What's In A Name?

Discussion on Django and his contemporaries

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jack
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Post by jack »

For what it's worth, I started listening to Django because I wanted a greater grasp of the genre known as Jazz. In fact that's also why I started playing this music. Django was indeed a stylist, but his style isn't really gypsy+jazz. There's lots of Louis Armstrong, Ellington, Debussey, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, in the mix, plus some hints of flamenco and mussette. None of which, except the flamenco are really all that gypsy. I think Django's unique voice seems less a product of what he grew up listening to, and more about his own wonderful sense of invention and musicality.
I really like the minor and arabesque moments in this music, wherever you find them, but this music is predominantly based on a swing vocabulary, and I think there are kids in the U.S. who are drawn to that, and not just the exoticism thing.
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Post by Elliot »

I think you are looking at it in retrospect. Being a Gypsy and the entire heritage of musicians that were an integral part of Gypsy culture helped create what DR did. Call it whatever you want, analyze and categorize into however many slots as you feel makes you happy, but everything DR was and was exposed to during his early years (and afterward) informed his approach to what he was playing, no matter what you call it. It is only the fact that it was so well integrated into Swing that makes it impossible to reduce to the absurdity of Gypsy + Swing. There are Mandolin passages in Gypsy Jazz, Cymbalom suggestions, accordion-like chordal movements, plus probably other traces of instruments I don't even know the names of, not to mention birdsongs, animal bleats, etc., etc., and I haven't even gotten to the subject of embellishments, of which a small book could easily be written. The creativity which DR brought didn't just blast out of his head from nowhere.

Django was only a tiny delicious slice of the entire Jazz Art form. I get really sick of people who pull things out of context, relate it only to themselves and never bother to understand what was meant. I can play that stupid game also. Perhaps you never heard Jazz until someone played Django for you. Maybe to you Jazz begins and ends with Django Reinhardt - it pretty much does for me, I don't care about much else as far as Jazz is concerned. I would think you were referring to a greater grasp of Jazz than you had previously known. But you know, I wasn't really talking about you (or any other individual), but the formal historical development of Jazz. Django was not a part of this, no matter how much you or I like him. I never wanted to play jazz guitar until I got into DR either, but there are good reasons why I am learning his stuff and not Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, or any of the myriad of others, most of whom also in possession of great musicality and invention.

Maybe the sky isn't really blue either, that it is only our brains convincing us so. It hardly matters. But to say that Django was just a guy who happened to play Jazz while ignoring his background is ridiculous. I guess Robert Johnson just happened to be a Black guy who played the Blues also. And the guys on the chain gangs in Alabama or wherever who developed the form, they just happened to be prisoners, right?
Last edited by Elliot on Tue May 01, 2007 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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lnb
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Post by lnb »

I played my dad (80) some ''gypsy jazz'' and he just refered to it as Jazz.
Unfortunately Jazz does'nt put bums on seats either.So what name should we use to put bums on seats, i suggest that nothing would work because its a minority music just like folk music, jazz, gypsy music etc, most c.d shops lump our music in the World section wich is probably as good a place as anywhere....the funny thing is that wherever my band play people tend to love it and dont put it in a box....learn to like it
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jack
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Post by jack »

I think I've expressed myself poorly. I'm sorry if the tenor of my first post seemed snide it wasn't meant to be.
Partly I wanted to address this comment:
Believe me, nobody in America is playing Django's music because they want a greater grasp of the genre known as Jazz.
I don't really think it's accurate. Django is not where Jazz begins and ends for me, and it's probably fair to say he was relatively peripheral to the history of the music, but he is a part of it, and one worth looking at. I think there's value in acknowledging and studying players other than those who are usually credited as the leading voices in jazz history. Louis, to Bird to Miles is great, I love those guys but part of what is so appealing about Jazz is how it functions as a vehicle for so many diverse voices. I think there are lots of people who really like Django as a Jazzer and appreciate his contribution to the body of work that's considered Jazz.

