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Recordings of Django playing non-Selmers

MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
edited June 2013 in History Posts: 5,770
We all know that Django's music will always be inextricably linked to the Selmer guitar. He did play Selmers for most of his career, but there certainly are recordings were he played other instruments. Thought I'd through a few up here for fun.

On some of these I'm guessing, so I'm open to people's opinions!

The interesting thing about these is that Django's tone is somewhat different, but not really too much. In fact, if you're not paying attention you'd hardly notice.

Improv. #6
sounds like an archtop to me. So does the radio performance of Night and Day. Ride was recorded live with Duke Ellington. I believe Django was playing an amplified Epiphone.
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Comments

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,163
    Definitely not a Selmer at the Ellington concert and I think you are probably right about the other two.

    There are others I have doubts about and I will see if I can remember which ones they are and post them. One of the big problems is trying to discount the impact of the varying quality and timbre of the recordings themselves which seem to vary quite dramatically depending on when and where they were made.

    I'll have to listen to them again to refresh my memory but it is almost certain that on the first series of recordings of the string quintet, Django was not playing a Selmer.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,770
    One of the big problems is trying to discount the impact of the varying quality and timbre of the recordings themselves which seem to vary quite dramatically depending on when and where they were made.

    Exactly...there are a million variables. Which recording technology was used, the microphone, the remastering, how was it digitized, the speakers you're listening on, what color underwear Django was wearing, etc, etc!

    When listening casually to Improv#6 I don't think I noticed the tonal difference. But when I was transcribing the piece for the Unaccompanied Django book, I really noticed timbrel differences in that recording that I didn't hear on the others. In general, his guitar sounds really dry and "tight", more like an archtop to me.

    'm
  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 158
    I'll have to listen to them again to refresh my memory but it is almost certain that on the first series of recordings of the string quintet, Django was not playing a Selmer.

    You're right, Selmer guitars weren't available in France 1934, they all were brought straight to UK. It's clear that Dinah, Tiger Rag, etc were played in an ordinary flat-top also seen in pics of the QHCF.

    I'm not sure, at which point Django started using Selmers, because as you said, there are so many variables and because Django's touch is unique making everything sound like him. However, as late as September 1935 Chasing Shadows sounds to me like a flat-top with its muffy low-middle register and high strings that lack treble and sound heavier gauge. Of course, I might very well be wrong here...
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,163
    kimmo wrote:
    You're right, Selmer guitars weren't available in France 1934, they all were brought straight to UK.
    Not strictly true. Joseph has a Maccaferri in this classic 1934 photo:-

    HCQ_1.JPG
    kimmo wrote:
    However, as late as September 1935 Chasing Shadows sounds to me like a flat-top with its muffy low-middle register and high strings that lack treble and sound heavier gauge. Of course, I might very well be wrong here...
    Perhaps a Maccaferri with top mounted bridge and gut strings?
  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 158
    Joseph has a Maccaferri in this classic 1934 photo:

    So it seems, I've never noticed that before. And Django's flat-top isn't an ordinary one as it has an arch-top-like bridge and tailpiece and a slotted headstock. Joseph's bridge is hidden, so it's impossible to say if it's the gut-stringed Concert, which was available in France at that time.
    kimmo wrote:
    However, as late as September 1935 Chasing Shadows sounds to me like a flat-top with its muffy low-middle register and high strings that lack treble and sound heavier gauge. Of course, I might very well be wrong here...
    Perhaps a Maccaferri with top mounted bridge and gut strings?

    No, listen to the bends, it's definitely steel.

    My guesses vary from one listen to the next on these early sessions. I'm quite certain from the first session (Dinah etc on flat-top) but the next ones sound more ambiguous.
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 887
    thats really hard to tell. on one of those songs it sounds a little like a gypsy guitar but im not going to say which one.
    ---
    "I want to party like its 1939!"
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,163
    kimmo wrote:
    I'm not sure, at which point Django started using Selmers, because as you said, there are so many variables and because Django's touch is unique making everything sound like him.
    I have tried to establish this many times in the past by listening to the recordings but have never come to a satisfactory or consistent conclusion.

    I am pretty sure he did not play or record with a Selmer/Maccaferri in 1934 but he definitely started during 1935. Photographs are sometimes useful in this regard. - Here he is at Stage B in February, 1935 on some odd contraption:-

    djangostagebcompleteou9.jpg

    .......and in September, 1935 with a Selmer/Maccaferri:-

    djangohcqnuitsbleues193lq8.jpg

    Joseph is definitely on the Concert model with the top mounted bridge here.

    I'll double check to see whether I can find anything useful in between
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 508
    Marcel Bianchi mentioned in several interviews that Django especially liked the black Carbonnel - there are photographs of Django playing this guitar - that Bianchi brought with him from Marseille and that it was used on several recordings. The quintette was obligated to use Selmers at least in public, but Bianchi said he did not like them and sold the three he was given. Anyway, I'm not sure if he meant Django used the Carbonnel on the recordings or he (Bianchi) used it. If Django had wanted to use it, you can bet it would have happened. Those 1937 sessions have a unique sound and I always wondered if the Carbonnel had something to do with that. That guitar was stolen and never has been seen again.

    There is another story: Django showed up at recording session with Rex Stewart in 1938 or '39 without a guitar. Someone was dispatched to get one, but in the process wrecked his scooter and knocked a hole in the guitar. Who knows if this one was a Selmer? It was the same session where the drummer was too drunk to play so Barney Bigard had to play trumpet and drums. Musicians...

    Django, like other idiosyncratic players - Joseph Spence and Gary Davis come immediately to mind - always sounds about the same, no matter the guitar. That's mostly due to the ear and the brain quickly identifying the style, but it's also because of the particular guitarist's "touch". It's why you can play X's solo but you can never sound like X.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,163
    scot wrote:
    There is another story: Django showed up at recording session with Rex Stewart in 1938 or '39 without a guitar. Someone was dispatched to get one, but in the process wrecked his scooter and knocked a hole in the guitar. Who knows if this one was a Selmer?
    That's the 1939 Rex Stewart Feetwarmers session. Barney Bigard said that Django turned up without a guitar and the only one they could find in the time available had half its back missing (no mention of type). Here's what it sounded like. Django solos at the end.
  • François RAVEZFrançois RAVEZ FranceProdigy
    Posts: 279
    There is another story: Django showed up at recording session with Rex Stewart in 1938 or '39 without a guitar. Someone was dispatched to get one, but in the process wrecked his scooter and knocked a hole in the guitar. Who knows if this one was a Selmer?

    Do you think that it is for this reason that in some of his last recordings Django had made a hole in the back of his Selmer, that he tried to reproduce what had originally happened because of a scooter accident?

    Best

    François RAVEZ
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