Hello there folks, advanced warning, this post is likely going to upset and perhaps offend some (for which I apologize in advance), but I'm also fairly sure many will agree (And I sure hope they chime in about it)...
I'm writing to open a discussion about the infatuation with SPEED in Gypsy Jazz. I just returned from Django in June, and quite frankly, It seemed as though the many of the top players play with constant speed, foresaking melodic ideas that can be heard WITHOUT the 'amazing slow downer' software. In fact, I found the friday and saturday night shows mostly a LONG string of 32nd notes with the occasional oh so briefly sustained vibrato note (unless the songs tempo was super fast, in which they were 16th notes). It became quite monotonous to be frank (I won't name names, but I know I'm not the only person who felt this way). More often than not, Django used speed sparingly, and I wonder how often people are using speed because of it's musicality, and how often they use it out of some sense of bravado and status. As a result of this drive for more speed, songs that were originally played at about 180 - 200 bpms, are now being played at 280 to 300 bpm's and faster songs like Limehouse blues or sweet gerogia brown are being played at like 360 bpms. At those speeds, I find musicality is completely lost and often you can hardly hear the harmonic changes (unless you know the song well)
It's funny, because Sebastion Boyer said something to me in a rhythm 3 class about how, as soon as you accent the 2 and 4 too much, getting a "boom Chuck!" sound, you've effectively killed the swing. Of course, I held my tongue, because in my opinion, as soon as your tempo gets in the high 200 bpms/low 300bpms, you have also effectively killed the swing.
To illustrate, how about a review of the definition of swing - to move back and forth. The original popularity of swing music was fueled by how it made people want to DANCE. I guarantee you that if Django played a show (pre-bop) and nobody danced, he considered it a failure. These days it's the norm, and people would look at you funny if you got up and danced at a gypsy jazz show. Imagine how horrified someone from the 30's would be if they saw a swing show with the entire audience sitting!! Fact is, At 300 + bpms, it is qute impossible to dance in any other way than vibrating your body.
Basically, these days, gypsy jazz seems primarily geared towards other guitarists (primarily) and fiddlers/mando/accord/ players (to a lesser extent).
Jeff Radich said something in a lead 3 class that illustrated this point "Woman LOVE gypsy Jazz," he said, and then added "note my sarcastic tone"... Yes, as some of you have noticed, there are very FEW women interested in Gypsy Jazz, either to see it or to play it - (I think there were about 5-7 women at DIJ out of 120 participants- 2 guitar players a smattering of fiddlers and a singer/guitar player). As far as playing gypsy jazz, guitar has always been a boys club regardless of style so that is normal... but As far as watching it, I believe their lack of interest is due to the fact that we SIT. I noticed as I sat and watched the saturday night show, a woman in front of me was swaying her body back and forth to try and get a LITTLE bit of movement in; be truthful, how many of your girlfriends would be much more interested in Gypsy jazz if it meant they were going to get to dance ?
So now that I've outed myself as being bored of the speed, speed, and more speed, is there anyone else who wants for a return to musicality that can be heard by the "naked ear" ??
My other question is - Why the desire to play so fast ? Is speed the only way you feel challenged ? Is it the "final frontier" if you will ?