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Gypsy Jazz -- or -- Gypsies Playing Jazz

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  • stublastubla Prodigy Godefroy Maruejouls
    edited March 2005 Posts: 386
    It's weird this 'Gypsy Jazz' business....
    I can't remember when i first heard the phrase but it was probably relatively recently.
    When i used to go to Paris in the late 70's and when i used to go and see the Ferre bros,Bireli and Waso too in the early 80's over here in the UK, it never occured to me to think of the music they were playing as anything other than 'Django style' music-they played his JAZZ repertoire;more importantly they shared the same 'approach' to the instrument.
    I don't think you can state strongly enough that what defines this style is that 'total guitar' approach that Django invented-particularly the way the strings are struck--
    For me the 'rest stroke' technique is not a matter for textbooks or treatises-its what all the players(Gypsy and non Gypsy) who followed Django recognised as vital to the SOUND and the feeling of this Music

    Ignore it at your peril!--every player i've ever met in this post Django style places enormous importance on the use of the right hand(from Diz Disley to Bireli Lagrene and Tcha Limberger)

    Yes Teddy-Django played Jazz i agree ....but how can you ignore the uniqueness of his attack?;those incredible tremelo rolls which,dare i suggest, DO owe alot to his Gypsy heritage(the 'Gypsy tradition' in ALL areas has always tried to extract sustain out of essentially non -sustaining instruments,including the guitar-Django did this within a Jazz context).
    It doesn't matter whether the guitar is electric or acoustic--what links such disparate players such as Hans che Weiss,Tchan-Tchou,Lulu Reinhardt,Bousquet,Bireli,Stochelo,Henri Crolla(listen to his work with Yves Montand)
    is that right hand attack and the belief that the guitar is a 'complete' instrument-not just a linear single line instrument as the majority of American bebop players would have us believe(i think Jimmy Raney probably played about two chordal choruses in his entire recorded legacy!)
    This same linear approach still 'infects' modern Jazz gtr today--listen to Allan Holdsworth for instance--now there's a frustrated Sax player if ever i heard one!!!
    i don't believe that the mainstream American jazz guitar tradition is really in LOVE with the SOUND of the guitar and its possibilities.Django loved the sound of the guitar.(maybe thats why he didn't understand those 'tinpot' Archtops he was offered when he was in the U.S.)
    Actually bebop had a similar 'flattening' effect on Jazz piano-compare Al Haig or Dodo Marmarosa to Art Tatum and Waller-you'll hear what i mean.
    I'd also argue that that the Django style approach to the guitar in all its facets is a fundamentally Eurocentric attitude to begin with--which isn't to say of course that only Europeans can play the stuff.
    Stu
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    Teddy I think you misunderstand my post. What Django played was jazz, his own unique approach. However, his style of playing wasn't a genre until it was made one by mass emulation starting in the 1970s. So yes, Django "invented" and played (before the 1950s) what later became a specific genre of jazz, which is now referred to as "gypsy jazz". At the time he was just playing jazz.

    It is true however that Django was playing music in a totally different spirit than "gypsy-jazz" players, as he was breaking new ground and playing modern music, rather than looking to emulate music from the past. So if you consider this latter characteristic a defining element of gypsy-jazz then I guess you could argue that Django did not play gypsy jazz.

    Stu, in claiming that Django played jazz, I'm by no means ignoring his uniqueness, I'm just saying that his unique voice was part of the larger world of jazz at the time, and not considered a specific branch or genre, just like Louis Armstrong, Coltrane, etc.

