The Ultimate Django Book
A new release and one well overdue.
82 Melodies and themes attributed to Django Reinhardt, released in one volume with standard notation and TAB.
It is obvious from the outset this book has been made by those with a deep understanding of Django’s music, something that had to be if this book was to be taken seriously.
For many years we have had an Anthology book that did the job in a fashion but was seriously lacking in accuracy and authenticity. It looks as though here we have a successor worthy of Django’s name.
A full description of the notation and TAB used throughout the book is the first item you will come across, closely followed by chord shapes all shown in the keys of G and then again in the key of D, both showing root notes for transposition to different keys.
You will note the use of standard chords for accompaniment; this is deliberate as these were the chords played by the rhythm guitarists on the day. It was only Django who used the triad as a basis for rhythm and is shown when used by him throughout the book. If you want modern Gypsy voicing’s then use the Colin Cosimini “Gypsy Jazz Chord Books” Volumes 1 to 4 in conjunction with this book.
The listing of the 82 tunes is laid out in both chronological and alphabetical order.
Note the Improvisations are not in this book as it takes another book to cover them all and this has been done to a very high level of accuracy by Michael Horowitz in “Unaccompanied Django”
There is then a list of chronological landmarks in Django’s life.
The tunes are laid out in chronological order starting with Ultrafox 1935 Paris and ending in April 8th 1953 with Deccaphonie, how strange the first and last tunes to carry his name were both nods in the direction of record companies.
I have not as yet sat down with a guitar and played all these tunes through so cannot vouch for accuracy throughout but a glance at a few certainly shows a high level of workmanship has gone into these transcriptions and I look forward to spending a great deal of time with this great resource.
247 Pages 1.2.Kg
Available in the hotclub shop now £26.00
Gypsy picking by Michael Horowitz
Gypsy Picking, by Michael Horowitz This book has quickly become the quintessential method book for learning authentic gypsy jazz. If you want to get the true gypsy tone, phrasing, and volume, buy this book.
It's practically the only book out there which will explain, in great detail, the right hand technique of Django Reinhardt.
The book does a great job with explanations. Very clear text-descriptions as well as pictures to accompany the words. The practice guidelines are great advice to make sure your practice is as efficient as possible. He even tells you what gypsy picking is bad at! Most authors would simply try and sell there technique. I've come to find the 10 picking patterns in the book to be a great shortcut to internalizing this technique. What he's done is condensed the the most idiomatic right-hand movements into 10 open string exercises. These patterns cover the majority of movements you have to get used to which I feel have saved me tons of time rather than learning from situation to situation in transcriptions. To finish off, there are several licks and a trascription of a solo on a blues. These are all classic Reinhardt ideas as well as some contemporary gypsy stuff thrown in for good measure. It will help you start sounding like a gypsy jazzer in no time.
The main complaint I've heard about this book is that there is no accompanying video. Though the pictures suffice to show proper position, they can't show the proper motion. Michael says he has some plans to release an accompanying DVD, but until then I suggest buying Bireli Lagrene's "Live a Vienne" as a resource to see the technique in action. You'll see many of the featured performers using gypsy picking and the camera gets some excellent shots. Final comment: go buy this book now!!
Review by Takahito Arikushi
Marc Atkinson Trio - "III"
An eclectic mix of music from the mind and fingers of Marc Atkinson.
Here we have guitar from Waltz to Bluegrass to sounds I would expect to here as a sweeping film score.
The guitar sound is highly refreshing, the recording quality is second to none; and with the original compositions from Marc, obviously played from the heart with great skill, this CD is a delight to listen to. Anyone who is a fan of acoustic guitar music should definitely grab a copy of III.
Spread the word.
Currently you can listen to tracks and order from the www.marcatkinson.com website.
Joe Venuti - "Never before... Never Again"
When asked if I wanted a free book, as usual I replied "YES OF COURSE", and a short time later was delighted to receive this little gem from Richard Niles [www.richardniles.com]
Compiled by Richard Niles Romano the son of Tony Romano (the guitarist featured in the book and recordings) and Aiden Massey who made the violin transcriptions.
Richard is rightly proud of his fathers work which goes well beyond the standard fair as an entertainer in the 20's.
The book focus is on the great recording made by the pair in the late 40's on Just a memory Records "Never Before Never Again" 7 tracks included on the CD with additional interview with Tony Romano.
With all the transcriptions accompanied by the inclusive CD, the book is neatly laid out with explanations and directions on each tune to obtain swing and feel by Aidan Massey.
As well as the accurate violin transcriptions there are additional chords for guitar shown.
Overall I would say this book is aimed at the experienced violinist who wishes to gain a greater understanding of Venuti's genius.
A brief description on his remarkable 4 string bowing technique is something one should not try without a safety net.
Shown on amazon.com but not yet available.
A buyers guide
to some Gypsy Jazz related material by Stuart Neal.
A lone mans search for the perfect guitar tutuor that will make him into a guitar playing GOD.
Manouche - Vol. 1 Le solo de Minor Swing (1937)
Mandino Reinhardt has produced a VHS PAL Video titled "le Guitare Manouche - Vol. 1 Le solo de Minor Swing (1937)" it is available for 29.47 euros (including postage to UK) from ATEMA Alsace email@example.com at d’ATEMA Alsace 2 rue du Commandant Francois, 67100 Strasbourg, France. When I ordered a copy from them I received the video within FOUR days - that's a good turnaround in anyone's book!
The 45 minute video appears to be produced by the ATEMA association as part of their support to the manouche community in France. It re-affirms the "une approache traditionnelle de la guitare manouche par des techniques d'apprentissage orales et visuelles" - so there is no accompanying booklet! Even my limited French allowed me to understand why.
The packaging of the video is very professional although the actual filming is rather limited consisting of straight-forward studio footage of Mandino Reinhardt playing the solo to Minor Swing. This he does by breaking up the solo into 'bite sized' phrases and going over how each one should by fingered with close ups of both left and right hand technique.
Essentially ('as it says on the tin'), he is demonstrating how the ‘guitare manouche’ style would traditionally be passed on in the gypsy community - by showing someone how to play something, not by reading about it in a book. The video is a masterclass on the finer points of playing in the gypsy style. Great emphasis is placed on phrasing and fingering technique - Mandino plays some of the passages five or six times to emphasise exactly how they should be executed. (My knowledge of conversational French is virtually nil so I haven't gleaned much from the commentary and a simple set of subtitles would have helped.)
The video is not as 'entertaining' as others currently available on the market, but then again it is not intended as a general course on playing in the gypsy style, it is a much more specialised analysis than that. I would recommend it however, for players wishing to achieve that 'extra' level of manouche authenticity to their playing. It calls for careful and detailed analysis to transfer what you see on the screen to your own playing style, but given that it only costs around £18.50 postage paid, it is little enough to invest in one's hobby / interest / obsession!
It is also worth mentioning
that the video usually comes with a leaflet giving more details (albeit
in French) concerning manouche guitare teaching programmes offered by Mandino
Reinhardt and in so doing making reference to another video titled "Video
Pedagogique - Practical traditionnelle de la guitare manouche". I have
contacted d’ATEMA Association and confirmed that this is one and the
same as the 'Minor Swing video referred to above, although they do hope
to produce more videos featuring Mandino Reinhardt later in 2003. I have
my euro chequebook poised even as I write…………….
Since this article was written it appears d'Atema Association has folded. If you have a copy of the Minor Swing Vidio hanfg onto it as it will become a rarity.
"The Gypsy Jazz Guitar" DVD
"The Gypsy Jazz Guitar" is a new instruction DVD by Romane from PDG Music Publishing in France. This DVD has a French soundtrack, but includes subtitles in either English or Italian so has pretty wide application. I obtained a copy from a Spanish internet company at www.partituras.com for 25.14 euros + 10.50 euros for p+p. They list it in French, English and Italian versions, but I guess it's only the packaging that changes.
The DVD is in fact a previous Romane instruction video originally produced in 1995 and titled "Virtuosite & Harmonies De La Guitar Jazz Manouche" (PDG Productions), now repackaged and transferred to DVD format. Those who know me will not be too surprised to discover that I already have a copy of the VHS video, so I am in a position to compare the two.
The original video was only available in VHS - SECAM format, and will only play in b&w on most UK video players producing a somewhat grainy picture quality. Regrettably, the picture quality of the DVD is still below standard, but is in colour. Surprisingly, the sound quality is very good, probably even above average.
The big advantage the DVD has over the VHS tape version
is the addition of subtitles naturally clarifying exactly what Romane is
trying to demonstrate about the manouche style of playing and improvising.
The ability on the DVD to jump straight to a specific topic also gives it
a practical advantage over the VHS version.
In the DVD Romane covers the following topics:
· whole tone scale
· diminished 7th arpeggios
· harmonic progressions
· major & minor triads
· major & minor 9th arpeggios
· chromatic runs
· chord substitutions
· tritonic licks
· harmonic chord ‘colourings’ in “Minor Swing”
· right-hand chord tremolos
All this together with plenty of general comments and observations about playing in the manouche jazz style along the way.
Overall, I believe the DVD is well worth adding to the collection of the beginner/intermediate gypsy jazz style player – my general view being for an outlay of around £18 you could only expect to get around one hour’s instruction from a local guitar teacher - so for the same outlay to have 80 minutes of direct instruction which one can return to again and again by one of the leading exponents of the gypsy jazz style is really a ‘no brainer’ decision.
Finally, my one complaint is that on my copy the final ‘demonstration’ number, performed by Romane and Ninine, has the full sound track, but the picture appears ‘stuck’ and just stays on a still picture of Romane and Ninine. Not being familiar with DVD technology I would have thought that this is a problem with the original mastering production, and not the individual copy I received. Otherwise, if it was my DVD pressing the music track would have ‘stuck’ as well - therefore I guess all copies will be the same. I’d be interested to hear from any other owners if their copies are the same as mine. I know the track has a full vision track because it is included on the VHS video version.
“Django Reinhardt - The Definitive Collection”
“Django Reinhardt - The Definitive Collection” is a new book (2002) from American publishers Hal Leonard (www.halleonard.com) of 20 “authentic transcriptions with notes and tablature” by Pete Billmann and costing around $19.50.
Django tunes include ‘the usual suspects’ of Belleville, Daphne, Djangology, Nuages, and Swing 42 together with less frequently transcribed versions of Limehouse Blues, Marie, My Serenade, Stardust and The World is Waiting for the Sunrise amongst others.
The main criticism I have is the apparently slapdash way in which the transcriptions have been identified in the book. Django participated in over 500 recordings, many of which have been reproduced over and over again on numerous compilations of LP’s and CD’s around the world. So to identify a transcription solely as “from Djangology” or “from The Very Best of 1934-1939” seems to me to be far less than helpful. I have all the “Integrale Django Reinhardt” CD’s and have been unable to identify some of the transcriptions to a specific recording – failing this the alternative view must be they are far from “authentic transcriptions”! Why the publishers were simply unable to identify the recordings used as the basis for the transcriptions by date is a mystery to me.
With the book not including a CD it is doubly important that students are able to accurately identify the ‘source’ recording, and then compare their own attempts with the original, I have to say this publication does not make that very easy.
I was also confused by the advertising ‘blurb’ for the book saying it included note for note transcriptions of Django’s recordings, then to see the transcription of “Stardust” (identified as “from The Very Best of 1934-1939”), containing the annotation that the transcription of the Head is “piano arranged for guitar” - what is the point of this? If the book is supposed to be a collection of Django’s solos’ why include a piano arrangement? The rhythm guitar tablature also does not show any use of gypsy style triad chords, although this may be correct as the very limited film footage (see Stephane Grappelli – A Life in the Jazz Century by www.musiconearth.co.uk), of the HCQF appears to show Joseph playing full barre type chords.