As for the gypsy influence I'm probably remiss in the degree to which I've downplayed the influence his childhood experience had on him.
I think it's unfair to say I've completely taken him out of context, from the age of 12 on he spent a lot of his musical tuition in the gadjo world and I wanted to point out that in addition to 'gypsy music' he was exposed to a lot of french popular music, baroque, romantic, and impressionist composers, and lots of Jazz. Whether it was trad stuff, swing or bebop, all we have to do is listen to his recorded output to see how much this music resonated with him.
I do think his creative sense is informed by his cultural experience (which is much more complex than just gypsy+jazz) but I have a lot of trouble with this statement:
The arabesque, flamenco inspired approach that Django brought to Jazz seems to me to be what gives it its charm. Take that away and what's left of Django
I think if you took that away there's still a lot left. I think if you subtracted these elements you wouldn't be left with an Eddie Lang or a Charlie Christian (who are both quite dissimilar in their own right). Many of his wonderful compositions couldn't really be characterized as arabesque or inspired by flamenco, yet they are still absolutely captivating.

What I really meant to say was that I think there are lots of people in the US who respond more to the elements of Django's music that he probably would have retained regardless of his upbringing.
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justjack
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Post by justjack »

Well said! Certainly Django's style contains some elements that come out of his upbringing, but in the end that doesn't mean they form the core of his musical personality. If you really want to see a Gypsy influence in the music, look to the wonderful albums of Schnuckenack Reinhardt and the like. Those albums contain so many great tunes the sort of which Django must have been aware of yet chose not to record-why? And Elliot, if you don't have them and would like to hear some tracks, by all means send me your email and I'll shoot some your way; they're amazing.

I also wonder if this can be clarified:
Elliot wrote:Maybe to you Jazz begins and ends with Django Reinhardt - it pretty much does for me, I don't care about much else as far as Jazz is concerned.
If you don't care about much else, how can you say where Django's place is in the history of jazz?

Finally, I should mention that I live in the US and came to Django precisely because I wanted to learn more about jazz as a musical genre-though I'd agree that a great many of the amateur Django-style players here probably don't play much else in the way of jazz guitar. But among the pro musicians I know, Django is looked at the same way a Joe Pass or Charlie Christian or Wes Montgomery is looked at-as a great musician-and it's really with the overall sound that people make the distinction-that the rhythm section swings so differently from most American jazz of the era. Even then, though, they're most often only familiar with the 30s era stuff, and not the later period...people are always amazed, at gigs, when we announce after playing it that Flèche d'Or is a Django tune.

best,
Jack.
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Teddy Dupont
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Post by Teddy Dupont »

I was beginning to think the views were divided along my originally implied geographical lines but some excellent posts by jack and justjack have shown otherwise I am pleased to say.

Just to re-state my original point - The music is becoming increasingly referred to us "gypsy" and that is utter nonsense. I am not stating that "gypsy jazz" is an erroneous title although I would not have chosen it but that is just a personal preference. Whilst accepting that the music has moved a little away from Django's original creation to include elements of musette and folk/gypsy (gypsy is often confused with the indigenous folk music of a country) it still in no way can be reasonably described a simply "gypsy". In fact, that is probably illegal under the UK Trades Description Act. :roll:

The other point that seems to have been focussed on is just how "gypsy" was Django's music. To me, Jack summed it up by the statement " I think Django's unique voice seems less a product of what he grew up listening to, and more about his own wonderful sense of invention and musicality." Absolutely right! I believe his influences were 5% gypsy/musette, 5% European classical music, 40% Jazz and 50% Django. The impact of his gypsy heritage is very small in terms of the musical content of his playing and composing but is evident in his technical approach to the guitar; his attack, bravado and panache.

Although he is continually mis-quoting me, I seem to have upset Elliot by saying Django "..........wanted to play jazz more than anything else". But this is absolutely true. Everything I ever read about him conforms this. Listen to all his recorded output after the HCQ was formed and he could increasingly control his repertoire. How many gypsy/folk/waltz/musette tunes did he play? If he ever did play something that might have remotely come from any of those categories, he turned it into 4/4 swing jazz. The violinist he chose to play with could not have been less gypsy in his approach to the instrument.

