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Really interesting (if you like that sort of theoretical analysis, which I do).
Many thanks, Will.
Whether or not musicians like Roy Smeck and Eddie Peabody (among others) were genuinely great players or just vaudeville tricksters was a common topic of discussion among guitarists I knew back in the 80s - and no one ever thought to put Django in with this crowd. I don't recall if we ever came to a genuine conclusion, but certainly none of us knew it had been the subject of earlier academic discussions. Nothing new under the sun, I guess...
Yeah no one with any knowledge of the genre would put Django in the "trickster" category.
30-40 years ago, there was no such thing as a "genre" of gypsy jazz or anything like it. There was only Django and while none of my guitar-playing friends back then ever had anything to say about him that didn't involve amazement, that might not have been true in the jazz world of that era and earlier. Audiences like tricks - playing 4-hands, stuff like that. One time I saw Bob Brozman (an incredible musician by any measure) bounce a heavy steel bar slide off the strings of a national tricone from about a foot away and catch it as if it was the easiest thing in the world - never missed a note. It must have taken thousands of attempts to get it that perfect... I always thought that Smeck and Peabody were fine musicians who knew some tricks - another form of virtuosity and nothing wrong with that.
I'd think calling those guys vaudeville tricksters is like saying Cirque de Soleil performers aren't real athletes.
To add to that, I don't think it's possible to fake virtuosity. Like you can't take an ordinary average musician and by teaching this person a bag of "tricks" they turn out sounding like a virtuoso. You either are or you ain't.
I wouldn't worry too much about assertions in the text. I read the article as the author wanting to tell a story and having to choose a theoretical framework compatible with the kind of stuff published in the journal (and acceptable for his PhD thesis).
According to jazz guitarist and historian Marty Grosz, when many/most American jazz musicians first heard Django, they did put his music in the category not exactly of “vaudeville trickster” but more like “great technique, but not really jazz”
Marty said that he sometimes heard Django compared to mandolin player Dave Apollon...
Interesting read. Especially seeing as he is coming at Gypsy Jazz from Bebop.