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[Controversial] Why is there not any great US guitarists?



  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    Hey Bones - have you happened to have read The Talent Code? (guessing you have - the 10,000 hour thing)? I love that book, got the recommendation from Adrian Holovaty (Thanks, Adrian!), really important stuff. If you did read it, how'd you like it?
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    hanear21 wrote:
    I agree, I think it mostly just comes down to lack of interest. Likewise, there are probably very few southern rock guitarists coming out of Europe :P

    Wait, wait just a second there, buster....are you trying to tell me Ronnie Van Zandt didn't come from the Netherlands?
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    Posts: 542
    Now I understand why the kids from Manoucheries are always fighting each other... It's because they always start this type of discussion!!! Nice to see everyone passionate and enthusiastic.

    Seriously I wouldn't worry too much about US GJ not being as much represented in the world top 10 players...
    Do you guys know any great bluegrass players from France? Well, that's the same: GJ is everywhere in France. Here, it's just a fraction of the mainstream jazz.
    So if only with Alfonso, HCSF, HC Detroit, Denis, Gonzalo (the lost fingers?)... Aaron Weintein, Evan Price... that's already a very good panel.
    The difficulty also lies in the fact that in a country that invented Jazz, Gypsy Jazz is "just another type of jazz", and has been incorporated and might not be played as "pure GJ". That's how you get musicians like Frank Vignola and O'Connor, or HC Cowtown.
    It's all to be seen with different perspective, but I think there are some pretty goo players here too... it's just that in Europe, they don't care about them...
    - JG
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 560
    Okay, so now that we've added the "fame" criteria to the discussion, I can get behind it a bit more. Gypsy Jazz is definitely not as popular in the US, it's true. Part of it is that there is a MASSIVE musical void in the popular music scene in the states right now. The pop music being played here is mostly complete garbage (more-so even than usual) and doesn't inspire one to open their horizons at all.

    one of my goals as a player is to combine DJango influences with folk/rock and so on. Kind of like Tom Waits without the gravely voice, and perhaps a bit less dark and foreboding.

    And yes, music is practically gone from the schools. Still, the guitar itself is VERY poopular among the younger generation.

    All that said, I teach guitar full time and it is one of my goals to turn the kids on to Django (as I said already)... I'm happy to report that 4 of my students are learning minor swing, and exhibiting some decent early signs of good pompe' .

    Cheers, and see you at Django in June !
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,785
    Hey Paul,

    No not yet but I've been meaning to read it. Heard a lot about it.

    Thanks for reminder...
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    edited March 2013 Posts: 2,072
    well, it's fine that some people don't like me. I stopped trying to be a "hotshot" GJ player maybe in 2006 or 2007, when my priorities sort of shifted; I decided I just wanted to have a life to enjoy and to be able to travel since my family and friends are scattered all over the planet. I also have so much fun in playing just rhythm guitar. I never really promoted myself as a lead player; although I do have my own band and play all over Canada.

    I am not saying I could have been as good as him, but someone who went the opposite direction would be Gonzalo who dedicated himself hundred percent to developing himself as a musician/leader; i've known him for almost 10 yrs now , and the transformation is truly incredible... Anyway everyone has their own journey in life...

    However, I'd like to say that there's a lot of misinformation in this thread , too much that I wouldn't go into detail on every aspect but at the risk of sounding cocky, there are not many non-gypsy players out there who speak both fluent english and french (and some german) who know both the European and the North American scene and who is friends with Sinti musicians (famous and non-famous alike, heck even non-musician gypsies) from the 4 major countries (France, Germany, Belgium, and Holland); I might actually be the only one. Again at the risk of sounding cocky, I know the GJ world VERY freakin well.. There are other non-gypsy musicians , of course, who have ties to the sinti world but usually in their respective areas due to languiage barriers.

