Why isn't Bireli famous in the US?



  • trumbologytrumbology San FranciscoNew
    Posts: 124 Berklee pretty much everyone wanted to be Pat Metheny, John Scofield, or Mike Stern. A couple of guys were more old school and liked Wes. And a few where into a John McLaughlin world music sort of thing. As far as I know, no one wanted to be Bireli. Sure, some people knew that there was this Gypsy child prodigy that played like Django. But it seemed to end there.

    That was then. Since then, this guy Michael has opened up this Django site on that crazy Internet, and Gypsy jazz has exploded in the US. We need some first-hand reporting from Berklee, 2005.
    The fact that he could out do Mike Stern on a Strat is besides the point...

    See, that's where it starts to get really subjective...I ended up selling all my Mike Stern CDs after a few years because they didn't hold my attention either. Being able to out-Stern Mike Stern doesn't mean much (though I dig Stern's playing on "We Want Miles"--love that record, go figure...)
    Nevertheless, Bireli seems to be keeping a really diverse performance schedule. His upcoming CD with Joey Defrancesco tells us that he's doing a lot more then Django these days. But is anybody listening?

    I admit it; I'm not checking him out like I should. I owned the live Italian Jaco-Birelli album years ago (another one I sold off--I'm so dang fickle), and Birelli's electric playing, at the time, didn't do anything for me. So, my judgements formed, my mind closed, and I've been missing out on Birelli ever since. So you'll have to keep evangelizing for Birelli from the Djangobooks pulpit, and maybe some of us thick-headed ones will stop sleeping on Birelli.


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,868
    I'm pretty sure there still isn't much interest in Django at Berklee. Probably a little more then there used to be. John McGann does some Django mandolin stuff there. And Matt Glaser teaches Swing fiddle. Wrembel was there for a while...but on the whole my guess is that it's a persecuted subculture.

    Take a look:


    Not too many hits from's not even one of the top 10 states! It got beat by Maryland, Texas, and a bunch of lumber jacks from Oregon (just kidding guys...ha ha)

  • kidtulsakidtulsa New
    Posts: 61
    The proper term, Michael, is "Wood Products Technician". Geez, get it right!
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,868
    Well, there's no lack of Wood Products Technicians in Washington State either! ha ha

  • SorefSoref Brookline, MA✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2007 Posts: 94
    Hi, I've been studying at Berklee for the last two and a half years or so. The django scene is sparse here, but it is growing. As of this-coming semester there is a Django ensemble headed by John Mcgann, so an interest in the music is being displayed.

    As far as Berklee kids being aware of Bireli... I don't think it's changed dramatically in all those years. Within the guitar department there are some students who know about him. The guys I'd talked to mostly knew his standards stuff, or his trio with Dennis Chambers. However, everyone who I've played recordings for have flipped when they hear him, guitarist or not. My first semester room-mate is still haunted by the image of a twelve-year-old Bireli playing the bass solo to All of Me on "Routes to Django". Now he's playing bass with Ameranouche, and knows the style up and down (my room-mate that is). Still I think Sco, Metheny and the rest and the others named above are still the kings here.

    We do have the Violinist Aaron Weinstein, who's played a lot with Les Paul and Bucky Pizzarelli. I think he played Samois '04 (I missed that year). Dennis Chang said he might be attending Berklee, which would be a great step forward for the Django scene both at Berklee and in Boston.
    Sorry for such a long post.

    -"The other Jack"
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911

    Good to see you here; I think you were off in the woods when I left a few weekends back, but I wanted to tell you that you guys sounded really good. Drop a line if you're heading west sometime; in the meantime, keep carrying the torch for us at Berklee.

  • jmcgannjmcgann Boston MA USANew
    Posts: 134
    At Berklee, I am teaching Django Guitar styles Lab (2 hrs. a week) to a class of 8, and starting a Django/Gypsy Jazz Ensemble in January. To my knowledge, there is not one guitarist at Berklee who would be considered a strong Django style player as would be recognized by the International Comittee For The Elimination of Upstrokes On A String Change...however, there are some excellent all-around players who are into soaking up the music on their own terms- which means I am raising a bunch of mongrels who will further pollute the pool of purity :twisted:

    Seriously, my job is to teach and expose people to the style, to lead them to the water. I don't expect them to be like Stephane Wrembel and drop everything else that they play in order to become "authentic" Gypsy style players, so as far as guitar playing goes, it is probably "all wrong" by strict standards, but as far as enhancing their awareness and musicianship, I'm probably doing an OK job. At least two of them have acquired Selmer style guitars; but many of them stick with those durned "heavy" picks (a regular heavy= Gypsy Ultrathin, and not ribbed for her pleasure, either).

    When I have played the Bireli DVD and Gypsy Project CDs, they dig it (although I usually have to actually point out the humor in, say, Place de Broukere, although it is plain as the balls on a tall dog to me) but most have not heard of him. Realize (gasp) his fusion heyday was 15 years ago, and these are 18-22 year old students, so they are more familiar with Sco than Bireli. Again, I really enjoy the privledge of exposing them to the Django Family, although we spend 95% of the time with Django rather than the contemporary players,(as Cannonball might have said) for reasons of soul and roots.

    I've never heard Django play a note without commitment.
  • plankityplankity CTNew
    Posts: 105
    I have the unique priviledge of knowing one of the founders of the National Guitar Workshops here in New England and I have been very persistent in trying to get some type of Gypsyswing on their jazz seminar offering.

    [ crickets chirping]

    But seriously, in August I gave him a dub of a live Joscho Stephan Trio disc that I don't think is available commercially (I got it direct from Joscho in NYC and it was the last one he had). I happened to see the NGW guy at a party last weekend and he said he put a couple tracks on a disc being compiled for "what's new in guitar" amongst his contacts and got very positive reaction to it.

    So we can only hope - Joscho has excellent English speaking skills which would make him a stronger candidate for something like the workshops.

    Not that we want schools churning out Django clones...

  • and also, even though Bireli isn't directly popular, he is rather infamous in that if you were to have him at a Djangofest he would probably draw a crowd harder than pretty much anyone... that says something doesn't it?
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,868
    it'd be great to have him at the DjangoFest...problem is he's just too expensive. I've heard he has a min. of 8K per show!!!!
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