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Gypsy jazz (also known as gypsy swing or hot club jazz) is a style of jazz developed by the Romani guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt in Paris during the 1930s. Because its origins are in France, and Reinhardt was from the Manouche Sinti clan, gypsy jazz is often called by the French name "jazz manouche", or alternatively, "manouche jazz" in English language sources.
Django Reinhardt was foremost among a group of Romani guitarists working in Paris from the 1930s to the 1950s. The group included the brothers Baro, Sarane, and Matelo Ferret and Reinhardt's brother Joseph "Nin-Nin" Reinhardt.
Many gypsy jazz musicians worked in Paris in popular musette ensembles in which the lead instrument was typically the accordion with banjo accompaniment, the latter played with a plectrum for volume. Elements of both instruments appear in the "gypsy jazz" sound, with arpeggios and decorations typical of accordionists transferred to the guitar, and a right hand attack applied to the lead acoustic guitar to achieve maximum volume in an era of little or no electric amplification. Other elements of the ensemble sound included the use of stringed instruments only, which was unusual for its day.
The absence of brass lead instruments and drums was a novelty in the jazz context (where horn sections and horn soloists were common), as well as the use of the double bass, which had taken over from the sousaphone to play bass lines. The absence of drums was compensated for by a highly rhythmic style of guitar accompaniment called "la pompe" ("the pump") which supplied both rhythm and harmonic structure for the soloists. Gypsy jazz can be performed on guitars alone with or without double bass. But in the Quintette du Hot Club de France, solo work alternated between Reinhardt on guitar and jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Later versions of the Quintette featured clarinet or saxophone as alternate lead instruments to the guitar, and these are sometimes featured in contemporary gypsy jazz ensembles in place of the violin, although obviously departing from the "all-strings" format.
Gypsy jazz has been called gypsy swing to refer to music influenced more by jazz than the swing or hot club style started by Reinhardt. After hearing ragtime and Dixieland music, Reinhardt listened to Duke Ellington, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, and especially Louis Armstrong via the record collection of painter Émile Savitry in Toulon, France, in 1931. After Reinhardt met violinist Stéphane Grappelli, they played together informally when they were not playing dance music with a small orchestra at the Hôtel Claridge in Paris during the summer of 1934. According to an account in a book by Michael Dregni, Grappelli played a chorus, then Reinhardt began to improvise. Sometimes they were accompanied on double bass by Louis Vola, the band's leader, and on rhythm guitar by Reinhardt's brother Joseph. This was the core of Reinardt's band. The addition of Roger Chaput on rhythm guitar made it the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
This classic lineup, with occasional changes in membership on double bass and rhythm guitar, entered the recording studio later that year. They recorded extensively until the outbreak of war in 1939 when the Quintette was on tour in England. Reinhardt returned to Paris while Grappelli remained in London for the duration of the war. After the war, they reunited in London and recorded with an English rhythm section. The days of the "hot club" sound were over, as both men had pursued independent musical paths. Reinhardt had moved to an electric guitar sound influenced by bebop. His sons, Lousson and Babik, played in a style influenced by American jazz. The classic gypsy swing style (acoustic, all strings, no drums) was conserved among gypsies in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands as a folk style in homage to Django Reinhardt. This style appeared again during the 1960s in the German band Schnuckenack Reinhardt and beginning in the 1970s in the music of Belgian group Waso and guitarist Fapy Lafertin, French musician Raphaël Faÿs, Dutch guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg, and Alsatian guitarist Biréli Lagrène. It can be seen in the Ferré (a.k.a. Ferret) family. Matelo Ferret and his brother Baro had played with Reinhardt. Matelo's sons Boulou and Elios Ferré are also musicians in the gypsy jazz tradition.
After years of playing cafe-style jazz with a pianist and conventional rhythm section, violinist Grappelli started playing in 1973 with the support of acoustic guitars and double bass at the instigation of Diz Dizley. Grappelli's popularity sparked an interest in gypsy jazz among musicians who were too young to have experienced the prewar Quintette of Django Reinhardt. Starting in the 1930s, the Quintette inspired imitators, such as the 1939 recordings by Svenska Hotkvintetten in Sweden. In the 2010s, as in the past, the gypsy jazz style is passed on from one generation to the next in gypsy communities, children learning from their relatives at an early age, able to master the basics almost before they can hold a normal-sized guitar in their hands.