    I would like to point out a few things: the myth that gypsies start super young and have the best instruction possible... That's actually not true; believe it or not, for the past maybe 30 years, GJ has been considered old people music among the gypsies; they're usually more into video games, rap, RnB, dancing, etc... When they do pick up instruments, it's not always easy to learn either, because they don't have access to actual formal instruction, they usually have to develop strong observation / listening skills in order to learn. Of course, having uncles/cousins who play creates the perfect learning environment, but it's not as easy as one might think... A lot of the players also start fairly late; around 12-16... I can name 3 famous players that started around 14-15... I know one famous rhythm player who started to play the guitar at age 26!!!

    as for the criteria of being good enough to play in Paris ie L'atelier Charonne, like I said, I've actualyl been offered to play there with one of my friends... I've played all the major clubs/bars in Paris where GJ is featured; heck I've even hosted a jam session at the famous Locadiera (tuesday night paris jams). The ability to play in a club / festival is not necessarily about talent, it's about connections (although talent does play a role)...

    As far as North America is concerned, there are a number of points to be made... One of the major point would be the fact that GJ isn't well known here, even among jazz communities. Compared to Europe, no one really cares about Bireli or Stochelo; sad but true. So the learning environment is a bit more difficult. There are gypsies living in America as well, and their version of GJ is not the same as the one we hear in say Paris... So it's not all in the blood.. The fact is the people that carried on the GJ flame (as we know it) are the Sinti living in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. That's the original source, so obviously, people close to the source are more likely to play the style "authentically" (i'm careful to put in quotation marks there!) than others.. What I would mean by authentic would be the rhythm guitar styles... Funnily enough, some of the musicians ctied by redblues do not actually play "authentic" gypsy rhythm despite claims... This is where i'll admit being really cocky, as rhythm guitar is the one thing i am extremely confident about and have spent YEARS studying and observing...

    As someone else mentioned, how many famous German/French bluegrass players can you think of? The environment plays a big role.

    That's not to say there aren't any good North American players; the best ones i've seen are the ones who attended the festivals. There are some good players but they're not famous... But then again lots of Parisian players aren't famous either...

    To answer Passacaglia's question about community ; it's a bit different in France, they're known to be more open to arguments and flame wars... In Paris alone, there are different cliques (reminds me of high school!). I know of one famous player who once trashed another famous player (actually I know a lot of stories)... Paris is quite cut throat... Maybe that's why they're so good, the competition and jealousy pushes them to become better players... THat's not to say there isn't any kind of camaderie, there defintiely is, but all within the different cliques.

    And then you have the gypsies themselves outside of Paris. They have a much different culture than the Paris scene; i find it to be a much more friendly and welcoming environment, personally.

    Anyway in North American, another difficult thing is the idea of touring; it's already hard to sell a gypsy jazz show but the idea of touring the continent (USA and Canada) is made even more difficult by the fact that we're talking about two HUGE countries where art doesn't sell as well as in Europe... In Europe you can drive many hours and reach so many differnet countries with strong music scenes and festivals. It's harder to have a career playing GJ here even if your name is Adrien Moignard; I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's much more difficult.. canada is even worse, because Air Canada pretty much has the monopoly on flights and VIA rail has the monopoly on trains, they both charge ridiculous fees. For 50 euros, one can fly from Paris to Toulouse for example. In Canada, to fly 500km (that's 300 miles) you're expected to shell out a couple of hundred dollars depending on the season. For a full band, that starts to get expensive. Nonetheless, I have managed to do a number of tours in Canada. Guys like Kruno Spisic (Croatian/Canadian now living in the USA) doesn't care to have a career in GJ, and makes a living as a sound engineer.

    Flying into the US from Canada is even more complicated; I've traveled all over the US as well to play festivals and they usually set me up with local players which makes it very difficult to rehearse properly and play the music that I usually like to play with the same arrangements and feeling as my normal band. Not saying that the local players are bad, but I've worked a long time with my musicians to get them to play the way I want it. There's just not enough time or money to do that properly with every pick-up band.

    Gonzalo pretty much always plays with his own band, I'm not exactly sure he manages that, but I know (hope he doesn't mind me revealing it) that he took a financial hit when he played Samois just so that he can play with his own band; i think he did the right thing, playing with the right musicians really makes a huge difference on how one perceives a musician. I've been invited to play Djangofest this year as a soloist, and I'm thinking of doing like gonzalo and just bringing at least my bassist over and maybe more...

