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Vous aimez le jazz manouche ? A Closer Look at Today's French Jazz Manouche Scene

DjangoBooksDjangoBooks Seattle✭✭✭ All of them!
edited June 2015 in Europe Posts: 392
imageVous aimez le jazz manouche ? A Closer Look at Today’s French Jazz Manouche Scene

By Michel Mercier The jazz manouche scene in France has evolved tremendously over the past 15 years. Until the early 2000’s, the jazz manouche scene was comprised of a small, tight-knit community. Several factors then merged together and gave birth to a real trend: the release of Woody...

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  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited April 2014 Posts: 5,761
    This is the first installment in a series of Gypsy jazz articles that will be posted on the DjangoBooks blog. Our French correspondent, Michel "Mitch" Mercier, provided this wonderful overview of the current scene in France. Look forward to more from Michel as well as other guest authors.
    Jazzaferri
  • Matt MitchellMatt Mitchell ✭✭✭
    Posts: 44
    damn, I wore a hat to my Gj gig yesterday, ha.
    great article, thanks
  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 158
  • Great article! I never heard of RP Quartet before it was quite a discovery for me this blokes play great! thanks and cheers from Australia!
  • JSantaJSanta MD✭✭✭ Altamira M01
    Posts: 112
    Great article! Looking forward to the rest of the series.
  • andreandre
    Posts: 13
    Hiya folks.. I thought Id like to put my (hopefully reassuring) penn'orth in, in the light of the writer's comments about 'Gadjo-chapeaux', and so on...
    Manouche culture has a huge tradition of respect , even veneration, for the past, their past, which I should imagine they mostly picture to themselves in the name and image of Django Reinhardt - I'm mainly referring to the musicians here, of course - which is to say a very large percentage of the entire Manouche community!
    They themselves are no strangers to imitation - they tend to adopt the clothing styles, physical appearance *fine moustaches, etc...), and even guitar licks - of the past - again, as exemplified by Django.
    There is even a schism forming within their own ranks between those who like to innovate the music, mixing it with more contemporary styles - Rap, etc... and those who wish to keep it pretty much as it has always been played (by Django, natch...). Much as there was between the traditional Flamencos, and the innovators following where Paco De Lucia led...
    Whiuch is a trifle ironic, since Django himself created 'his' music by fusing traditional Gypsy, and other European traditional music, with the 'Jazz' that was newly emerging from across the ocean. But that is the subject of separate discussions.
    I do not believe Manouche musicians object to 'Gadjes' borrowing ther music, and helping them to propagate (and sell) it throughout the world.
    All they ask is that it should be respected. And that people, gypsies and non-gypsies alike, do their level best to play it properly.
    The article mentions'suspect' right hand techniques - but ask yourself this: would Django have played it exactly the same if he had other means at his diposal (ie amplification) to make himself heard above the band (when he was laying down the roots of his prodigious technique? Perhaps - and then again, perhaps not.
    Would the spirit, the 'Duende', if you will, of his music been the same. I'd say it would be a pretty safe bet that it would.
    And that is what we should all strive to keep alive.

    Andre
    MattHenry
  • MacKeaganMacKeagan
    Posts: 51
    Well said, Andre! Whether it is considered "old-fashioned", or "moldy" or whatever, the music in its' traditional form is what appeals to me. Many of the best modern performers manage to capture that feeling without directly copying, and still they are keeping it fresh. I think it is not bad to try mixing in elements from today's styles, as long as the result is musical and works fairly well. But for some of us, I think the reason the old styles appeal is precisely because they are not modern--we are dissatisfied with whiny-voiced singers, electronic disco-beats, and barely-coherent rapsters. Besides which, how does one dance the Lindy to hip-hop?
    On a positive note, I am pleased to hear bands like Fishtank Ensemble mix GJ sounds with "real" old-style flamenco and gypsy music.
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,020
    "There is even a schism forming within their [gypsy] own ranks between those who like to innovate the music, mixing it with more contemporary styles "

    i'm not sure i agree with that, for the most part gypsies (as far as the Sinti are concerned) play music for the pure love of it first and foremost, usually because that's what's they grew up with. I've noticed a lot of them simply don't give too much thought into it as a lot of us Gadje do. They simply just "do" it so to speak. Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't musicians who don't think deeper than that; there are certainly are, but I find them to be a small percentage. They are usually the ones we hear about because they take their craft much more seriously than their cousins, but even then, I've never seen them get nerdy as the rest of us (reading the forums, you can see how nerdy it gets hahaha)"

    "Whiuch is a trifle ironic, since Django himself created 'his' music by fusing traditional Gypsy, and other European traditional music, with the 'Jazz' that was newly emerging from across the ocean. But that is the subject of separate discussions."

