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Gypsy Jazz -- or -- Gypsies Playing Jazz

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  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 503
    To go to Ted’s original question first, I think that one of the main things that makes the modern “gypsy jazz” player (most of these actually are gypsies) what he is, is that he has generally never played any other type of music. This gives the music a certain naïve and folklorish purity, while at the same time it imposes dogmatic limitations.

    It’s not that much different than the bluegrass world here in the states. Most bluegrass pickers have never played any other type of music and aren’t interested doing so – especially so in the south. There is a fixed repertoire there, too. Many of the players have terrific technical skills. That’s fine for the players and aficionados, but it DOES give the music a sameness of sound that puts off people who don’t have a personal interest. So you find that people who are put off by Joscho Stephan or Latcho Drom are more agreeable to Alma Sinti or Pearl Django, just because there is more substance there, less “sameness”. Many people here who are put off by traditional bluegrass don’t have a problem with pop-grass music like Gillian Welch or Ricky Skaggs – the same kind of thing.

    Shouldn’t “mainstream” in this case also include those musicians who include a strong French influence? There are many players and groups who don’t play in the modern “gypsy jazz” style but don’t show much N American influence either – folks like Les Primitifs and Alma Sinti, Dubanton/Laudat and Francis Moerman, Coin de Rue and Koen de Kauter. Etcetera. The French influence has always been there and been strong – I would certainly say that the players above show much more French than N American influence in their playing. IMO the French influence is as much a part of this music as N American music is, but isn’t generally recognized here for what it is. That might be because most people here in the states have never heard much French music.

    Maybe considering the current state of things, we might call mainstream those players who have influences and styles that incorporate anything more than “gypsy jazz”? I mean, I recognize it when I hear it but it’s sho’nuff hard to describe…

    I think Nick nailed it with his matrix of elements. But for me I would omit the type guitar from the list. Because if you can play this stuff, the type of guitar simply does not matter. Bousquet is the proof of that! OK, maybe it counts, but only for a little bit.

    I’ve played acoustic guitars for 30 years and have never owned but one electric guitar. But now I have a Stimer and a Fender amp. When my Favino/Stimer is plugged in, it’s an electric guitar – why would it be any different than an Ovation or a Martin with a magnetic pickup? An acoustic guitar with a pickup is simply a different voice with which to speak. This becomes clearer – and easier to accept - if you think of the guitar, cord, amp and effects as all one thing.

    Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful and insightful posts on this thread.

    Best
    Scot
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    On the question of categorisation:-

    (1) Forget the fact that Joseph Reinhardt was Django's brother and listen to
    his phrasing. Is this a man playing gypsy jazz or a gypsy playing jazz?

    (2) When did Django stop playing gypsy jazz?

    (3) Did Stephane Grappelli ever play gypsy jazz?
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator
    Posts: 319
    Teddy, since I'm turning in my test first, do I get bonus points? My answers:

    (1) A gypsy playing jazz.
    (2) Trick question; he never started.
    (3) Only when it made good business sense to say so.

    I like Nick's matrix of elements, but I'd agree with Scot that the guitar doesn't matter. If you play "Stairway to Heaven" on a Selmer, are you playing gypsy jazz? Even if you use a Wegen, and deploy some fearsome gypsy picking?

    Here's another question: if "gypsy jazz" is okay, why don't we start saying "Jewish jazz" or "Negro jazz"? Aren't they the same kinds of terms?"

    Cheers,
    Ando
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    Ando wrote:
    I like Nick's matrix of elements, but I'd agree with Scot that the guitar doesn't matter. If you play "Stairway to Heaven" on a Selmer, are you playing gypsy jazz? Even if you use a Wegen, and deploy some fearsome gypsy picking?

    No, I would argue that it is a reasonable element - none of the elements by itself is sufficient to make something gypsy jazz. You could apply the same argument to a manouche person playing stairway to heaven, or to someone adapting Stairway to Heaven using La Pompe rhythm, or Joe Pass covering a Django tune (the repertoire element). None of these examples is gypsy jazz, which proves my theory that you need some combination of elements, although not necessarily all of them.

    Boulou and Elios Ferre are often spoken of in GJ circles - besides being gypsies, the only other thing connecting them remotely to this music (except for their occasional covers of Django tunes) is their guitar type and technique. Of course, maybe they shouldn't be considered GJ.....

    Nick
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    regarding Ando's question about "Jewish jazz" and "negro jazz" (apologies to all those who, like me, are offended by the latter term):

    jazz was a new music (not a branch of an existing style) created by African American musicians, and thus does not need to be distinguished from anything else beyond giving it a name (ie "jazz"). Django, a Manouche man, unwittingly created a branch of an already existing music, which has certain unique characteristics, (note that this development only occurred many years after his death). Thus there arose a need to name this particular branch of jazz, like calling something "bebop", "free jazz", etc. It just happened that the rise of "gypsy jazz" as a genre coincided with (and was the result of) the widespread rediscovery and emulation of Django's music by Manouche and Sinti people, so the term "gypsy jazz" stuck. The term is unusual in that it describes the ethnicity of those who play the music (or who predominantly played it when the term was coined I suppose) rather than the character of the music itself.

    Regarding Jewish jazz, if you are talking about jazz that is unique to Jewish (or Jewish influenced) culture (Masada, Hasidic New Wave, etc.), then it is often given names like "Jewish New Wave", etc. etc.

    So I guess what I'm saying Ando is that I think that the analogy is awkward at best.

    In answer to Teddy, there was no "gypsy jazz", as far as I'm concerned, until the 1970s.

    Nick
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    nwilkins wrote:
    In answer to Teddy, there was no "gypsy jazz", as far as I'm concerned, until the 1970s.
    You are absolutely right Nick, it was certainly not called "gypsy jazz" until then. But what music was Django playing in the 30's?
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    Dance music that was popular at the time...Swing? Jazz? SwingJazz?
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    just jazz, plain and simple. He was bringing his own unique take to it, just as others did (Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, etc.)

    The style of music Django played in the 30s and 40s could not be considred a unique branch or genre until it began to be emulated on a large scale during the revival of the 1970s, and I don't believe it was treated as such until then.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    BTW great thread Ted :)
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    nwilkins wrote:
    just jazz, plain and simple. He was bringing his own unique take to it, just as others did (Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, etc.)

    The style of music Django played in the 30s and 40s could not be considred a unique branch or genre until it began to be emulated on a large scale during the revival of the 1970s, and I don't believe it was treated as such until then.
    So are you saying that Django never played the music that later became known as "gypsy jazz"?
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