Instrumentation and lineup
The Quintette du Hot Club de France played acoustically without a drummer, facilitating the use of the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument. Guitar and violin are still the main solo instruments, although clarinet, saxophone, mandolin, and accordion are sometimes used. The rhythm guitar is played using a distinct percussive technique, "la pompe", which essentially replaces the drums. Most gypsy jazz guitarists, lead and rhythm, play a version of the Selmer-Maccaferri guitar design favored by Reinhardt. Ensembles aim for an acoustic sound even when playing amplified concerts, and informal jam sessions in small venues such as the annual Django Reinhardt festival at Samois-sur-Seine are part of the scene.
Reinhardt and his band used a range of guitar models available in France, but dominant among them was the Selmer guitar (a.k.a. Selmer-Maccaferri or Maccaferri guitar) designed and signed by Mario Maccaferri; Maccaferri parted company with Selmer in 1933 and later models were just known as "Selmer". These guitars were made in two first versions, the earliest with a large "D" shaped sound hole, and later models with a smaller "O" shaped sound hole. The later models are considered most suited to lead guitar playing. In the 2010s, designs based on this model are popular enough to be marketed as "gypsy jazz guitars" and are the guitars of choice for most practitioners of the style on account of their responsiveness and particular tonal characteristics.
The double bass is the low-pitched instrument in gypsy jazz. The bass is mostly used for a rhythm section, accompaniment role, playing walking basslines, "two-feel" parts where the root and the fifth (or sometimes another chord tone) are played as quarter notes on the first and third beats, respectively, and for ballads, a mix of whole notes and half notes. It is mostly plucked with the fingers, but on some songs, the bow is used, either for stacatto roots and fifths in "two-feel" or, on a ballad, for sustained low notes. On some songs, bass players may be given an improvised solo. Some gypsy jazz bass players strike the fingerboard with the fingers between plucked notes, creating a perrcussive style called slap bass (this is different from the 1970s bass guitar style of the same name).
In Eastern European gypsy music (which may sometimes include a jazz element), the rhythm section is most likely covered by one or two cymbaloms, or (less frequently) a cymbalom and/or drums and an acoustic guitar (the cymbalom accompaniment technique is called in Romanian "ţiitură"). A double bass fills out these Eastern European ensembles.
Rhythm guitar in gypsy jazz uses a special form of strumming known as "la pompe", i.e. "the pump". This form of percussive rhythm is similar to the "boom-chick" in bluegrass styles; it is what gives the music its fast swinging feeling, and it most often emphasizes beats two and four; a vital feature of swing. The strumming hand, which never touches the top of the guitar, must make a quick up-down strum followed by a down strum. The up-down part of la pompe must be done extremely fast, regardless of the tempo of the music. It is very similar to a grace note in classical music, albeit an entire chord is used. This pattern is usually played in unison by two or more guitarists in the rhythm section.
Another important aspect of this style of playing is based on the chord shapes Django was forced to use due to his injury. Standard barre chords are not as common in gypsy jazz. Standard major and minor chords are almost never played, and are instead replaced by major 7th chords, major 6th chords, and 6/9 chords. Gypsy reharmonisation is often aimed at giving a minor feel even where a song is in a major key, for instance the substitution of a minor 6th chord for a dominant seventh. Dominant seventh chords are also altered by lowering the 9th and 13th scale degree.
Lead playing in this style has been summarised as ornamented or decorated arpeggio. Decorations often introduce chromaticism—for instance, mordents and trills. Particularly characteristic is a figure where successive notes of an arpeggio are each preceded by an appoggiatura-like grace note one semitone below. Other decorations include tremolo and string bends on the guitar, staccato (or pizzicato on the violin), ghost notes, harmonics, octaves, double stops etc.
Arpeggios on the guitar are typically executed as patterns running diagonally from the lower frets on the lower strings to the upper frets on the upper strings. Such patterns tend to have no more than two stopped notes per string, relating to the fact that Django could only articulate two fingers on his fretting hand.
Chromatic runs are often executed very quickly over more than one octave. A particularly characteristic technique is the glissando, in which the guitar player slides a finger along a string, with a precisely timed tremolo picking out individual notes, in order to get a fast, virtuosic sound. Diminished runs, in which the shape of a diminished seventh chord is played in all inversions, one after the other, is another widespread gypsy jazz technique. Diminished 7th arpeggios are also used over dominant 7th chords. (Example: If an A7 is being played, a diminished run starting on C# would be played, creating an A7b9 sound over the dominant chord.) Guitarists often intersperse melodic playing with flamenco-esque percussive series of chords to create a varied solo.