    I cannot speak for Django himself, but I never understood the idea that Django played Gypsy jazz and that he created Gypsy jazz by fusing "traditional Gypsy" and jazz. Django was simply a jazz musician, and I think he really considered himself that way, first and foremost. He just simply happens to be a gypsy. That fact would prove to be important to the Sinti later on, as indeed a folk Gypsy Jazz style emerged from that, but Django himself was no more than a jazz player who was in a unique situation. At the time that he started to get into jazz, he was in an area where the only access to real jazz is through limited recordings that were available, and later on passing musicians from America (whom he did get to collaborate with). The original hotclub formation seems to be very circumstantial. Gypsies, in general, especially around that time, played local popular music to earn a living, so in france, it was the musette , and popular songs of the time. The Sinti themselves, apparently, migrated from Hungary, and also played some of that music (especially in Germany). If you listen to Oscar Aleman recordings, it's very similar to what Django was doing! There are even recordings of Charlie Christian where the solos are very reminiscent of Django... There are stories (don't know how to verify), that at the time, the older folks in Sinti community did not appreciate what Django was doing since it was "modern". Gypsy culture is generally quite conservative, so that story seems to make sense. It would appear then, that it's not until he became a superstar, that they started seeing him as a hero. And from there Gypsy Jazz was born. Repertoire was simplified, chords were simplified, even today, there are Gypsies who think songs like All of Me are traditional Gypsy songs... I'm serious!
    JSantaMattHenryadrianpickitjohnJonStringswingerAmundLauritzenA Gent
  • edited April 2014 Posts: 3
    thnx Michael for this inspired means of enlightenment. Thnx Mitch Mercier for your admirable piece on the Jazz Manouche scene in todays France. Thanks Andre, Mackeegan, Matt Mitchell and Dennis (with two n's) for your insights. Of course I'm a bit biased for I have been camping out on the Samoreau camping during that annual Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois sur Seine since 2001. I saw, so to speak, the new generation Adrien, Seb, Mathieu, Robbin, Phil, Jerome, Adrian, David, Sami, Pierre, Antoine, Levis, Noe, etc. hatch. Starting to learn the trade there and then of course nowadays I claim to play a bit of jazz manouche. Of course I'm not in their league although I get to jam some, sticking to rhythm only. I recall a specific jam night in 2003 where Adrien and Alfonso were the highlight, continuously seeking each other out and bringing him to an ever higher point of expression playing Django tunes, but throwing in so many more well known licks and still reentering the original song. My friend Keith Wheeler hosting the session taping it on his camcorder all afternoon and through the night till well after sunrise. Alas Keith is no more as is violin playing Phil McGee. Funny a few years ago there was a rant on the Yahoo gypsy jazz guitar group opposing the young french musicians for "what could they possibly offer" and Keith trying to pave their way into the US, smoothing all exclamation marks in his special loving way. Anyway they got on US soil and made quite the impression as "the best Samoreau has to offer GJ"we knew they were going to and now the rabbit is out . . . To shorten this memo i'd like to thank my mom who at age 95 remembered her child time flic named Helzapoppin. A movie within a movie, a total absurdity for some, but the first out of Lindy Hop. I know Matt gave us the YT coordinates to a more recent version, which I loved too, but I want to share the original. Also from YT. There are quite a few out there, even the movie in its entirety. I got that on a DVD and showed it to my mother and saw her laugh again with tears flowing, like she was reliving the day she saw it first. That made my day too. Well here is that LH link watch and behold:
    my 2 P,
    ;-) Menno
    Jon
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