Concerning the accuracy of the transcriptions, I have yet to make a full comparison although I would say that for the transcription of “Nuages”, identified in the book as “from Djangology”, I have a copy of the CD version of “Djangology” – mine consists of 10 separate CD’s with a total of approximately 240 different tracks including two versions of “Nuages” – so when I have worked out which one Pete Billmann has attempted to transcribe - I’ll be in a better position to decide how accurate or not his transcription has been!
Interestingly, the Hal Leonard book attributes “Nuages” as being written by Django Reinhardt and Jacques Larue. As both the versions I have on my copy of “Djangology” are attributed to Django Reinhardt alone, perhaps Pete Billmann has transcribed a different “Nuages” to the ones I have?
To be continued……………
Many thanks to Stuart for sharing
his thoughts and using credit card on our behalf.
Wizen et Jazz à Cordes Quartet
This album has been a long time in the works—and eagerly awaited by fans of string jazz. French violinist Charles Wizen met up with Tunisian guitarists Serge Krief and Richard Chiche at the 1998 Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois-sur-Seine, France, and laid the groundwork for the Jazz à Cordes Quartet. This session was recorded later when Krief and Chiche were in Canada during a rare tour of North America. (A live show was also recorded and is promised for future release.)
Wizen is a classically trained violinist who turned to jazz after hearing the bowing of the famed Stephane Grappelli. Among other projects, he recorded a much-sought-after album titled Djangology in 1987 with French Gypsy guitarist Raphaèl Faÿs.
Krief is a fabled guitarist on the Paris scene, renowned for his innovative and fiery approach to Django’s music. While he has been prolific in playing gigs over the last decade, this is actually his first full recorded album. Krief’s trusty sidekick, Chiche, provides his rock-solid rhythmic accompaniment.
With the backing of Bassist Jean-François Martel, the quartet has waxed fifteen cuts ranging from a miscellany of Django classics such as “HCQ Strut,” “Daphne,” and the title cut “Swing 39” as well as several swing standards like “After You’ve Gone” and a rollicking rendition of “Shine.” In addition, Wizen offers three of his own compositions; on “Hannah’s Lullaby,” Wizen plays both violin and guitar.
The band is tight and lively, with Chiche and Martel building a hot foundation for the soloists to leap off. Wizen’s classical training shows through his jazzy playing in his creamy tone, seamless vibrato, and perfect intonation; his licks are classy and cool, accented by musical quotes throughout. Krief’s fretwork is pure fireworks. He jumps on a solo with a great joie de vivre, experimenting endlessly with the melody, and dazzling with his dynamic touch.
It has been worth the long wait for this album, wich is available through a web retailer (www.bros.ca). One hopes we won’t have to wait too long for the group’s live recording as well as a re-release of the Wizen-Faÿs album and Krief and Chiche’s promised CD of electric jazz. —MD
"Swing for the Gipsies"
The Dutch Gypsy group Basily has been prolific in releasing recordings and playing concert dates on the Dutch scene but remains virtually unknown in the rest of the world. This new album, Swing for the Gipsies, will hopefully change that.
Basily is a sextet built from the foundation of four Basily family members: violinist Tucsi, solo guitarist Popi, and rhythm guitarists Gino and Zonzo. The family is joined by guitarist Martin Limberger and bassist Sani van Mullem. Together, they have created a tight ensemble that got its start playing Gypsy jazz influenced by their cultural hero, Django Reinhardt. This new album continues in that tradition, but also adds traditional Hungarian and Spanish Gypsy influences to the mix.
Basily is joined on this recording by the Dutch jazz pianist Beets and his beautifully played and recorded piano round out the sound tremendously. With the added piano and the instrumental interplay in the arrangements, Basily is as cohesive and dynamic as the best of the famous Titi Winterstein Quintett.
The album opens with the original title track, a bopping Gypsy swing tune that is a dazzling showcase for the whole band as they swap lines between guitar, piano, and violin. In the moody piano introduction to “Black Eyes” (“Les Yeux Noirs”), the scene is set for a wild Gypsy fandango that lifts this version far above most covers of an over-recorded tune.
There are times on this album where one questions the musical direction. For instance, the heavy-handed waves-breaking-on-the-shore synthesizer sounds behind Chick Corea’s “Spain” sounds like a 1970s flashback. The inclusion of this song—and other Latin numbers—is also questionable: Long a standard of fellow Dutch Gypsy guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg, it seems a too-obvious step down the Rosenberg Trio’s path. Basily is too good to copy another band’s legacy.
Swing for the Gipsies is a hot disc full of character, dashing solos, and a full, round sound that will make it a favorite. —MD
Django Reinhardt, Baro
Ferret, and Various Artists
"Gipsy Jazz School: Django’s Legacy"
Django Reinhardt was the brightest star in the constellation of the Gypsy Jazz genre that he created. But sadly, his brilliance eclipsed numerous other musicians, whose recordings and influence have long been forgotten. Now, finally, the light is shining on these other stars.
This two-CD, 41-track set is without a shadow of a doubt the most important new release of Gypsy Jazz in years. Opening with a couple rare and unreleased cuts by Django, the selection of cuts then traces Django’s legacy and the other Gypsy and non-Gypsy musicians that have followed in his path.
The first disc is made up of 26 tracks of historic Gypsy Jazz from 1938 to 1966; the second disc continues from 1967 to 2002. Almost all of the material on the first disc comes directly or indirectly from renowned French collector and historian Alain Antonietto's vast collection. There are a handful of rarities by Django, including the 7:33-minute-long recording of his Messe.
Yet the true gems are the recordings by Django's “followers.” These start with two stunning, hard-to-find tracks by Joseph Reinhardt from 1943 that display the quiet brother’s unique and eccentric style; two common but excellent examples of Etienne “Sarane” Ferret's Swing Quintette de Paris, which rivalled Django’s Quintette for popularity in the 1940s; two of Pierre “Baro” Ferret's astonishingly modern bebop valses in the original 1946 recordings with Jo Privat on accordion that are some of the rarest and most bizarre gypsy jazz sides anywhere; two disappointingly mediocre cuts by Jean “Matelo” Ferret from his too-commercial “Diner en Musique” album of 1951; two live tracks of the amazing Jacques Montagne playing two-fingered electric bebop at Baro's La Lanterne nightclub in 1964; two tracks, including the original “La Gitane” by Paul “Tchan-Tchou” Vidal from his circa 1960 “Guitare Party” album; two blazing cuts by Etienne “Patotte” Bousquet; two unreleased and swinging cuts by the great eastern-European jewish violinist Leo Slab (née Slabiak) with Eugene “Ninine” Vees on electric guitar; one live shot of Django’s first son Lousson; and three live unreleased tracks by Henri Crolla circa 1954. With the exception of the poor choice of Matelo Ferret tracks and nothing representing Challain Ferret, Laro Sollero, or Ninine and Mondine Garcia, this selection chronicles some of the best of the best post-Django Gypsy Jazz recordings that collectors have searched high and low for for years.
The 15 cuts on the second disc are less monumental. While it includes one hot track from Babik's first session in 1967 for Charles Delaunay, the rest of the cuts are nothing new or hard to find. They were likely tracks that were easy to get licensing for and are often not the best examples of the guitarists' work. Included here is a track apiece from Fapy Lafertin, René Mailhes, the Rosenberg Trio, Tchavolo Schmitt, Bireli Lagrene, Christian Escoudé, Romane, Patrick Saussois, Angelo Debarre, Raphael Fays, Moreno Winterstein, Francis Alfred Moerman, as well as American Frank Vignola, who seems a humble addition.
The two-CD set includes a 101-page book packed with text by Antonietto in both French and English. Sadly, the English is so poorly translated that it’s tough to decipher, but the material is still good if you struggle through it. There's also scores of B&W photos and thorough personnel listings.
This is a historic release that belongs in the collection of any and every fan of Django or Gypsy Jazz. —MD
Romane & Stochelo
If you like your jazz hot, this duet from French Gypsy jazz guitarist Romane and Dutch Gypsy prodigy Stochelo Rosenberg will have you cooking.
Élégance marks Romane’s seventh album since 1992 of forward-looking Gypsy jazz. He has never been one to stay stuck in the past, aping the best solos of Django and recreating the old sound of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Instead, he has crafted his own compositions with one foot in history, the other keeping time in today’s musical scene.
Stochelo is the leader and solo guitarist of the Rosenberg Trio, which has also put out seven albums of its own. Their CDs chart a journey from duets with Stéphane Grappelli to more recent excursions into Latin music. Stochelo plays here an original Selmer petite bouche guitar while Romane picks his custom-built blue Maurice Dupont Selmer copy.
The album kicks off with a bang on Romane’s “Opus de Clignancourt,” a tightly arranged modern piece fueled by fiery solos and a quick pace. Stochelo’s smooth-sounding “Just Enough For Jazz” follows with the kind of catchy, nostalgic melodies he has become famous for. Romane’s “Soir de Trottoir” is a darkly hued, moody piece reminiscent of Django’s “Tears.”
This is hot jazz at its best—and simplest. Two world-class guitarists playing nothing but acoustic instruments and backed by a string bass. The CD also includes a short video clip of Romane and Stochelo jamming. Hot stuff! —MD
"Romane & The Frederic Manoukian Orchestra"
French jazz guitarist Romane has long been at the avant garde of Gypsy jazz. With one foot firmly keeping time in the past, his compositions look toward a brave new future.
This should come of little surprise, as one of Romane’s heroes was Pierre “Baro” Ferret, the originator of the strange genre of bebop waltzes that fused old musette stylings with modern jazz. But on this new album, Romane takes a step backward in time while also taking a step forward.
Romane & The Frederic Manoukian Orchestra blends Romane’s Gypsy jazz compositions with the backing of a big band. The resulting sound is certainly big.
In an interview with Vintage Guitar in Paris in 1999, Romane discussed the inspiration for his big plans: After seeing Brian Setzer play his version of big-band jump blues with the Brian Setzer Orchestra in San Francisco in the late 1990s, Romane has been arranging and practising with his own big band for three years now. Finally, he has released this CD, and hopefully might tour with the whole group.
The mix of Gypsy jazz and big bands has a long history. Django Reinhardt often sought to play with big bands, from his work with the American Transport Command band post-World War II to his own "Django's Music" orchestra, which was separate from the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Following in Django's footsteps, French guitarist Sacha Distel worked with Claude Bolling's orchestra and released a 45rpm medley of Django covers that ranged from the cool (“Minor Swing” and “Nuages”) to the ludicrous (the Swingle Singers-style vocals on “Djangologie”).
Now, Romane has climbed up onto the bandstand. On this CD, he has re-arranged—and subtly re-titled—several of his older compositions to play big band style. Among his personal standards are “Ninine’s Swing,” “Opus of Clignancourt,” “Legend,” “The Look of Laura,” and “Gypsy Fever.” In addition, he has composed several new songs and even sings on one track, a zazou-style swing number called “Madame” that is pure jump.
This is not your typical big band. The Frederic Manoukian Orchestra is trés sophisticated, sounding more like the best of Duke Ellington's ensembles or the modernistic orchestrations of Nino Rota. The band numbers up to twenty members on some cuts.