    For the record, the rest stroke technique was used on many instruments long before Django was around, and I seem to remember accounts from someone reliable that it was used in the US as well until the advent of the electric guitar. Moreover there have been lots of "non-GJ" players who have taken the total guitar approach which Stu describes. So we may have to add these things to the list of potential elements, although they are not definitive in themselves.
  • stublastubla Prodigy Godefroy Maruejouls
    Posts: 386
    [quote="nwilkins"
    Stu, in claiming that Django played jazz, I'm by no means ignoring his uniqueness, I'm just saying that his unique voice was part of the larger world of jazz at the time, and not considered a specific branch or genre, just like Louis Armstrong, Coltrane, etc


    Nick
    I don't think i said anything to disagree with you in that regard.:-)


    [quote="nwilkins"
    For the record, the rest stroke technique was used on many instruments long before Django was around, and I seem to remember accounts from someone reliable that it was used in the US as well until the advent of the electric guitar. Moreover there have been lots of "non-GJ" players who have taken the total guitar approach which Stu describes. So we may have to add these things to the list of potential elements, although they are not definitive in themselves.[/quote]



    Yes-the reststroke technique was expounded first of all in the neopolitian school of classical mandolin technique(Ranieri method)as was the 'free floating right hand
    BUT imo Django was the first to realise its full expressive potential on the guitar AND its what produces the magnificent tone.Even when Django is 'just' stating a theme to a song it's the sound he produces that makes it compelling for me--at least as important as the improvised 'ideas' he comes up with.
    The free floating right hand allowed Django to switch effortlessly between rhythm,lead and chordal rolls etc.The position of the hand does not change-this liberated him to use the guitar as a small orchestra imo.
    Yes-Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian and George Barnes for example used rest stroke technique in the U.S but my point is that Django exploited this technique to a far greater degree.(Barnes for one hardly used chords in solos at all;he was most influenced by trad clarinet players)
    Of course guys like Kessel and Joe Pass were 'total guitarists' in a sense- using chords,melody and single line soloing ,but i'd argue that you only need to listen to Django to realise the difference--his obsession above all else,is with SOUND.
    I wasn't really referring to solo 'content' Nick.
    Its still what makes Django unique-His sound!!!!!
    .......'the guitar with the human voice'.
    Not even Fapy comes close.
    Stu
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    nwilkins wrote:
    Teddy I think you misunderstand my post.
    No I didn't Nick but I was not originally talking about the point at which the music became "gypsy jazz". What I am interested in is at what stage in his career do people here feel Django stopped playing in the style of the music that subsequently became known as gypsy jazz. Everybody must surely feel he was doing so in the 30's but doubt whether many of you consider his final 1953 recordings fit into this category. When did it change?

    I was also interested whether it was felt Joseph and Steph ever really played in this style, albeit many years before it became a identified genre.

    It was just straight enquiry because I find the restrictions many of you place on the music quite limiting and it occurred to me if applied strictly, much of what Django, Joseph and Steph produced would not fit into the gypsy jazz category.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    stubla wrote:
    It's weird this 'Gypsy Jazz' business....
    I can't remember when i first heard the phrase but it was probably relatively recently.
    Neither can I but I think it was probably the late 70's perhaps even early 80's
    stubla wrote:
    Yes Teddy-Django played Jazz i agree ....but how can you ignore the uniqueness of his attack;those incredible tremelo rolls which,dare i suggest, DO owe alot to his Gypsy heritage(the 'Gypsy tradition' in ALL areas has always tried to extract sustain out of essentially non -sustaining instruments,including the guitar-Django did this within a Jazz context).
    That's actually a discussion we are having in another forum Stu but I have always said his technical attack, bravado and panache owed much more to his gypsy background than his music. I think you are being too pedantic about the rest stroke which I agree can assist in getting the requisite power and tone but I do not think it is mandatory any more than La Pompe is.

    The guitaristic nature of his playing is critical to my enjoyment of it. He played the guitar and he was proud of it; not like many jazz guitarists who almost seem apologetic. Django used every feature, effect, trick and device he could find and as a result his music is much richer and has so much more depth than virtually any other jazz guitarist. I have never understood guitarists who want to make their instruments sound more like a horn. If that's what you want then play a horn. Unfortunately, the guitar is still very much a poor man's instrument in jazz.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    Okay Teddy, I see what you're saying now. I believe that what was originally called gypsy jazz (strict emulation of many elements of Django's 30s and early 40s recordings), has now become only part of this genre, a genre that has come to include also all of those who are part of Django's legacy. This change in definition has occurred as we have gained more knowledge of the history of the music between 1950 and 1970.