The plectrum technique of gypsy jazz has been described as similar to economy picking. Notes on the same string are played alternately, but when moving from string to string, the traditional technique is to use a down stroke. For instance, on switching from the G to the B string, the plectrum will move in the same direction and come to rest on the E string. The down stroke is preferred because of volume and tone. While this technique of doubling down strokes varies among players, Stochelo Rosenberg's technique is a prime example.
Gypsy jazz has its own set of frequently played standards, which are fairly distinct from the standards tunes of mainstream jazz. However, contemporary ensembles may adapt almost any type of song to the style. Gypsy swing standards include jazz hits of the '20s and '30s, such as "Limehouse Blues", and "Dinah"; Bal Musette numbers, often waltzes; original compositions by Django Reinhardt, such as "Nuages" and "Swing 42"; compositions by other notable gypsy swing players; and jazzed-up versions of gypsy songs, such as "Dark Eyes". Much of the repertoire is in minor keys, and the dorian and harmonic minor modes are frequently heard, lending a distinctively dark and modal sound to the tunes which contrasts with the uptempo and spirited performance style. One popular example is Django's tune "Minor Swing", perhaps the most well-known gypsy jazz composition. Slower ballads and duets may feature rubato playing and exotic harmonies.
Teaching and learning
The first generations of gypsy jazz musicians learned the style by the 'gypsy method', involving intense practice, direct imitation of older musicians (often family members) and playing and learning "by ear", with little formal musical study (or, indeed, formal education of any kind). Since about the late 1970s, study materials of a more conventional kind such as workshops, etude and method books and videos have become available, allowing musicians worldwide to learn the style and its idiomatic ornaments and musical language. As well, fake books containing lead sheets with the chord progression and melodies of gypsy jazz standards have become available, both in book form and on websites, with the latter being sometimes only the chords. Fake books make it easier to learn songs, because you do not need to be able to figure out the chords and melodies by ear.
Since the 1990s, software such as Power Tab Editor and Band-in-a-Box files have become available. Prominent gypsy-style guitarists who are not ethnically Roma include John Jorgenson, Andreas Öberg, Frank Vignola, George Cole. Touring gypsy jazz musicians often include workshops with performances. Players who have written study guides include Martin Norgarrd, Tim Kliphuis, Andreas Öberg, Ian Cruickshank, Robin Nolan, Denis Chang, Michael Horowitz, Daniel Givone and Patrick "Romane" Leguidcoq.
The largest audiences and highest number of musicians are still found in Europe as this is where the style originates. Contemporary gypsy jazz musicians include Gonzalo Bergara, George Cole, Angelo Debarre, Pearl Django, John Jorgenson, Tim Kliphuis, Biréli Lagrène, Robin Nolan, Stochelo Rosenberg, Paulus Schäfer, Joscho Stephan, and Frank Vignola.
In Canada, gypsy jazz bands include Denis Chang, Justin Duhaime's Gypsy Muse, Gypsophilia, Mishra's Dream, The Lost Fingers, Django Libre and Les Petits Nouveaux. Christine Tassan et les Imposteures is a Gypsy Manouche jazz band founded in 2003 in Montreal. For several years it was an entirely feminine quartet. It still includes four musicians around lead guitarist and lead singer Christine Tassan. [circular reference]
Contemporary Manouche instrumentalists in the Django Reinhardt and Jazz Hot Tradition, as heard annually at the Festival Django Reinhardt at Samois-sur-Seine, France, include Django's grandson David Reinhardt, Dorado Schmitt, Tchavolo Schmitt, Jon Larsen, Angelo Debarre, Babik Reinhardt, John Jorgenson, Samson Schmitt, Stephane Wrembel, Biréli Lagrène and Florin Niculescu. Former regulars also included the late Mondine Garcia and Didi Duprat. Jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimée has roots based in gypsy jazz. French jazz vocalist Tatiana Eva-Marie performs gypsy-jazz music combined with swing music in Brooklyn, New York.
Violinist George Curmi l-Puse along with accordionist Yuri Charyguine, guitarists Joshua Bray and Steve Delia d-Delli, and bassist Anthony Saliba l-Fesu created the Hot Club Of Valletta in 2014. They have played gigs in and around Valletta into 2015, sometimes referring to the music they play as jazz manouche.
Dutch Sinti guitar players of gypsy jazz employ a style of singing and tone, vibrato, and melodic improvisation, known as the Dutch school of Gypsy Jazz.