Amazingly, Romane plays acoustic guitar on many of these tracks and comes through loud and clear, due partly to the fact that this was cut in a recording studio no doubt, but also due to the great arrangements. Several other tracks feature his electric work. In both cases, he remains a strong proponent of luthier Maurice Dupont’s Selmer-style guitars.
This new album will certainly be a flashpoint in the controversy between Gypsy jazz traditionalists and modernists. Some will love Romane’s adventurous step forward, others will hate it. But no one can argue that it’s not a bold adventure. —MD
"Hot Gypsy Nights"
This is an album of Gypsy jazz covers—and many of them timeworn covers at that. But Hawaii-based guitarist Tom Conway and his trio of friends breath life, energy, and flash into these songs, making them new and exciting.
Conway’s trio may just be the hottest Hot Club-style band in the United States, following in the pyrotechnical fashion of Titi Winterstein’s Quintett, Stochelo Rosenberg, and Angelo Debarre. The band is tight and right.
Conway grew up in Detroit listening to the usual whitebread selection of classic rock: Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Johnny Winter. By high school, he was into Pat Martino and George Benson as well as Wes Montgomery, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever. With guitar in hand, he moved to Los Angeles in 1984 to study privately with Ted Greene and Jorge Strunz of Strunz & Farah. It was Strunz who turned him on to Gypsy jazz. Now based on Maui, he says his is the sole band there playing the music.
Conway’s trio also includes Willy Wainwright, a violinist who has toured the United States with Ricky Van Shelton and Patty Loveless and was based in Nashville for years. Marcus Johnson adds bass, and they are joined on some cuts by pianist Gene Argel.
Conway’s favorite musicians in the genre include Stochelo and Jimmy Rosenberg, Boulou Ferré, Angelo Debarre, Tchavolo Schmitt, and Romane’s modern compositions. These influences show through strongly in the band’s arrangements and Conway’s solos.
Along with the usual batch of Django Reinhardt tunes and a handful of Romane’s songs, the band’s repertoire here includes Lulu Reinhardt’s “Noto Swing” and “Swing 85” and Sonny Rollins’s “Pent Up House”—all part of today’s typical Gypsy jazz lineup. Both Conway and Wainwright quote freely from modern takes on these songs, but they then venture off to add their own spice and flavor to the music.
Conway’s licks are sure and strong and impressive with swinging phrasing and hot licks. And the sound of his Dell’Arte Dark Eyes guitar could make you a convert to this California-based luthier. Wainwright’s jazz violin playing is equally hot, although his fiddling background shows through at times and some of the highest notes border on the brink of being out of tune.
This album might not break any new ground, but Conway, Wainwright, et. al. prove they can play the music with the best. And that album cover and liner booklet also receives kudos for their 1960s kitsch as well. —MD
"Our Gypsy Rhapsody"
Pigalle 44 is a Gypsy swing duo made up of Dutch guitarists Reinier Voet and Jan Brouwer. A tad bit bored by playing solely Django Reinhardt tunes, they set off to explore a new repertoire of music that they could arrange in a Hot Club fashion. The result is this refreshing debut album chock full of interesting songs, tight original arrangements, and swinging guitarwork.
Voet and Brouwer had good reason to get tired of aping Django’s “songbook.” Voet plays rhythm guitar for Gypsy Jazz master Fapy Lafertin as well as leading his own ten-year-old band Cravat and playing at Django festivals throughout Europe. For his part, Brouwer had recorded three CDs as part of the Robin Nolan Trio before forming Pigalle 44.
It’s the band’s innovative repertoire that truly sets this album apart. The CD’s fourteen cuts include three originals penned by Voet, the most stunning being his “Valse Pour Häns’che,” an exotic valse manouche with a glorious build-up introduction and eccentric intervals in the melody that christen this as a waltz masterpiece.
Other songs covered range from the cool to the truly bizarre: Georges Brassens’ anthem “Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics,” Joe Venuti’s “My Gypsy Rhapsody,” French chansonnier Mouloudji’s “La Complainte de la Butte,” and best of all, the promotional theme song for the old “ugly duckling” Citroën 2CV automobile.
Included as well are standards such as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” And the duo can’t help but cover one Django song, his late classic “Douce Ambiance,” and true to the guitarists’ pasts, it turns into perhaps the band’s best jam.
The production of this album is also stellar. The recorded sound of the guitars is warm and rich—often a challenge with the percussive Selmer-style guitars. Voet plays a 1975 Jacques Favino, while Brouwer switches between a 1979 DiMauro, 1982 Jean-Pierre Favino, and an Ibanez Maccaferri.
The duo have some help from their friends on this album, with bassist Simon Planting, clarinetist Barry Block, and violinist and vocalist George Washingmachine all adding their touches.
Pigalle 44’s debut is a unique and innovative album of Gypsy jazz, a collection of songs and playing that is truly fresh and creative—in the best tradition of Django. —MD
Koen de Cauter and
Patrick Saussois Trio
"Un P’tit Coin d’Paradis: Des Chansons et Musiques de Georges Brassens"
Georges Brassens was the Bob Dylan of France, a singer-songwriter who captured the imagination of a generation with his raw, streetwise, anti-establishment anthems set to sweet and beautiful melodies. Among that generation influenced by Brassens’ music are two of the foremost Gypsy jazz musicians alive today, Koen de Cauter and Patrick Saussois, and they pay homage in this small jewel of an album.
De Cauter hails from Belgium, where he grew up with several Gypsy friends, including guitarist Fapy Lafertin and Vivi Limberger with whom he would later form the Hot Club-style group Waso. He has kept Waso alive into the 1990s with bandoneonist Dick Van der Harst as well as playing in spin-off groups including the musette ensemble Les P’tits Belges and traditional Gypsy music band Romani.
Patrick Saussois should be well known to any fan of Django. Born in France, he cut his teeth playing guitar beside accordeonist Jo Privat before releasing a variety of Gypsy swing and mainstream jazz CDs on his own label, DJAZ. Most recently, his Hot Club-inspired group Alma Sinti has put out two sparkling CDs with accordeonist Jean-Claude Laudat, guitarists Jean-Yves Dubanton and Sammy Daussat, and a guest appearance by de Cauter.
This new CD is actually de Cauter’s third tribute album to Brassens. He released an earlier album entitled Il suffit de passer le pont and a live CD of other Brassens songs. Yet this new album is by far the best.
De Cauter plays acoustic Selmer-style guitar and soprano sax alongside Saussois’s own lefty guitar. While de Cauter sings all of the lyrics in the original French, his low-keyed style and deft delivery translates them into a universal language.
The six instrumentals on the album are haunting, ethereal pieces that float on Brassen’s fine-crafted melodies with glorious interplay between the musicians. Saussois’ trademark smoothness is a perfect complement to de Cauter’s straight-to-the-heart improvising. The sheer musicality here is tremendous. As the album title states, this is indeed a small corner of paradise. —MD
Pete Krebs and the Kung Pao Chickens
"Hot Ginger and Dynamite"
Cavity Search Records
Guitarist Pete Krebs wears many hats. His three current albums showcase wildly different sides of his personality, from 1999’s Bittersweet Valentines where he plays the modern-day singer/songwriter to 2001’s Duet for Clarinet & Goat where he teams with avant-garde banjoist Danny Barnes to match eclectic wits. Hot Ginger and Dynamite is a collection of Gypsy jazz standards and hot swing covers that will go a long way to defying putting a single label on Krebs.
The Kung Pao Chickens feature Portland, Oregon’s Krebs front and center on guitar and vocals. He is joined by guitarists Jon Neufeld and Kason Okamoto, clarinetist Gary Guenther, and bassists Tim Acott and Tim Renner.
Together, they swing there way through a diverse batch of Gypsy jazz tunes that, if nothing else, show they’ve got a hot record collection: Bireli Lagrene’s “Fiso Place,” Dorado Schmitt’s “Bossa Dorado,” and a mix of Oscar Aléman and Django Reinhardt classics. It’s one cool repertoire.
The band might not challenge Django in a jam, but they’re obviously inspired and enjoying their music. Their sound is a touch crude but enchanting for it—and closer to the feel of their idol than many of the polished pyrotechnicians on the scene today. —MD
Gypsy Project is the soundtrack for the story of the return of the prodigal son. Alsatian Gypsy guitarist Biréli Lagrène first wowed the world in the 1980s as a child prodigy playing the music of Django Reinhardt, as well as his own Gypsy jazz compositions. Upon hearing Lagrène’s stylish melody lines and innate sense of swing, the legend goes that Django’s brother, Joseph Reinhardt, broke down in tears and declared him the true successor to Django.
Lagrène released his first album, Routes to Django, in 1980 when he was but fourteen years old. He followed this debut with a never-ending cycle of tours and a handful of other LPs, including 15, Down in Town, and Swing ’81. By the mid-1980s, he was burnt out on emulating his cultural and musical hero, and began looking for new challenges.
Lagrène set aside his Favino-built Selmer copy and picked up an electric guitar. Alongside bass wonder Jaco Pastorius, he crafted an electric jazz-rock fusion sound that made Lagrène a star to a whole new galaxy of fans.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Lagrène wearied of fusion as well. He turned his hands to a more mainstream style of jazz and released several records, including Acoustic Moments, My Favorite Django, Duet with Sylvain Luc, and Blue Eyes, a Gypsy tribute to Frank Sinatra. In addition, he teamed up with the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion, Richard Galliano, on albums such as New York Tango.
Now, Lagrène has suddenly returned to his roots. At the urging of his old fans and after seeing the growing commercial success of Gypsy jazz prodigies such as Jimmy Rosenberg, Lagrène is back with an album of glorious Django-style jazz.
Lagrène is joined here by a stellar cast. Accordionist Galliano and Romanian jazz violin virtuoso Florin Niculescu add their touch to several tracks. The rock-solid rhythm work of guitarists Hono Winterstein and Holzmano Lagrene as well as bassist Diego Imbert also shines.
But it’s Lagrène who is in the spotlight, and his guitarwork is creative, fun, energetic, and emotionally charged. Part of Lagrène’s genius in playing Gypsy jazz was that he didn’t seek speed at the expense of melody and swing. This holds true on this new album as well, with many songs played at Django’s original tempo—which is a good bit more relaxed than many pyrotechnicians play them today.
Gypsy Project is also Lagrène’s first Gypsy jazz studio recording, as all of his early albums were live releases. It’s good to have the opportunity to hear Lagrène loud and clear.
Part of the beauty of his sound lies in his choice of guitar. He first sought to borrow the Selmer #504 of Django, but when that proved impossible, he selected one of the new “legacy” guitars built by French luthier Maurice Dupont. Using aged, forty-year-old woods and the original Selmer tooling, Lagrène’s top-of-the-line Dupont has a sound that is full, warm, and majestic.
With Gypsy Project, the prodigal son has returned. Welcome back! —MD
Joe Venuti and Eddie
"The Classic Columbia and OKeh Sessions"
The pioneering duo of violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang long ago ascended to the jazz hall of fame, but finding actual recordings by them to back up this reverence is a difficult task. Miscellaneous “greatest hits” collections surface now and then without musical rhyme or historical reason—and usually lacking even decent sound quality.
Now, Mosaic has righted this wrong—and how!
This eight-CD collection of their earliest and best music rescues Venuti and Lang’s legacy, and is backed by Mosaic’s trademark sonic quality, completeness, and thorough documentation.
Giuseppe Venuti and Salvatore Massaro—soon to become Eddie Lang—were childhood chums who grew up blocks apart in South Philadelphia. They met in the James Campbell High School orchestra, forming a musical partnership that lasted until Lang’s accidental death during an unnecessary tonsillectomy at age 31 in 1933.
