene, Stochelo
Rosenberg, George Benson"

Pat Phillips

" When they finish playing they go back (to the hotel) and they play
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Postby djangology » Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:15 pm

"?I have noticed the difference between playing with some American
players who play the Django style, is that many of them don't get
that edge that I think the music requires."

this is something that I think about a lot. i think its easy to get tired or bored of what you are playing and all I can say is drink some coffee! i for one, am seriously guilty of not being completely "aware" of what i am playing, especially rhythmic elements, which is hard to acheive, and while I am thinking about soloing, its hard to be aware of all the other nuances of performance at the same time... In time I hope to be able to let go of all the intense thought and just grasp the "playfulness" of the music...

thanks for the nice review you posted. :-)
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Postby Rene » Tue Dec 09, 2003 11:57 am

"and all I can say is drink some coffee! "
I can confirm that drinking coffee has helped me with my tremelo more than anything else.
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