    Anyway, enough talk...

    btw if anyone wants to hear my actual music: ... permPage=1 ... permPage=1 ... tif_t=like ... permPage=1 ... permPage=1

    One last thing, again, it's totally cool that redblues thinks I suck (he's probably right) but I have always been well received by my Gypsy friends, and these friends are Stochelo and his family (musicians and non-musicians alike), Hono Winterstein, Yorgui Loeffler, Dorado Schmitt and his family , Wawau Adler, and many others.. When I visit them, they have always been so welcoming organizing lavish parties/feasts just for me (and my friends who accompany me)... Dorado himself went out of his way to get me a hotel just so my friends and I could spend more time with him and his kids... Dorado even invited me to play with him on stage, and also gave me his guitar! Stochelo told Samson Schmitt to look me up when Samson told him he would be playing Montreal, and we've been good friends since. Wawau has also asked me to be his rhythm player (but I don't want to move to Europe at the moment). Anyway, I'm not trying to prove myself to anyone but I certainly am thankful to be welcomed by my idols
  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    edited March 2013 Posts: 349
    I listen to Jazz all day at work and usually have it on the GJ channel. I'm no expert, but whenever I hear something that sounds good I click to see who's playing and it's usually the American group, Pearl Django! Those guys have done some amazing stuff over the years and are one of the best groups IMHO. I think the whole Gypsy stigma is a hard one for US players to make much headway as far as competing goes; it's kind of a pointless exercise. Racial and ethnic stereotypes in music (or anywhere else) can be a slippery slope. Like the over abundance of embarassing middle aged, white dudes belting out da blues on screaming strats and harmonicas (even though some can be suprisingly good). Frank Vignola, Martin Taylor, Whit Smith and Adrian have the right idea: Just play good guitar music and adopt as much of the style, technique and tone from this stuff as you see fit, unless you're afraid of breaking some vague GJ "rules". Use the guitars if you like 'em and if they sound and feel right. It's all good. It's a two way street. There's a lot to be learned on both sides of the ditch. The Europeans have certainly taken on board a lot of stuff from US blues, jazz and country players over the years... from Chet Atkins, James Burton and Albert Lee to Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Christian, Barney Kessel and George Benson... and all points in between.
    Swang on,
  • Joli GadjoJoli Gadjo Cardiff, UK✭✭✭✭ Derecho, Bumgarner - VSOP, AJL
    Posts: 542
    Yep, it's all relative. From our own point of view of Djangomaniacs, we don't realize how little this is for the outside world.

    PS: We love you Mich Mich!
    - JG
  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    edited March 2013 Posts: 763
    When I was a kid, best Swiss tennis player ever was Heinz Günthardt. Give it some time! :D

    Denis your originals are soooo good, Dorado particularly. And great playing too: bravo!
  • new mexico (current)✭✭
    Posts: 91
    I tend to click on the gear posts, and the posts where there is a lot of activity...I saw this one last night but resisted the urge to click...I think the title already alludes to the stupidity of the original post/debate. When I see people I know and care about being judged or bashed (to me these are one and the same) I have a difficult time keeping quiet. In my short time around this community there has been no one person more helpful, knowledgable, willing, or skilled than Denis. Last year he baby sat me at Samois when I knew nobody (& he being a cornerstone in the worldwide gypsy scene knows and is received by pretty much everybody..go ahead & name a name namedropper:) For me an artist is one who enhances the lives they come in contact musicians chops and such are important, but there is a reason that most of the sensitive women I know are bored at a "gypsy jazz"'s more than dick wagging chops that connects people...If that is the criteria used to judge a musicians worth good luck intersecting what it is you think any great artist is including...Django.
    THese sort of foolish debates suck & I myself am too weak to keep out of it.
    Denis, It makes me sad that you had to speak up for''s not fair and you don't deserve that from a person claiming to be part of a community that you have dedicated your adult life to helping support.

    PS:How about a new criteria?? your not allowed to talk about any player that you don't personally know or haven't personally played with. (Jumping in a jam uninvited to bash out all of me doesn't equate to playing with someone)
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