It is important not to under-estimate the fact that Django was living near Paris in the early 30's and the influence that had on him. I feel the impact of the French scene at that time is continually overlooked. If he had been a gypsy living near any other city in the world, his playing would have exhibited far greater differences than had he been a non-gypsy living, as he did, around Paris. I do not believe anyone who listened to Django for the first time without knowing his history or background would get any sense of "gypsy" in his playing. The first major gypsy connection in the UK and elsewhere came when Ian Cruickshank (Gadjo's hero and mentor) appeared on the scene.
Gadjo wrote:Like Teddy I too look back fondly to an era of BMG magazines, Louis Gallo dealing Selmers for £250 and when maybe 20 people in this country new who Matelo Ferret .....
Ah yes! I remember it well.
Last edited by Teddy Dupont on Wed May 02, 2007 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Gadjo »

Ian Cruickshank (Gadjo's hero and mentor)..... :shock:
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Phydeaux3
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Post by Phydeaux3 »

I Kind of like 'French Jazz' as a term.
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Heretic
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Post by Heretic »

It's pathetic to try to pin this on the Yanks. Why is it that everybody assumes that each Yank is (or all Yanks are) a copy of what they don't like in George Bush?
Absurd, piffle, daft, great bosh.
Why continue to pick on Ian Cruickshank? Grow up. The man has contributed much to the proliferation of this genre of music, and deserves credit for it not continued scorn.
You can try to deconstruct whatever rubric you want to put on this music, but it's basically pointless.
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Teddy Dupont
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Post by Teddy Dupont »

Heretic wrote:It's pathetic to try to pin this on the Yanks. Why is it that everybody assumes that each Yank is (or all Yanks are) a copy of what they don't like in George Bush?
Absurd, piffle, daft, great bosh.
Why continue to pick on Ian Cruickshank? Grow up. The man has contributed much to the proliferation of this genre of music, and deserves credit for it not continued scorn.
You can try to deconstruct whatever rubric you want to put on this music, but it's basically pointless.
Thank you for your excellent, well reasoned response. A major contribution to the discussion.
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Caballero
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Post by Caballero »

I couldn't agree more, I think it's about time someone changed the subject.
Which brings me round to the question, did anyone catch Dr Who on Saturday? I didn't , because I was off playing to packed venues around the country with my bro' mofos. Luckily, my Wife recorded it for me and I must say, the 'Evolution of the Daleks' storyline had me riveted!
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Brett
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Post by Brett »

Caballero wrote:............... I think it's about time someone changed the subject.
What sort of moderating is that?
The first time for years we get an interesting discussion going, and you want to change the subject! :)
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Teddy Dupont
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Post by Teddy Dupont »

Brett wrote:
Caballero wrote:............... I think it's about time someone changed the subject.
What sort of moderating is that?
The first time for years we get an interesting discussion going, and you want to change the subject!
Ignore him. He is a well known buffoon who spends most of his time trying to work out the melody to "Minor Swing". We have to tolerate him because he is a "close friend" :roll: of the Webmaster. He was once also very close to the disgraced ex-BP Chief Executive, Lord Browne of Madingley. Apparently, they met whilst "jogging" on Clapham Common.
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Phydeaux3
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Post by Phydeaux3 »

I'm with Cabo on this. Doctor Who was fantastic. I'm intrigued by the possibility of another Timelord. However, with only one Dalek on the scene, this could put the writers into a bit of a corner. It would be great if someone with intelligence on this site could submit a story where the Doctor could go to 1930's-40's Paris in the search for the origins of how the term gypsy was incorporated with jazz. It could prove to be a long runner with the Doctor visiting different decades...... :D
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nwilkins
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Post by nwilkins »

interesting idea - the funny thing is that you know there probably is a guitar player out there called dalek weiss or dalek rosenberg.
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