Scribe Mike Peters’s fine biography and sessions notes shed light on the duo’s story, illuminating their backgrounds and musical development. Both Venuti and Lang began their musical studies on violin; Lang didn’t start playing guitar and mandolin until later, although he continued his violin studies.
Venuti was loud and brash, a natural born leader. Lang, on the other hand, was soft-spoken and humble. Together, they made a fine duo, and their earliest solo duet recordings included here display their personalities: “Black and Blue Bottom” and “Stringing the Blues” from 1926 feature Lang’s driving chordal harmony behind Venuti’s melodic lines. The songs might not be jazz and truly had little sense of swing, but they featured an enchanting sound that foretold their future as some of the top sessionmen around.
This boxed set includes 194 tracks from a wide variety of duets, bands, and settings: the hot Venuti Blue Four/Five/Six sessions; all of Lang’s solo sessions; Lang’s duets with Carl Kress; big band dates under Venuti and/or Lang’s lead; sidemen sessions with Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Paul Whiteman, and others; backing sessions for Bing Crosby and others; and all of Lang’s blues sessions with Lonnie Johnson, Bessie Smith, and other vocalists. In addition, there are even a handful of novelty sides featuring Venuti’s strange sense of humor.
This collection highlights the charm of Venuti and Lang’s music as well as its limitations—especially when compared with the string jazz of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt that followed close on their heels. Venuti was never a great improviser, and while his melody lines boast a rich tone and stylish playing, his “solos” all sound prescribed and practiced. In comparison to the wide-ranging explorations of Grappelli, Venuti appears confined by his musical training, his violin playing less about soul, more about hitting that commercial sweet spot.
Lang, though often playing the sideman to Venuti, was by far the more interesting musician. Yet even for his Italian-American background, Lang lacked the verve and dazzle of Django’s flashy playing. Still, his sense of harmony and fluid chord choices are stunning and his single-note soloing is dynamic. And then there are his numerous blues tunes, which display an uncanny sense of the music, so much so that he was at times listed as Blind Willie Dunn to mask his true, white identity on these “race records.” Several albums have showcased Lang’s music before but never to the depth that this collection goes.
Venuti and Lang’s music is not timeless and much of it seems quaint today. But that does not mean to detract from it in any way. This music is a timepiece, still fun and alive and great listening.
This Mosaic set is an essential part of any early jazz buff or guitar fan’s collection. —MD
The opening song on this new album from the venerable Swiss group Hot Strings says a lot about this band and the sense of humor of its leader, guitarist Fere Scheidegger: Delicatessen kicks off with a Gypsy jazz version of Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman” that is pure rock blues as Django might have played it.
But from this wild beginning, the band gets back into a more traditional groove. Swing and Gypsy jazz standards are interspersed with a wealth of originals, adding up to another solid outing from the group.
Hot Strings has been joined here by several guest musicians, which round out the sound. Accordion, piano, and drums on some tracks build a broader tone that comes through especially strong on the Fleetwood Mac tune.
Hot Strings has remained one of the most consistent string jazz bands on the scene since its first album, Douce Ambiance, was released in 1990. Happily, that album—which may be the band’s masterpiece—was re-released recently in the United States by Jazzology Records. —MD
Jean-Yves Dubanton & Gilles Le Taxin
"Le Jazz et la Java"
It doesn’t get much better than this. With Le Jazz et la Java, Parisian accordionist Jean-Claude Laudat, guitarist and singer Jean-Yves Dubanton, and string bassist Gilles Le Taxin have crafted an album of retro French musette and swing that is almost as good as being there.
Laudat and Dubanton are alumni of guitarist Patrick Saussois’ amazing band Alma Sinti, which has released two stunning CDs to date. The duo also play in other ensembles as well as holding down a long-running slot on Thursday nights at the quintessential Parisian restaurant Chez Elle (7, rue Prouvaire, Paris 75001).
This trio arranges, plays, and records with a simplicity that creates true beauty. With their first album, Mon Pote le Gitan, Laudat and Dubanton waxed an instant classic. Their covers of “Nuages,” “Minor Swing,” “Flambée Montalbanaise,” and “Quand Tu M’Embrasses” featured charming vocals, hot solos, and a warm, clear recording style.
Now, they’re back with a new album that treads new ground. Le Jazz et le Java explores more elements of classic French chanson, musette, and swing, with a jazzier sound underlying the whole production. The trio have been joined by a drummer and a string section on some cuts as well as guest appearances by guitarists Saussois and Samy Daussat.
This new album is reminiscent of the great Manouche Partie recordings by accordionist Jo Privat and Gypsy guitarist Jean “Matelo” Ferret, which recreated the classic sounds of musette and swing that both cut their teeth on. Among the best tunes on Le Jazz et le Java is “Cloviswing,” penned by Laudat and dedicated to his father. “Johnny” features vocals by Cécille Desimpel of Chez Elle fame.
If you are a fan of classic French music—whether it’s Edith Piaf or Charles Trenet, Django Reinhardt or Jo Privat—you owe it to yourself to give a listen to Laudat and Dubanton. You can purchase this CD via the Canadian e-tailer Archambault (www.archambault.ca) or directly from the band in France (firstname.lastname@example.org). —MD
Axé Swing is that rare thing in a Gypsy jazz band: Here is a group that does not simply ape the music of Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France, but ventures out on its own to create original music inspired by the Django’s legacy.
Based in Toulouse, France—about as far as you can get in France from the Parisian hotspots—Axé Swing is lead by guitarist and composer Thierry Di Filippo and includes two other guitarists, a string bass player, and on this premiere album, a clarinetist, accordionist, and violinist Malik Richeux, lately of Christophe Lartilleux’s Latcho Drom band. With this broad instrumental frontline, the band ventures into all eras of Django’s musicality, from musette to the string swing of Stéphane Grappelli to the later years and the Benny Goodman-inspired combos.
To be sure, Axé Swing do cover their share of Django’s compositions—included on this outing are “Douce Ambiance” and “Manoir de mes Rêves”—and one tune by the French Gypsy band Terno Sinto. But the remaining ten songs are all originals by either Di Filippo or fellow guitarist Sébastien Quidet.
It’s these original compositions that truly glow. The band injects its swing with a strong element of Gypsy music, both more traditional Eastern-European elements and Spanish flamenco flavors. These other influences give depth and character to the band member’s stylized introductions to songs like “Le Clown” and “La Belette” and inspire their long solo passages.
These long jams—faire du boeuf, or “make beef” in French slang—are at the core of Axé Swing’s music. The solos here are not the typical two- or three-chorus solos of the Hot Club’s day when 78rpm records dictated how long Django and Grappelli could jam. Instead, the band has the leisure of crafting extended solos and playing with themes, and many songs stretch out to five minutes and more.
The recording here is also exemplary. The Selmer-style guitars sound warm and woody—even with three of them pounding out la pompe, the classic rhythm known as “the pump.” And Richeux’ violin is glorious in tone, soaring above the rest of the band. —MD
Having been watching and listening to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli for over 45 years, it becomes increasingly difficult to find something that is not simply a re-hash of old information and stories. The Music on Earth, Stephane Grappelli DVD is a refreshing exception. It is not just an excellent documentary about Stephane, it is one of the best musical documentaries I have ever seen regardless of the subject matter.
The first disc is a logical, very watchable review of the violinist's life with some lovely recreations of his early years, wonderfully evocative Parisian scenes, hosts of interesting interviews ranging from Stephane himself to Lord Lew Grade and Diz Disley and some great, often rare, film clips. Even my wife watched the whole 2 hours with me and found it fascinating. The film clips are magnificent and I particularly enjoyed the Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti duet and the previously unseen Art Tatum segment.
The second disc is full of individually accessible gems with headings like "Music Archive Clips", "Meeting Django", "Django Sacks the Bass Players" and "Stephane's Shoebox" which contained several photographs that I have never seen before. However, for me, the best section was "Music Archive Clips" with some great footage of the Stephane Grappelli Quintet with George Shearing, Dave Goldberg, Coleridge Goode and Ray Ellington and the holy grail of the Lobster Films superbly restored and uncut "J'Attendrai" sequence with the Hot Club Quintet. The DVD is worth buying for this sequence alone. It is almost mystical to watch Django play and the visual poetry of those magical fingers creating the introduction is an absolute joy to see. All the known footage of Django playing is included (some creatively extended) with the exception of the "Bal Tabarin" clip.
I would highly recommend this DVD if you have any interest in this type of music at all. The only slight negative for me was that there was a little too much of Grappelli's concerts with Martin Taylor towards the end of Disc 1. Unfortunately for those of you without a DVD player, only Disc 1 is available in video format.
Label:Acoustic Music Records
Joscho now only 21 years old has been playing since he was 6 years old and this CD shows how much effort he has put into mastering the skills required to become a first rate player in the style. Obviously Django is his main influence here but he brings others into his toolkit to create a masterful sound and obviously impecible technique.
This CD reminds one of the clarity of Stochelo Rosenbergs playing and one would be forgiven for mistaking the two if you were on a blind tasting test, I think Joscho has a slightly lighter touch but this does not deter in the least from the CD. He has composed 4 tunes for this release all of which show how lucky we are to have such a good composer so young to supply us with many future classics.
Every note is clear and precise, the vibrato exceptional, the overall recording quality top notch. The phrasing is solid Manouche with hints of American influences, his mentors include George Benson and Santana.
What sticks out is the amazing runs that fill this CD throughout, several times during the first listening you are stopped in your tracks as you hear an impossible run executed with consumate skill.
Ladies and gentleman we have a new guitar hero on our hands.
Available from Acoustic Music records
Tel: +49 (0)541 71 00 20 - Fax: +49 (0)541 70 86 67
www.acoustic-music.de search for Joscho
"Our Gypsy Rhapsody"
Label: Pigalle CD- 044
When this CD arrived on the doorstep a few days ago as most days they do. I grab a coffee and stumble into the office - music - computer -junk - room and stick it in the CD player and sit back while the computer warms up. I usually trawl through the emails and bills while I listen to whatever turned up that day. Today was a bit different in that I never got around to answering the emails and bills and my coffee went cold.
I have this habit of playing along to CD's, that how I learnt to play Gypsy Jazz, on this occasion I was having such a good time playing along nothing else got done.
The music that Jan Brouwer and Reiner Voet were playing was not the usual rendition of Minor Swing that usually turns up from an independent label. Instead they have a fresh orchestration with a driving guitar sound that you just can't help but swing to. Combined with the original waltz tunes played and composed by Reiner Voet this is a memorable CD that will not be far from the CD player for quite a while. Reiner has a real talent for this genre and we could do no more than hope he has plenty more up his sleeve.
Both Jan and Reiner are old hands at the Gypsy scene. Jan having played with the Robin Nolan Trio for many years and Reiner having been a right hand man to the master Fapy Lafertin.
Also featured are George Washingmachine - violin and vocals : Barry Block - clarinet and Simon Planting on bass.
Be warned your coffee could get cold.
"Alors? … Voilà!"
Label: Iris Musique
Tchavolo Schmitt is a legend. He has played the bistros and bars around Paris’ flea markets and in the cafés of Strasbourg for decades, but has rarely recorded his unique brand of Gypsy jazz. Finally, thanks to fellow guitarist Romane and the French label Iris Musique’s Alexis Blanchart, the world can now discover Tchavolo.
