Last night’s concert of "Symphonic Django" at Pantages Theater in Tacoma blew me away! Featured John Jorgensen on guitar, with Ben Powell on Violin, Neil Andersson and Greg Ruby on backup guitars and Jon Hamar on Bass, and the Tacoma Symphony. They were playing some of the Django pieces Django himself had sketched for a Hot Club style band plus Orchestra in the 1940s. The music was way beyond a Pop Concert type of flavor, with complex elements of Stravinsky, Poulenc, Debussy, Holst and other French and 20th century composers mixed in. "Diminishing Blackness" was especially impressive, given its uncertainty of a tonic key! Much more accessible than the 12 tone stuff around then yet fascinating and fun! One of the movements from John's own Concerto Glasso was worth the entire price of admission and more!
What I really like about John’s playing is that he tries very hard and succeeds sounding just like Django. I wonder if the others who all say "We have to go Beyond Django" say that because they simply can’t play like that, and achieve that specific sound convincingly. John is one of the few artists who tries to do that and he succeeds brilliantly! Similarly the violinist Ben Powell from Los Angeles currently is the closest I have heard to Stephan's playing in terms of tone quality, style and substance. I like his sound much better than Tim Kliphuis's andI told him so right in front of John - which made him laugh. Ben said that he will use that as ammo! John was right there and grinning at this exchange.
They encored with the 1932 version of Minor Swing and it was near perfect - except they left out the very important languid “Oh Yeah!” at the very end. At times I closed my eyes during the concert to hear these two play, changing their faces to Django and Stephan's and I was back in the 1930s. Ben is actually quite the diverse player, based on the CD I bought from him last night. My dreams all night were of this.
The DjangoFest Northwest lineup was also announced in the shows program and the only big headliner is Stochelo Rosenberg. Otherwise John Jorgensen returns, along with Robin Nolan, Martin Taylor, Dave Grisman who is new there, Hot Club Sandwich and Pearl Django. I’ll miss it this year because I’ll be at my nephew’s wedding in Colorado. After last year with Bireli (not to mention falling flat on my face after tripping on those awful parking curbs and almost breaking my nose - right in front of Nick Lehr who was as traumatized!) I don’t feel like I will be missing much, though I really love John's performing and will be sorry to miss him there!