    This new and more inclusive definition of "gypsy jazz" is what I was exploring with my theory of the matrix of elements. For example, the Manouche guitarist playing Django repertoire with piano, bass and drums on an ES175 is part of Django's legacy, and thus I think it qualifies as "gypsy jazz" nowadays. For us to lump Baro Ferret's waltzes together with Bousquet, Montagne, Rene Mailhes and Jimmy Rosenberg is proof enough that the term "gypsy jazz" is no longer applied to a specific type (or quality) of music.

    Thus I would have to say that all of what Django played could technically be considered gypsy jazz.

    I realise however, that you are wondering about when Django stopped playing the Fapy/Rosenberg Trio brand of gypsy jazz, and I would have to say that it was probably the late 30s or early 40s. The line is blurred because one element of the Djangocentric style is the acoustic selmer style guitar, which Django used until the mid 40s, and another element is the band lineup and accompaniment style which he used predominantly in the 30s. Moreover, the Djangocentric school applies these elements to Django tunes written as late as 1953.

    One further observation/question: I wonder how great a factor ethnicity is in defining music as "gypsy jazz". In other words, although a Manouche playing Django repertoire with a 175 (as in the above example) is considred gypsy jazz, could an American player using the same equipment and instrumental lineup ever be considered a gypsy jazz player? Do gadje thus need to incorporate other elements (technique, guitar type, la pompe, etc) in order to identify themselves as being within the Django tradition? Maybe the answer (as I know Stu would argue) is that the WAY the Manouche guitarist plays (in terms of technique/sound) would make it gypsy jazz, yet I have a feeling that even if the gadjo played the same way he would just be seen as a mainstream player with an aggressive attack.
  • stublastubla Prodigy Godefroy Maruejouls
    Posts: 386
    nwilkins wrote:
    .
    Maybe the answer (as I know Stu would argue) is that the WAY the Manouche guitarist plays (in terms of technique/sound) would make it gypsy jazz, yet I have a feeling that even if the gadjo played the same way he would just be seen as a mainstream player with an aggressive attack.

    Of course i would argue that :-)
    BUT it doesn't have to be a Manouche playing it.....thank god :-)
    Every style has its borders,techniques and even limatations--is a Lester Young solo played on a glockenspiel STILL a Lester Young solo?
    Well the notes are the same but where is the sound!!!??
    Ever heard the 2nd piano concerto of Rachmaninov played on the harpsichord??-(i have!..its crap!)
    ...try "Billet Doux" on the bassoon--all Djangos 'notes' are still there--but the notes are less than half the story.
    Or(closer to home) listen to Jim Hall,with his 'under the blankets' sound play 'Nuages' note for note--its a 'ghost' of the original.

    Fact--what distinguishes this style(whatever you want to call it--though i do HATE 'Gypsy Jazz') is the attack and approach to the instrument.

    "It's ALL in the right hand"--Fapy
    Stu
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator
    Posts: 319
    Ted's original questions:
    At what point does Gypsy Jazz stop becoming Gypsy Jazz?

    Well, in a number of ways, we've called into question the entire category, which makes answering Ted's question difficult. I'm of the view that "gypsy jazz" only has stable meaning as "jazz, of whatever kind, played by gypsies." That is different from general usage, which means something like "a style of jazz derived from Django Reinhardt and French gypsies of the early twentieth century."
    What does a Gypsy (or Gypsy style) guitarist bring to table that a straightahead player doesn't, and vice versa?

    The answer seems to be 1) strong views about aggressive right-hand technique, 2) skill in playing "la pompe" rhythm, 3) a solo vocabulary derived from Django and "the European virtuosic tradition," 4) a traditional and European way of ornamenting melodies (e.g., mordents, and pralls instead of bends), 5) a traditional approach to repertoire, and 6) emotional preference for strong feeling, high contrast, uninhibited passion, sudden plunges into melancholy or impressionistic delicatesse, etc.