Born in Paris in 1954, Tchavolo has appeared on a handful of hard-to-fine releases over the years. These include a 1981 LP with violinist Wedeli Kohler’s Hot Club da Sinti, a 1993 jam session with Dorado Schmitt and Patrick Saussois released as Gypsy Reunion, and Mandino Reinhardt’s Note Manouche CD from 1994. He also traded licks with Dorado in Tony Gatlif’s stylish film Latcho Drom. These rare appearances all whetted the appetite but never satisfied the hunger.
Romane had long been a fan of Tchavolo’s after seeing him play at the renowned Paris Gypsy café La chope des puces years back. Romane invited Tchavolo into the studio, wrote five new compositions in his honor, and united him with a band that is a who’s-who of Paris’ best Gypsy jazz musicians. These include Romane and Philippe "Doudou" Cuillerier on rhythm guitars, accordeonist Ionica Minune, bassist Gilles Naturel, and the amazing violinist Florin Niculescu.
But it’s Tchavolo that shines above all. Playing a petite bouche Maurice Dupont Selmer-style guitar, his inventiveness on the fretboard is dazzling. He moves effortlessly and fluidly between chord-melody solos, Wes Montgomery-like octaves, and blazing arpeggios. And throughout, he swings so hard he makes Benny Goodman sound as though he’s leading a military marching band.
Standouts among the eleven tracks include the 5:23-minute-long "J’attendrai," which rides a sweet groove. The final cut, Ninine Garcia’s "Esprit," features a rare recorded appearance by Ninine himself. The CD is augmented by three video clips totaling 20 minutes that offer a view of Tchavolo’s fancy fretwork in between conversations—in French, naturally—with Tchavolo, Romane, and Ninine. —MD
Available from HCT
Gypsy jazz guitarist Gary Potter may just be the best thing to come out of Liverpool since the Mopheads. In no special order. Potter is a fan of Django Reinhardt’s hot jazz, American country music, and roots rock’n’roll, and he manages to blend all of his disparate influences into dazzling and dizzying solos on this new CD of Gypsy swing standards.
You may remember Potter from his cameo appearance in the famous John Jeremy documentary Django’s Legacy or from his debut CD on Fret Records years back. Since then, however, Potter has done some woodshedding: His playing has developed dramatically to flower on this new CD. You could hardly believe that it’s the same guitarist.
Potter is backed here by long-time musical pals Nils Solberg on rhythm guitar, bassist Andy Crowdy, and violinist Christian Garrick. Potter picks a Rob Aylward Selmer-style guitar while Solberg plays la pompe on a battered but original Selmer.
Listening to Potter dance his merry way through classics like "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Django’s "Belleville," the guitarist could be accused of trying to fit too many notes into a song. But Potter doesn’t sound like he’s trying to impress with fretboard pyrotechnics—he’s simply having fun. He weaves rockabilly-approved doublestops, Merle Travis licks, Wes Montgomery octaves, Jerry Reed country picking, and yes, Django quotes into his solos. It all adds up to rollicking Gypsy jazz that only Potter could have created.
You can hear real audio tracks of this CD and order a copy directly from HCT section of this site.—MD
"Impair & Valse"
Label: Iris Musique
Patrick Leguidcoq—better known as Romane—has for almost a decade now been at the forefront of creating a new path for Gypsy jazz. Unlike most guitarists in the field who are content to devote their energies to recreating the sound of Django Reinhardt’s Quintette du Hot Club de France and replaying his classic tunes often lick for lick, Romane has constantly written his own innovative and modern compositions. His penultimate album, Samois-sur-Seine, highlights his new vision with its funky melodies, arpeggios, and rhythms that are aligned less with the Django of "Minor Swing" than the playful inventiveness of "Rhythm Futur."
Interestingly, Romane has professed his admiration for the playing of Baro Ferret over his brother Matelo, and this comes through in Romane’s new CD, Impair & Valse, which pays homage to one of the music’s many roots, the classic Manouche waltz, of which Baro was a master.
With just an acoustic bass and his own dubbed rhythm backing him, Romane unreels glorious versions of eleven waltzes spanning the history of the music. The formative years of musette are represented by Gusti Malha’s groundbreaking "La valse Des niglos" before moving to the gems of swing accordeon in Tony Murena’s "Passion" and Gus Viseur’s "Soir de dispute." Another king of the standard Manouche waltz, Paul "Tchan Tchou" Vidal, is well represented by "Dolores" and the finger-twisting "La gitane" before Romane tips his hat to Baro in the form of his early "Mintch valse" and later bebop waltz "La folle."
Romane has long been a champion of keeping this music alive, both in his own recordings and in passing the torch by penning method books. Here, he takes a novel approach by also offering on this CD transcriptions in both standard and tab notation for ten of the waltzes plus recorded rhythm tracks. His versions are not easy to master, however: They are complicated, but beautiful.
If you are a fan of the Manouche waltzes, this CD is a must. —MD
Available directly from the HCT section of this site
This collection of acoustic duets between French guitarist Sylvain Luc and Alsation Gypsy fretmaster Biréli Lagrène is eclecticism at its best. From their styles of playing to their choices of songs, these tracks represent.
Lagrène was the child prodigy who could swing as hard as Django Reinhardt on his first album recorded when he was but thirteen. He later set off on a virtual expedition to explore the possibilities of electric jazz, playing for years alongside bassist Jaco Pastorious. For his part, Luc’s fingerstyle and chord-melody solos on his Godin guitar are an ideal foil to Lagrène’s driving picked solos.
The songs the duo choose to duel over range from standards to the bizarre: Cyndy Lauper’s "Time After Time" becomes an eerie echo of its pop music self while Django’s "Douce Ambiance" is reworked into a bebop format that stretches the classic swing number to the extremes of modern jazz. Other tunes include Benny Goodman’s "Stompin’ at the Savoy," Georges Brassens’ "Les amoureux des bancs publics," and the Lennon-McCartney pop song "Blackbird." From light jazz to pop to bebop, it’s an amazing range of music, to say the least. My favorite song is Lagrène’s original "Made in France," which is formed from musette arpeggios into a Django-style melody. Biréli plays his Maurice Dupont Selmer-style guitar with his assured sense of swing over the constantly moving chords of Luc. It’s a beautiful thing. —MD
"Robin Nolan Trio"
"Swings & Roundabouts"
"The Latin Affair"
British expatriate guitarist Robin Nolan plays a Selmer-style guitar built by Rob Aylwadrd that is colored a rich blue. That cool blue guitar symbolizes the Robin Nolan Trio’s music: Here is a hip, modern take on the tradition of Gypsy jazz.
Based in Amsterdam, the trio includes Nolan’s solo guitarwork, Jan P. Brouwer on rhythm guitar, and Paul Meader on string bass. Together, they create tight arrangements of originals and classics that bristle with clever musical quotations, a hot sense of swing, and lots of fun. These guys obviously enjoy what they do.
The group is also prolific. These four releases date from 1996 to 1999—and the band has another new CD on the way. Each album features a mixture of originals and covers of Gypsy jazz standards, ranging from a rollicking "Bossa Dorado" on Robin Nolan Trio to a stylish reworking of Django Reinhardt’s "Douce Ambiance" on Swings & Roundabouts. One of my favorite cuts is the hip rendition of Lulu Reinhardt’s "Noto-Swing" on Street that is peppered with spicy fills wrapped around the minor-major theme.
The band’s most recent album, The Latin Affair, may not be my favorite style of music, but the collection of ten self-penned songs features some of the group’s most innovative arrangements and best music. Made up of a selection of boleros, tangos, and other latin-tinged instrumentals, it’s a tour de force album. To get your hands on copies of the Robin Nolan Trio’s releases, contact the band via its website (www.robinnolantrio.com). —MD
"Tribute to Stephane Grappelli"
(JVJ Music) The influence of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt’s Quintette du Hot Club de France has traveled far and wide, as evidenced by this tribute from violinist Vitaly (Samharadze) Imereli of Georgia, a portion of the former Soviet Union.
Imereli studied classical music in the Soviet academies but his secret love was jazz, which was only available on black-market records. Imereli was lucky enough to earn a musician’s berth on a Soviet cruise ship that eventually docked in the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans. The visit was an eye-opening turning point in his life. After Perestroika, Imereli moved to Finland to follow his dream of playing jazz. The result is this tribute to his violinist hero.
Imereli’s playing swings in the style of Grappelli. Backed by the Finnish group Vitality featuring Reijo Heiskanen and Timo Seppanen on guitars, these songs are propelled by a deep love for the music.
To get a copy, write Imereli at Murkionkatu 5A4, 20740 Turku, Finland, or visit his website www.netti.fi/~vitali/. —MD
This is a historic album that all Django Reinhardt fans will want to hear. After years of searching and several fortuitous instances of amazing luck, the Dutch band Orkest Polytour tracked down arrangements and lyrics(!) written in the 1940s for five of Django’s famous songs. These versions of "Mélodie au Crépuscule," "Nuages," "Swing 42," "Manoir de mes Rêves," and "Tears" had not been previously released, were largely unknown, and believed lost.
As VG noted several years ago in reviewing the band’s first CD, "Polytour play olden-times musette, jazz Manouche, and French chansons that take you on a waltz into years past. Led by accordionist Jean-Pierre Guiran and guitarist Jan de Jong, the quartet unreels a lively, joyous sound on their first compact disc. It’s the perfect music for an evening beer at a café."
This new album features more of a good thing. Alongside enchanting versions of "Blue Skies," a musette waltz by Joseph Colombo, and a Charles Trenet chanson, are the five newly discovered lyrics to Django’s classics as well as previously released arrangements and lyrics for Django’s "Douce Ambiance" and "Swing 39." You can order a copy from Guiran via email (J.P.Guiran@wxs.nl). —MD
"The Gypsy Jazz Guitar Festival ’99"
Guitarist and historian Ian Cruickshank takes on the Herculean task of organizing an annual Gypsy Jazz Festival in England. This album features highlights from the 1999 show.
Two cuts each showcase the Paul Chester Trio; guitarist Jeff Green and clarinetist Alan Barnes; and Alsation Gypsies Mito and Dorno.
The highlight of this CD is the first commercial recordings of Moroccan guitarist Serge Krief, who has long been one of the great secrets of the Paris jazz Manouche scene. A true innovator, Krief’s dive-bombing solos quote Django Reinhardt before moving off into a wild terra incognito. With his stalwart rhythm guitarist Richard Chiche, Krief roars through a 5:43-minute-long "Minor Swing" as well as "Montagne St. Genevieve" and a nearly 6-minute-long "Honeysuckle Rose."
Being a live recording, the sound quality here is mixed, but this disc is a great display of talent. It is distributed in the USA via North Country Distributors (315-287-2852).
"Unissued Studio Sessions 1990-94"
Patrick Saussois is the renaissance man of jazz French guitar. He is equally at home playing Django Reinhardt-style jazz Manouche as he is playing more traditional jazz in the vein of Wes Montgomery.
This CD collects twelve outtakes from two sessions with Saussois playing in a classic jazz quartet. The songs range from "You’re So Nice to Come Home to" to "As Time Goes By," and feature Saussois’ seamless guitar playing front and center. —MD
British guitarist Jonny Hepbir released two albums of straightahead Gypsy jazz before venturing into the studios to record Grand Bizarre. Following the first two albums fueled by Django Reinhardt’s legacy, Hepbir’s latest compositions are infused with new inspiration coming from Turkish and Arabic music, as evidenced by his playful CD title.