Gypsy jazz came into prominence in Romania around 1980 by means of the pop-folk subgenre known as muzică bănăţeană (i.e. music in the Banat style), still practised to date. It has a different approach to lăutari (gypsy folk) music. In muzica bănăţeană, some traditional instruments (kobza, cimbalom) are replaced by electric guitars and synthesizers, while others are kept (fiddle, accordion, alto saxophone, taragot), thus creating an eclectic type of sound (beside the unexpected timbre combinations, contrasting textures from these instruments are also featured.) The repertoire mixes together café concert, old-school jazz standards, folk and pop-folk music. The Western manouche style is reinterpreted mostly through the sârbă rhythm, actually very close to it, but syncopated differently in lead instruments. Throughout the years, muzica bănăţeană has gradually become fond of the manea rhythm, which sounds more like the twist when played in the Banat style; however the swung sârbă was not abandoned.
Muzica bănăţeană was politically censored throughout the 1980, so that only bootleg recordings survive of those years. According to the Romanian Ministry of Culture, the reason for banning it was its impure nature, threatening the national folk music. However, other lăutari music was widely recorded and performed in Communist Romania. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, numerous musicians who were not previously permitted to record on the national record label Electrecord, saw their debuts released; but that eclectic characteristic of Romanian gypsy music changed into what is now called "manele" – a music that is not entirely from gypsy folk origin, nor is it jazz or another defined genre. There are many manele performers creating hybrid genres mixing different notes and rhythms.
Damian Draghici, born in Bucharest in 1970, is a player of the Romanian pan pipes. In 2006, Draghici formed the band "Damian & Brothers – Filarmonika Rromanes". On 20 March 2009, he was designated by the President of Romania as Romania's Ambassador for the Roma minority in the European Year of Equal Opportunities for all. On December 17, 2009, after 3 years and 600 concerts in Europe, Damian and Brothers held their last concert in Bucharest in front of an audience of 4000.
There is a yearly Django festival in Norway and Jon Larsen's Hot Club de Norvège is based there. Gypsy guitarists Andreas Öberg and Gustav Lundgren are based in Sweden. Gypsy guitar builder Ari-Jukka Luomaranta (AJL-Guitars) is based in Finland and runs his own group Hot club de Finlande, performing with soloists from Europe.
Since the 2010s, Gypsy Jazz has been growing very fast in Spain with guitarists as Biel Ballester, Albert Bello and David Regueiro. There is also a yearly Django festival: Festival Django L'H.
"Django in June" is a weeklong gypsy jazz music camp ("Django Camp"), with weekend clinics and concerts. Inaugurated in 2004, the event is held on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts offers a gypsy jazz ensemble instructed by Jason Anick, the leader of the Rhythm Future Quartet. DjangoFest NW is held each September at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, Washington, which typically features such performers as John Jorgenson, The Rosenberg Trio, Dan Hicks, and Pearl Django. In conjunction with the first DjangoFest event, Jazz Gitan guitarist Don Price started the first American Gypsy Jazz Guitar Group to facilitate the popularity and spread of this style in the United States. Every year, in August, New York's Lincoln Center holds a concert at Rose Hall, and the jazz club Birdland in New York holds a weeklong gypsy jazz concert series in June and November.
In Minnesota, guitarist and composer Reynold Philipsek performs gypsy jazz as a solo musician and with Minnesota gypsy jazz acts East Side, The Twin Cities Hot Club, and Sidewalk Café. Also in the Twin Cities area, the singer Connie Evingson has recorded three manouche albums: "Gypsy in My Soul" (2004) with Pearl Django, the Clearwater Hot Club, and Parisota Hot Club, "Stockholm Sweetnin'" (2006) with The Hot Club of Sweden, and "All the Cats Join In" (2014) with the John Jorgenson Quintet. George Cole and his group Vive Le Jazz have been touring nationally, most recently playing at Carnegie Hall in 2008. His gypsy jazz inspired music was chosen for a Grammy's showcase. He plays an original Selmer 520 that Django Reinhardt used on tour in France in the 1940s.
In Brooklyn, New York, musicians from France including vocalist Tatiana Eva-Marie of the Avalon Jazz Band have been performing a gypsy-jazz mixed with American swing.
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Entertainer of the Week is Tatiana Eva-Marie...included in Vanity Fair's list of rising jazz stars...lead singer of the Gypsy-French Avalon Jazz Band...influences of Gypsy and Eastern European folklore...with violinist Adrien Chevalier...we opened for Norah Jones
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- Romane and Derek Sebastian (2004): L'Esprit Manouche: A Comprehensive Study of Gypsy Jazz Guitar. Pacific, Missouri: Mel Bay. ISBN 978-0786668946
- Media related to Gypsy jazz at Wikimedia Commons
Those informations are also available in French with French specialized site on Gispy Jazz