    Cheers,
    Ando
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 611
    Hi Barengero,
    Barengero wrote:
    Sorry for the confusion.
    I didn´t want to be a smart aleck, I am only worrying if there is any Gypsy Jazz Discography out there that I don´t know.

    No problem! Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

    Best,

    Ted
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 611
    Hey Stu!

    Great post.
    stubla wrote:
    It's weird this 'Gypsy Jazz' business....
    I can't remember when i first heard the phrase but it was probably relatively recently.
    When i used to go to Paris in the late 70's and when i used to go and see the Ferre bros,Bireli and Waso too in the early 80's over here in the UK, it never occured to me to think of the music they were playing as anything other than 'Django style' music-they played his JAZZ repertoire;more importantly they shared the same 'approach' to the instrument.

    Very interesting and I don't disagree with you. How do you describe the music to people who are unfamiliar with it? For me, I'm about as lazy as it comes when speaking to uninformed people. I always say "Do you know Django Reinhardt's music? It's basically like that...." and they usually say "Oh! Ok...." and that's that. :lol: I'm interested in how you approach that situation.
    stubla wrote:
    I don't think you can state strongly enough that what defines this style is that 'total guitar' approach that Django invented-particularly the way the strings are struck--

    Right on, Stu! As with Michael's earlier post, this really sums up this style succintly.
    stubla wrote:
    For me the 'rest stroke' technique is not a matter for textbooks or treatises-its what all the players(Gypsy and non Gypsy) who followed Django recognised as vital to the SOUND and the feeling of this Music

    Two things here. First of all, I find that the more I learn about playing this music, the less I'm able to describe how to play it (imagine that, something has actually shut me up!)

    Secondly, I find that even Gypsy players who don't play with the rest-stroke (David Reinhardt for example) still have something uniquely "Gypsy" in their sound. Stu (and everyone else), what do you make of this?
    stubla wrote:
    Ignore it at your peril!--every player i've ever met in this post Django style places enormous importance on the use of the right hand(from Diz Disley to Bireli Lagrene and Tcha Limberger)

    It is definitely what seperates the men from the boys. What attracted me to the acoustic guitar in the first place was that you can't hide behind effects and electronics, it's all out there. As Michael H. said to me last night "You need to have a little 'macho' in your personality...a little chip on your shoulder to play this music" which I agree with, because in order to make it really sound good, you have to really push it to the limit.
    stubla wrote:
    i don't believe that the mainstream American jazz guitar tradition is really in LOVE with the SOUND of the guitar and its possibilities.

    Yeah, I agree with you here as well. This is something that Michael also touched upon earlier in the thread, and I think this comes from people like Raney and Kessel who were pretty aggressive toward "guitar" fans. They would usually say "I'm into music...not the guitar." and I always found that off-putting. Granted, guitar seems to attrack the highest percentage of "gear nerds", but at the same time, you have to be into the instrument your playing. I really loathe most mainstream jazz tones - so dry and cold. And watching those guys play...with the lightest touch imaginable...I wonder what would happen if you took away their amps!

    This is perhaps another reference to gypsy culture effecting the music. Everett Barksdale, guitarist with Eddie South and others (who stated that he wanted to quit playing guitar when he first heard Django), said that during the swing era, no one thought that the guitar was a real instruments. He further stated that a guitar job was "something a bandleader gave to a friend, or a friend of a friend." so I think the instrument, despite the fact that it's always been popular in the US, has always had an "identity crisis". Some people hate it. Branford Marsalis said once that he wished he could remove it from Jazz entirely (then he went on to produce a release a highly successful album by Doug Wambel). But to Gypsies....along with violin, the guitar seems to have been this mainstay instrument that they used quite a bit throughout the last 100+ years.

    Best,

    Ted

    Best,

    Ted
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