Hepbir marries Turkish scales and themes to the framework of jazz, creating moody and exotic visions. The best songs are the livelier jump-style cuts, where the dark-sounding intervals enhance the music. As on his other albums, Hepbir plays with an assured sense of swing on his R. J. Aylward Selmer-style guitar. He is joined on several cuts by British expatriate guitarist Robin Nolan and violinist Vasile Stanescu.
To hear real audio tracks and order a copy, go to the HCT portion of this site —MD
(Hot Club Records). The European Gypsy tradition of passing on music to children at a young age has created a lone lineage of prodigies from Django Reinhardt to modern-day guitar-picking marvels such as Boulou Ferré, Biréli Lagrène, and Jimmy Rosenberg. This album from Norwegian swing fan Jon Larsen’s stellar Hot Club Records captures the youthful sound of three Dutch Gypsy prodigies: violinist Watti Rosenberg and guitarists Faifie Reinhardt and Sammy Weiss.
Talk about a power trio! Twenty-year-old rhythm guitarist Weiss creates a rock-solid backdrop for the soloists that is impressive in its hard-driving swing filled with tasty frills. Fifteen-year-old Reinhardt was inspired in his solo guitarwork by his uncle, Lulu Reinhardt, the legendary lead guitarist of the Titi Winterstein Quintett. His blistering solos string never-ending lines of arpeggios into jumping jams.
Above it all, soars the violin of sixteen-year-old Rosenberg, the son of Bakro Rosenberg, founder of the group Romanesj. Watti keeps alive the long tradition of Gypsy violinists and plays with tone and confidence that belies his years.
Happily, this group is not just a pyrotechnical display of youthful testosterone. It’s about style and swing more than speed and sheer number of notes. They pay homage to Django with "Minor Blues" and "Minor Swing" as well as covering Gypsy jazz classics by Baro Ferret and Dorado Schmitt’s "Latcho Drom." In addition, there are two original compositions, one being "Valse Sonnekai," named for the group, whose moniker translates from Rom as "Gold."
Hot stuff from the Hot Club! —MD
Label: Refined Records
These two anthologies of contemporary Gypsy swing are the first such collections released in the United States, and are designed to turn American guitarists on to the fire of this music. Launched by Refined Records in San Francisco, they are a pure labor of love.
Each CD includes a handful of tracks from previously released albums—but they are albums that are often unobtainable in the USA or at best, tough to track down.
Gypsy Swing includes cuts from Dutch Gypsy guitar prodigy Jimmy Rosenberg playing with fellow fretmasters Angelo Debarre, Romane, and Jon Larsen’s Hot Club de Norvege. In addition there are songs by Larsen’s group, several tracks by Brit expatriate guitarist Robin Nolan, and Alsatian Gypsy Moreno Winterstein. Most of these tracks are hard-driving Gypsy swing following in the footsteps of Django Reinhardt.
As the title suggests, Wine-Soaked Whispers features a mellower side of the milieu. There are no tracks by Moreno, but more by Robin Nolan’s trio, many with Latin-tinged rhythms. —MD
You can order this CD direct from the Hot Club Trading section of this site.
A collection of Gypsy Jazz standards written and compiled by Paul Meader & Robin Nolan.
There have been few books published
on the subject of Gypsy Jazz guitar playing, most covering the basics in a formal
way. This book is a breath of fresh air. The approach taken is one of attitude
as well as technique creating a good start for those wishing to get a handle
on the subject.
There are small sections for drum and bass players also sections covering the importance of rhythm players and their attitude to keeping the music fresh.
All the music is in easy to read tab format for guitar with well laid out chord shapes.
The accopanying CD gets you tuned up then you hear the trio play the head with a following six choruses for you to play over. The tunes coverd are:
Djangology, Minor Swing, It don't mean a thing, Django's Castle, Sweet Georgia Brown, Honeysuckle Rose, Oh lady be good, Nuages, Douce Ambience, Blues for Ike, Dark Eyes. The more up tempo tunes have two takes so you can learn to play the heads at a reasonable tempo then later when it's in your fingers you can go to the more up tempo version and impress the girls.
This publication is aimed at those who wish to get started, more experienced players may wish to have this book for the high quality rhythm tracks on the CD for you to practice over and you may even learn a thing or two you thought you had coverd.
The book is available only from the
The Robin Nolan Trio direct as are their CD's. All are available from the Trios
(Tuxedo Records) Swing will never
die as long as the likes of Cats & Jammers live on. Based in Oakland, California,
Cats & Jammers are string bassist Piper Heisig, guitarist Sylvia Herold, and
Tony Marcus on violin and acoustic archtop guitar. All members of the trio share
vocal duties, creating layers of stylish harmonies on top of the deft arrangements
and musicianship. This is a group that knows how to swing.
The band has released two past CDs, Kicking the Gong in 1991 and Feel That Rhythm in 1993, both of which include solid covers of classic numbers and a handful of band originals. The group's panache comes through on its retro selection of material; among the cattily named swing tunes on these first CDs are "There Ain't No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears" and "Meet Me at No Special Place."
This new album, Too Close For Comfort, showcases the band at its most mature and assured level of playing. The arrangements are tight and the vocal harmonies spot on, creating swing music that will infect your soul.
You should be able to find Cats & Jammers' albums in your CD shop, or contract Tuxedo at 2557 Wakefield Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606 or via email (email@example.com).
(Jazzology) Hot Strings of Switzerland
is one of the longest standing and most accomplished of jazz manouche-style
bands to follow in Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France’s footsteps.
Unfortunately, however, finding their CDs in the USA is not an easy task. Now,
along comes these re-releases of the band’s classic first albums available in
America from George Buck’s Jazzology Records of New Orleans.
On these albums, Hot Strings is made up of Martin Abbühl on violin, Josef Schibig on rhythm guitar, and Thomas Dürst or Bänz Oester on bass. Last but hardly least is band leader Feré Scheidegger on solo guitar and harmonica.
The band eschews musical fireworks and guitar pyrotechnics, striving instead to create tight arrangements and well-orchestrated versions of classic Gypsy jazz tunes and their own originals. This philosophy shines on the group’s first album, Douce Ambiance, where the interplay between musicians is at all time rock solid and at certain points simply stunning.
Picking out highlights from a band that truly performs as a band does not seem fair, but the soloists naturally shine. Abbühl’s violinwork swings with the best of them and Scheidegger’s playing downright astonishes. His guitarwork certainly shows traces of Django’s stylings, but above all it brings to mind bluesman B.B. King in his near-perfect phrasing and darn-perfect choice of notes—an ironic comparison, as B.B. himself was in turn influenced by Django.
On Douce Ambiance, the group has assembled a fine collection of classic cuts, from Django’s “Webster” to “Anouman,” “Douce Ambiance” to a stirring and novel version of “Minor Swing” that swings with the best of them. Other tunes include “La Foule,” “Song d’Automne,” and several originals. I Saw Stars is simply more of a good thing.
Thanks to Jazzology, you can find these two CDs again at music shops or direct from their mail-order shop at 1206 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116, or via phone at 504-525-1776. As a finall note, Hot Strings’ most recent disc, From Berne With Love, is now also available in the USA from North Country Distributors, Cadence Building, Redwood, NY 13679. You won’t be disappointed.
(Festival Records) Danny Fender is
an American Gypsy living and playing in California. In fact, among Gypsies his
wicked brand of guitarwork is known as “California Style”---an apt moniker as
Fender’s fascinating blend of influences includes a healthy dose of Californian
Fender is one of an estimated 2 million Gypsies living in the United States. He plays his music at Gypsy weddings, dances, and reunions, but this two-cassette set released primarily for his Gypsy audience on the Gypsy-owned and –run Festival label shows Fender to be a great unknown guitarist.
Fender’s musical history bears a striking resemblance to that of another famous Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Django blended traditional Gypsy music with musette and swing to create a unique amalgamation of sounds. For his part, Fender has now combined Gypsy stylings with American rock’n’roll to create California Style, which is all but unknown to anyone but fellow Gypsies. Call this music part Gipsy Kings, part the Ventures.
This collection is live and only available on cassette, so the sound is not studio quality. The production is also a bit carefree, with starts fading in and endings fading out as if the “songs” were edited out of long jams. Production limitations aside, this is an amazing collection of vital music. Fender unreels mile-long arpeggios on his electric guitar blending minor and diminished scales to create spicy lines. The james never end and this guy is simply a guitar-playing fool.
We write a lot in VG about Gypsy music from around the world---everything from flamenco to Django Reinhardt-style Gypsy jazz to traditional Eastern European strains---but here’s a chance to hear a uniquely American Gypsy musician.
Contact Festival Records at 2773 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90006 or via phone at 323-737-3500. —MD
(Hot Club) It only seems fair for
a band to release a greatest hits collection on its twentieth anniversary. At
this point, you cannot blame them for being self-indulgent because they must
be doing something right to last this long.
The Hot Club de Norvege has now been swinging its own brand of Gypsy jazz based from Oslo, Norway, for a rock-solid two decades. Based on the cornerstone of guitarists Jon Larsen and Per Frydenlund and bassist Svein Aarbostad, the band has also included several other musicians over the years but now counts harmonica-player and violinist Finn Hauge as a long-time member. In addition, this Hot Club has many famous friends who add their guitars and violins to the group’s recordings.
But this band is more than just a band; among Gypsy jazz fans, it’s an institution. Along with its own music, band members are involved in numerous other ventures. Hot Club Records has released more than 40 albums by musicians from Stephane Grappelli to Moreno Winterstein and Angelo Debarre, as well as historic reissues of classic music by Matelo and Baro Ferret and vintage Norwegian swing guitarist Robert Normann. They also organize an annual Django Reinhardt festival in Norway. All in all, their work marks them as one of the key supporters of Gypsy swing around the world.
This CD serves as a retrospective of the band’s work. The 19 tracks include cuts from a variety of their albums and include guest artists such as Jimmy Rosenberg, Moreno, Romane, Angelo Debarre, Florin Nicolescu, Ulf Wakenius, and more. It’s hot stuff from one of the best Hot Clubs around.
Here’s to hoping that this is just a beginning---and wishing them another good twenty years! Check out this CD and the rest of the Hot Club’s projects on the Web (www.nordi.no/music/hcr/). —MD
(Crimson) Tales From the Hot Club is an apt title for this album of Gypsy jazz from British guitarist Andy MacKenzie. In these selections, he offers a history of jazz manouche old and new, its roots and its current innovations. And at the same time, this history lesson gives him wings to unleash some dazzling chops and stylish licks.
MacKenzie has toured around the United Kingdom with violinist Chris Hayward playing clubs, festivals, and weddings for years. Teamed with fellow guitarist and guitar historian Adrian Ingram, he released his first CD, Duet, in 1996.
This latest disc features MacKenzie on his seven-string Benedetto electric archtop and a John le Voi Selmer copy. He's joined by John Jorgenson, sometimes Hellecaster, Elton John guitarist, and long-time Gypsy swing aficionado. Ingram also makes his appearance on several cuts along with accordionist Norman Bolton.
The history stretches back to Django Reinhardt's early musette waltz, "Montagne Sainte-Genevieve," an old-style song that the master himself never recorded. Moving forward in time, MacKenzie and Jorgenson trade licks on Django's great "Swing 42," a classic of Reinhardt's later compositions.
From there, they romp through jazz standards such as Ray Noble's "Cherokee" and several MacKenzie and Ingram originals that bring Gypsy jazz into the 1990s, including "Tombeau de Grappelli," a tribute to Django's fellow innovator and musical foil.
This CD is an accomplished album
of past and future jazz manouche that all Gypsy swing fans will enjoy. You can
order a copy from Just Jazz Guitar magazine, PO Box 76053, Atlanta, GA 30358-1053.
More info on Andy MacKenzie
(Hightone) This album has everything going for it: The band's got a great moniker, their playing is tight, and the music is right. The Hot Club of Cowtown hails from Austin, Texas*which is about as far as you can get from Paris, France, in everything but hot music. This trio plays classic western swing with traces of its namesake, the Hot Club of France, thrown in. Consider this Bob Wills with a beret or Django Reinhardt in cowboy boots. It's hot stuff.Review by Michael Dregni
(Polytour) Call it a fancy dance step back in time. The Dutch band Polytour play old-days musette, jazz manouche, and chansons that take you on a waltz into years past.
Led by accordionist Jean Pierre Guiran and guitarist Jan de Jong, the quartet unreels a lively, joyous sound on their first compact disc. It's the perfect music for an evening beer at a cafe.
Songs on the album includes a bouncing cover of Django Reinhardt's "Djangology" and a sweet rendition of musetteers Joseph Colombo and Tony Murena's "L'Indifference." French chanson is represented by several songs by Georges Brassens, Charles Trenet, and Yves Montand. The disc closes with Guiran's original "Polytour" and de Jong's "Lucia."
You can order a copy from Sjak van Aalsum Management, Ruysdaelkade 147 III, 1072 AR Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Review by Michael Dregni
(Fremeaux) It was the coming of jazz that insired Django Reinhardt's music, but it was his background in traditional Gypsy songs that formed the basis for his personal fusion that became Gypsy swing. Early jazz is available in droves, but traditional Gypsy music is less easy to find. These two fascinating two-CD sets chronicle aspects of the Gypsy tradition that laid the groundwork for Django.
Tziganes: Paris/Berlin/Budapest 1910-1935 is a collection of 36 songs recorded by the legendary Gypsy orchestras of Europe from the 1910s throught the 1930s. Most of these groups are led by violinists, many of them virtuosi that were famous in their days.
Some of the songs will be well-known to jazz manouche fans: "Les Yeux Noirs," "Les Deux Gitares," and even Django's "Nuages." Many others are czadas, horas, waltzes, and popular Hungarian and Romanian songs of the day.
Music on the Gypsy Route is the result of forty years of field recordings made by Gypsiologist Deben Bhattacharya and features music from India, Asia, Spain, and the Cmargue region of France. The music ranges from Bedouin love songs to dances, flamenco instrumentals to Catholic religious songs.Review by Michael Dregni
(Minor Swing) Led by guitarist Samy Daussat, the Minor Swing Quartet is a fixture in the Place des Vosges, the beautiful piazza in the heart of Paris. Each weekend, the band sets up its two acoustic guitars, string bass, and trapset to busk, playing Django Reinhardt tunes, Parisian chansons, and American swing standards. They provide a soundtrack to the everyday life around them.
Daussat has backed the fleet-fingered jazz manouche guitarist Moreno Winterstein and played with Patrick Saussois Alma Sinti. These two self-produced CDs showcase his style of playing, which owes equal debt to French Gypsies and American jazzers. Rhythm guitarist Ramon Galan fills out the sound with well-placed accents and the occasional solo.
Swing de Paris follows the strain of jazz manouche with covers of Django songs, "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Saussois", "Degringolade," and the almost obligatory "Les Yeux Noirs." Place des Vosges is a more interesting, eccentric blend of Georges Brassens, Dave Brubeck, Django, and a hot version of the Mannix theme song.
You can get your own copies by checking out the band in the Place des Vosges or by contacting them at 5 Rue Calmette, 22700 Perros Guirec, France.Review by Michael Dregni
(Boucherie Productions) Paris Combo is funky, cool, and new, and their debut CD is without doubt one of the best albums in a long time. Superlatives pale next to the five-person band’s music: It’s inventive and creative, exotic and eccentric, danceable and just plain fun.
The combo hails naturally enough from Paris, and is made up of Gypsy guitarist Potzi, playing Favino and Dupont guitars; David Lewis on horns and piano; Mano Razanajato on string bass and percussion; François-François on percussion and xylophone. The band is lead by accordionist and chanteuse Belle du Berry, who penned many of the songs’ music and lyrics.
Describing Paris Combo’s music is tough. One song is Edith Piaf gone punk. The next is Django Reinhardt on LSD. Then comes a grunge Joe Privat. Finally, there’s Yves Montand doing hip-hop.
Unfortunately, this CD is not yet distributed in the USA. Contact Boucherie Productions at 15bis, rue du Plateau, 75019 Paris for a copy, or buy one over the Internet from the French media superstore, FNAC .Review by Michael Dregni
This album is one of the most refreshing to be released in recent years. With a mix of Patrick Saussois bouncy guitar and Jean-Claude Laudat on accordion a real Parisian sound hustles from every track. If anyone has seen Patrick play you are in for a surprise, though he is a left handed player; he plays a guitar strung for a right handed guitarist. Thats right, it's upside down.
Both traditional and original tracks are supported on this CD. Swing, Musette and Be Bop are all here.
Backing by Samy Daussat and Stan Laferriere on guitars. With Jean Claude Beneteau on Double Bass.
Available directly from HCTReview by Steve Royall
(Released by:Latcho Drom)
These two discs by the French band Latcho Drom include some of the best Gypsy jazz music I have ever heard, period.
Hailing from Toulouse, the band is made up of a string bassist, violinist, and two acoustic guitarists: Jean-François Ruiz on rhythm and Christophe Lartilleux playing lead. The guitarists play classic jazz manouche instruments: Selmer, Favino, Dupont, and Casteluccia guitares italienne. Lartilleux, who is half gypsy, creates incisive, driving, innovative solos that propel the band to hard-swinging peaks. But the group isn’t merely a showpiece for its lead guitarist. All in all, this is one of the tightest bands I have heard in a long time, each musician accentuating the others with tasty rhythms and fills.
Now for the bad news: At this time, these two CDs—as well as the band’s forthcoming disc, Live in Madrid—are next to impossible to find in the USA.
eview by Michael Dregni
German Gypsy jazz guitarist Lulu Weiss swings like there’s no tomorrow. Hailing from the German tradition that includes Schnuckenack Reinhardt, Titi Winterstein, Lulu Reinhardt, and Hans’che Weiss, this is Gysy jazz that means business.
Lulu Weiss & Quartet features Weiss on lead acoustic guitar, Caruso Lehman on rhythm, Ringo Haag on piano and accordion, Hugo Haag on string bass, and Rudi Haag on violin. The sum is a driving, rollicking sound that is more rootsy and grounded in traditional Gypsy music than anything recorded by Django Reinhardt and his famous Hot Club.
The songs move from classics such as Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” and Django’s “Diana” to Weiss’ own “Lulu Swing” and “Valse Noble.” It’s on these eerie minor waltzes that the band truly shines with the interplay between Weiss’ mile-long arpeggios and the musette-tinged accordion.
Lulu II and Lulu III offer more of a good thing, but include primarily covers of others’ songs rather than Weiss’ originals, which are truly stellar. All of these CDs are highly recommended, and while they are not distributed in the USA, you can order them painlessly over the Internet from EuroJazz.Review by Michael Dregni
This first collection by Japan’s Gypsy Swing Project is a phenomenal meeting of cultures. The result is music that fuses Django Reinhardt’s hot swing and traditional gypsy flourishes with classical and modern Japanese sounds.
The GSP quartet is lead by guitarist Hisao Fukushima, lately of the Hot Club of Tokyo, and features rhythm guitarist Satoshi Arai, violinist Noriko Nishima, and Yuji Nagayama on bass. But beyond this traditional jazz manouche band assembly, Oriental Dreams is full of surprises.
The CD opens with a fine rendition of “My Melancholy Baby,” proving the band can swing with the best of them. From there, however, the quartet dances through seven originals by leader Fukushima that leads you into surprising realms of music.
Songs such as “Sub-Consios-Lee” and “Montage—Asian Breeze” begin as gypsy swing standards before subtly segueing into Japanese melodies and Oriental clichés, then moving back into hot French jazz, leaving the listener dazzled by the musical odyssey. In sum, this CD is one of the most intriguing and innovative collections of jazz manouche since Boulou and Elios Ferré’s revolutionary Pour Django.
Unfortunately, Oriental Dreams is not distributed in the USA; you can contact the Gypsy Swing Project via email or fax at 045-434-3024 to get your copy.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Hot Club Records)
This is an amazing CD, part tribute, part jam session, part party. Jon Larsen, Norwegian swing guitarist and operator of Hot Club Records, took his Hot Club de Norvege to Paris to jam with the best French jazz manouche players and record the proceedings. The result is a dazzling collection of Django tunes played by an array of stunning guitarists, including Romane, Francis-Alfred Moerman, Angelo Debarre, Patrick Saussois, and more.
Among the standouts on this tour de force CD are Romane’s versions of Django’s musette waltz “Montagne Sainte Genevieve” and the flowing, graceful balled “Anouman”; Moerman and Saussois’s duet on “Tears”; and the amazing “Manoir de mes Reves” with Norwegian Finn Hauge playing saw, which adds a mysterious air to one of Django’s must haunting tunes. Last but not least, the rollicking version of “Douce Ambiance” is worth the cost of the CD alone.
The only possible shortcoming to this tribute is that you do not hear enough of Jon Larsen’s solo guitarwork, but he has several CDs available on Hot Club, including a best of compilation that features his duets with prodigy Jimmy Rosenberg, most recently of the now defunct group Sinti.
If you are a fan of Django Reinhardt, you owe it to yourself to get this phenomenal CD.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Kardum, JSL, IMP, Bransong Music)
Patrick Leguidecoq, better known simply as Romane, is one of the latest generation of jazz manouche guitarists following in the vaunted footsteps of Django Reinhardt. With so many good gypsy jazz players out there today, it’s impossible (and pointless) to hail one as the best. Still, Romane would certainly be a contender.
Armed with his trusty Maurice Dupont Selmer-style guitar, Romane creates flowing lines that dazzle with their rapid-fire pace and their sensuous musicality. His arpeggios and runs mix Django’s phrasing with a style that is all his own, marking Romane as one of the true innovators of today’s gypsy jazz revival. He covers few Django tunes on his CDs, preferring to pen his own compositions.
Kardum’s Swing For Ninine, JSL’s Quintet, and the new IMP release Ombre—all from France—require a search to find them in the USA but they are well worth the effort. Ombre features the fine accordionist Francis Varis, adding a musette feel to the hot jazz sound. These are phenomenal collections of gypsy jazz and highly recommended.
Romane: The Gypsy Sound is a video concert from Bransong and available through Mel Bay; it is also available in CD form. The video footage is a blast, a fine chance to be awed by Romane’s playing, catch a few pointers from the short lesson, and see how much he enjoys himself. Highly recommended.
Romane in Nashville is the CD soundtrack to Romane’s video, and is a jewel of an album. The music is sweet and straight to the point with just Romane’s guitar, Lauren Bajata on rhythm (and some leads), and a string bass. Romane’s other CDs feature almost all originals, but this CD mixes a handful of Romane’s best with the best of Gypsy jazz. The tunes range from classic musette such as “Indifference” to Django’s “Montagne Sainte-Genevieve,” and then on to swing songs such as “Sweet Sue,” “Rose Room,” and “Douce Ambiance.” Jazz manouche doesn’t get much better than this.
A new release by jazz manouche guitarist Patrick "Romane" Leguidecoq is always a reason to celebrate but this new CD is truly phenomenal.
Romane has put out four past discs of Gypsy jazz as well as a video concert and method book, all available in the U.S. This new CD, however, is his most mature and accomplished to date.
The album opens with "Legende," a Romane original as eccentric as Django Reinhardt’s great "Rhythm Futur" in its funky rhythms and exotic melody. The song is a duet between Romane and legendary Gypsy guitarist Angelo Debarre, and the results are fireworks. (For more of Debarre, check out his Gypsy Guitars album on Norway’s Hot Club Records.)
Other standout numbers include the moody duet with Django’s second son, Babik, on "Une Histoire Simple" and the rollicking, straight-ahead "Swing 98." As on several of his past CDs, Romane plays a new version of his own "Dans Le Regard De Laura," providing an unfolding measure of his own musical development.
But it’s not only the music that stands out here: The sound quality on this CD is drop-dead amazing. The sound is warm, live, and almost three-dimensional. On some cuts, it is so crystal clear that you can distinguish between four acoustic guitar players. Hot stuff!Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Al Sur)
Moreno stands out among Gypsy jazz guitarists for his unique style, influenced by his tutelage under the venerable jazz manouche great Paul “Tchan Tchou” Vidal. Hailing from the Alsace, Vidal and Moreno’s playing is tied more closely to timeless Eastern European Gypsy music than to the urban Parisian swing of Django Reinhardt.
Seeing Moreno play live is a humbling experience. With a cigarette hanging from his picking hand and his eyes never bothering to look at his Favino guitar, he uncoils Gypsy melodies with dashing style, fluidity, and an astonishing speed that leaves you breathless. Moreno also plays guitar heroics with tricks such as playing a melody on one string using the tuner to change notes.
Moreno Boléro is a worthy showcase of his music. Intermixed between his own compositions are three tunes by Tchan Tchou, including his rollicking minor-key waltz “La Gitane”: Anyone who can play this song at this pace—let along even dance to it—deserves a place in heaven. Other songs include the almost obligatory “Nuages” and “Les Yeux Noirs.”
Also keep a look out for Moreno’s first CD, Yochka, and Romanian accordionist Roberto de Brasov’s Prima Jubire with Moreno’s accompaniment on two cuts (both from Al Sur and available in the USA through DNA Records at 800-994-2990).
Moreno featuring Angelo Debarre is available from HotClub TradingReview by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Discos Melopea)
Argentinean jazz guitarist Walter Malosetti’s tribute to Django Reinhardt comes from the heart. This is not merely a collection of covers of Django standards, although the almost required “Minor Swing” and “Nuages” are indeed here. Instead, Django’s spirit has obviously infused Malosetti’s composition and playing throughout.
Malosetti’s simple trio features himself on electric guitar backed by a string bass and either rhythm guitar or drums. Five of the tunes are originals, and the opening tribute title “Jean Baptiste” is a tour-de-force showcase of Malosetti’s writing and guitarwork: based on a catchy melody that you’ll find yourself whistling for days, Malosetti interweaves bopping lines throughout the tune, scat-singing along to his soloing under his breath.
To get a copy of this fine collection of Gypsy-infused jazz, write Discos Melopea at Jean Jaures 444, Buenos Aires 1215 or via fax at 011-54-1-447-6961. You can also find Malosetti’s “Jean Baptiste” included on Hot Club Records of Norway’s latest anthology of international jazz manouche bands, Gypsy Swing.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Clarity, Hot Club)
Led by guitarist Paul Mehling, the Hot Club of San Francisco is true to the music of Django. Mehling plays a Maurice Dupont Selmer recreation, and his swinging solos are precise and jazzy.
The band has released three CDs and has another on the way by the end of 1997, marking them as the most prolific of US jazz manouche groups.
The Hot Club’s first, 1993 release was an eponymous CD on Clarity Recordings. But while the band was in fine form, the choice of songs was less representative of the group’s repertoire and more representative of a recording company’s wishes.
The group’s second CD, QHCSF, was self-released in 1994 and featured three guitars, a string bass, and violin. The songs are a strong, innovative selection: Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” side by side with Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rumba.” The disc also features a generous helping of Django covers, including a beautiful rendition of “Melodie au Crepscule.”
For its third release, coming in 1995, the Hot Club personnel changed, now being made up of Mehling’s exquisite lead work, Jenny Scheinman’s violin, two rhythm guitars, and a good old stand-up bass.
Recorded live, the sound of the quintet carries you back in time. The Hot Club’s version of the gypsy lullaby “Tears” is subtle, moody, and dark, with Mehling quoting Django and then moving off into his own solo. The cover of “Douce Ambiance” is a fine frolic through one of Django’s most distinctive later tunes.
Mehling has also released two instructional videos for Homespun, the first outlining rhythm playing and la pompe, the famous boom-chick, boom-chick jazz manouche backing. The second introduces solo playing.
To get a copy of the Hot Club’s self-released CDs, fax Paul Mehling in the USA at 415-457-0780. Or hit their web site.Review by Michael Dregni
New Orleans artist and guitarist Tony Green plays jazz manouche with a rare sensibility. His playing is so fluid and relaxed that it creates a trance that draws you into the long lines of diminished arpeggios; when the song is over you wake as if from a dream.
“I’m a passionate person and I love the passion of this music,” Green states in the liner notes to his current CD, Gypsy Jazz on Orleans Records (USA telephone: 504-837-5042).
Green became enthralled with Django’s music while studying art in Brugges, Belgium, in 1978. He heard the sounds of the legendary Dutch Gypsy band Waso, then led by guitarist Fapy Lafertin.
“Unlike some types of music, the gypsies are always trying to play something beautiful,” Green notes. “Theirs is an ancient culture and perhaps this appeals to my love of antiquity, They play a whole melange of music; musettes, tangos, waltzes, Spanish pieces, tunes with an eastern European flavor—the variety is wonderful.”
With his album, Green has crafted a masterpiece of swinging gypsy jazz. He plays a Maurice Dupont Selmer petit bouche copy that has a warm yet percussive tone. Backing Green is rhythm guitarist Gregor Sneddon and bassist Vitus Paukstaitis.
The album mixes old and new. Green covers three Django Reinhardt tunes: “Bolero,” “Calvarie,” and the almost obligatory “Nuages.” In addition, the band plays Sidney Bechet’s “Petit Fleur” and Gus Viseur musette tune “Douce Joie.” Finally, there are Green’s arrangements of four traditional waltzes and lullabies, and one original piece.
The songs come to life through Green’s beautiful guitar style that emphasizes melody and emotion over the frenetic, over-the-top runs that dominate much gypsy jazz. And the trio complements and emphasizes each other’s playing as few bands can. Tony Green and his band can swing with the best of them.Review by Michael Dregni
To understand the play on words in the band Pearl Django’s name, you must realize that the group hails from the Tacoma, Washington, area, home to the four Django fans who make up the band and nearby the Seattle home of Pearl Jam.
Pearl Django guitarists Neil Andersson and Dudley Hill wrote to Gypsy swing player and historian Ian Cruickshank in England in 1993, introducing themselves and their music. When Cruickshank visited the United States, he also made a trip to see the band. The result was a collaboration on the CD Swingin’ Spirits and the band’s solo CD, le jazz hot, both released on Cruickshank’s Fret Records label in 1995.
On Swingin’ Spirits, Pearl Django backs Cruikshank as he works through five originals, several covers of Django songs, and a handful of other classics. The band’s backing is solid and uncluttered while Cruickshank’s soloing is strong and sure.
It’s on le jazz hot that the band comes alive. The CD is a hard-swinging collection of Gypsy jazz standards and band originals. It opens with Django’s “Webster,” a great swing number that highlights the guitarists and Paul Anastasio’s soaring violin. Throughout the CD, David Firman holds down the bottom end with bopping string bass work.
In 1997, the band is releasing a third CD, Metropolitan Swing. To get copies of Pearl Django CDs, contact Firman (USA telephone: 206-759-7121), who conveniently happens to be Fret’s US distributor.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Carpe Diem)
Café Noir’s music is eclecticism at its best. The band’s music is esoteric and eccentric—and at the same time, it’s exciting and inviting. With roots in Django’s swing, the Austin, Texas, group has pushed the limits of Gypsy jazz.
The band’s first, self-titled CD was released on Carpe Diem Records (USA telephone: 214-987-9535) in 1988, and featured an eclectic mix of originals, a musette piece by Tony Moreno and Joe Colombo, and a Paganini theme. Notice was served that Café Noir was up to something new.
The group’s second CD, 1993’s Window To The Sea, built on these themes, to be followed in 1995 with The Waltz King, Café Noir’s most accomplished album.
The Waltz King features moody soundscapes, galloping waltzes, and romantic ballads, some of which are played in a humorous vein. Several songs feature vocals that are over the top, but all in all, this CD is an innovative opera, the pieces flowing—and at times, crashing—into each other.
All of Café Noir’s releases are immensely creative albums from a talented group of musicians seeking to extend Gypsy jazz—and music in general—to its furthest extremes.Review by Michael Dregni
The Complete Django Reinhardt series on the French label Classics distributed in the USA by Allegro (USA telephone: 503-257-8480) is a phenomenal series with exquisite sound quality that is better than almost any other CD on the market. The accompanying booklets are in English with detailed liner notes, some small photos, and a thorough listing of recording dates and personnel.
At this time, the series comprises fifteen CDs bringing it up to 1943; Allegro says that Classics plans on releasing one or two more annually.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Freméaux & Associés)
If you want an absolutely exhaustive collection of everything Django every recorded, or even accompanied on, Freméaux & Associés’ Intégrale Django Reinhardt is the ultimate collection, distributed in the USA by FTC (USA telephone: 213-965-9585). The sonic quality is the equal of the Classics series and the liner booklets are even more thorough.
This series for the completist collector
currently features nine two-CD sets with plans for at least one new volume annually.
All the titles in this series are now available from this site.
To view track listings go to the sales pageReview by Michael Dregni
Swing de Musette is perhaps the best single collection of musette available. It features rare recordings by Guerino and the better-known accordionists Tony Murena, Gus Viseur, and others. The important thing is that one of the three Ferret brothers—as well as Lulu Galopin, Didier Duprat, and even Django—appear as guitarists on may cuts, often contributing precise and fiery solos. It is available in the USA from Qualiton (USA telephone: 718-937-8515).Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Freméaux & Associés)
Les Plus Belles Valses Musette is another excellent collection of musette, with many cuts featuring the Ferrets. In addition, it’s always a good idea to check out the credits on any musette CD by Gus Viseur, Tony Murena, Jo Privat, or Emile Vacher for the Ferret’s accompaniment. Many of the reissues of French musette hails the accordionists but neglects to mention the guitar player, but sometimes you’ll get lucky.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Hot Club Records)
Swing Valses d’hier et d’aujourd’hui reissues a 1966 album with Matelo on rhythm guitar. This CD is available in the USA through Qualiton (USA telephone: 718-937-8515), and thanks are due to Norwegian swing guitarist Jon Larsen and his amazing Hot Club Records label for keeping this music alive.Review by Michael Dregni
(Released by:Media 7)
Manouche Party with accordeonist Jo Privat and Matelo Ferret is one of the best gypsy jazz and musette albums of all time.
It’s near impossible to find this French CD in the USA, but Matelo’s daredevil solo on “Dark Eyes” would make an airplane ticket to Paris to buy the disc worthwhile.Review by Michael Dregni
Many thanks to Michael Dregni for compiling and submitting these reviews.