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Free Lessons - Part 2 - Page 2

Practicing, Sincerity, Awareness, and Passion!

by Denis Chang


Greetings folks! Today, I would like to talk about two important, yet, often overlooked aspects of music: awareness and intent. These two terms are rather vague, indeed, but encompass many aspects of music, and I would like to focus on what I believe to be the most important ones. Many people contact me asking for advice on what they should be practicing; I strongly feel that understanding these issues will inevitably help you determine what you should be working on, as a musician.

To start with, my reasons for generally appreciating an artist, are usually different than most people’s: to me, it is the very subtle, yet important details that I notice, and that I really appreciate. The common qualities that I find in all the artist that I like are sincerity and passion. Granted, these terms can be quite subjective, but I tend to view sincerity as someone who follows his/her own path in music rather than following a particular trend. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that one shouldn’t try to emulate other artists, but rather, that one should strictly work on what one wants to achieve musically. There are many paths to achieve this, and the correct path is the one that you choose for yourself. Over time, the path may change as you evolve, but as long as you stay true to yourself, it will always be the correct path. That is what I would consider sincerity, and it is extremely important.

intro

To put this into context, many students of music are often wondering what they should be practicing. To some extent, that is a very valid question, and outside guidance can be very valuable; on the other hand, if someone tells you that you should be practicing X, Y, and Z, you should be also asking yourself: what is the purpose? What do I want to do with music? What is my goal?  You see these questions all the time on music forums, and people will often reply with all sorts of varied and interesting advice (some not so good). In the end, however, what is it that you really want to do? My advice would change depending on who was asking the question.

To a hobbyist who has very little time to practice, I would simply suggest learning songs; learning melodies; maybe a few basic licks and simple improvisation concepts. Being able to keep decent time would certainly be a priority. These are the things that would allow all players of all levels to be able to jam in an ensemble setting. After all, why is it that we play music in the first place? To play actual musicright? Well, for some, it is to be the fastest player in the world with little regard for actual music. Fair enough! For those people, the path is quite simple and mathematical.

Unfortunately however, in order to achieve a high level of proficiency in anything, it requires a lot of personal effort and sacrifice. That means hours upon hours of dedicated practice. A hobbyist with limited practice time should, therefore, be realistic about what he/she can achieve. Since I come from a Gypsy Jazz/Django Reinhardt background, I personally wouldn’t ask a student to spend hours, working on all the subtle details of Gypsy Jazz rhythm playing, for instance. A basic but steady pulsing rhythm is good enough; of course, a decent sound would be nice too.

I also have a lot of highly accomplished, professional musicians come to me for Gypsy Jazz advice. It is a somewhat similar situation; they already have an impressive musical background, and might not want to pursue this style all the way, but, somehow, combine their previous knowledge with Gypsy Jazz concepts. That is certainly valid. To these people, I would certainly show them as many details as possible, but let them figure out for themselves in which direction they would like to go.

One of the deceptive practices and myths perpetuated by musical institutions is the idea that one should work on X, Y, and Z to be prepared for the professional musical world. From a non-classical point of view, many of these are absolute non-sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily against musical institutions, I think there are some advantages to going to a music school, but for now that topic is beyond the scope of this article. The problem (well, not necessarily a problem) with non-classical music, and especially improvised music, is that it is extremely vast; one might even say infinite. Here, we have a music school imposing a curriculum as to what one should be playing and learning, in order to become a well-rounded musician.  That is as absurd as suggesting that there should be one and ONLY one way to live life (YIKES!!!). Well, I know that there are people out there who think this way, but, thankfully, these people don’t rule my life. The truth is that you will never be able to master every styles of music, or every aspect of your instrument; everyone has their specialty. There are a few a freaks of nature out there who are extremely versatile, but even then, they still haven’t mastered everything, and it’s certainly not by following a musical institution’s imposed curriculum that they achieved such a high level of versatility!

Beware the teachers that advertise that they can teach all styles; technically, I, myself, can teach all styles. The truth is, however, that I would be learning at the same time as the student if I were teaching a style with which I was not familiar; the student would get more accurate information at a much faster rate if he/she went to someone that specialized in X style. Furthermore, many styles of music are more than just specific notes/chords/rhythms, there’s often an entire culture behind them. Being aware of said culture plays a big role in how to approach a style of music. That is why I specialize in Gypsy Jazz; people come to me specifically for Gypsy Jazz, and I don’t have to do any research (or very little anyway) if someone has a question about the style. It’s like hiring a lawyer, you hire a lawyer based on his/her area of expertise, and based on his/her reputation. Every lawyer can consult books (as they all do), but the ones we want are the ones that already have the knowledge on hand, or know exactly where to find it in as short a time as possible.

In essence, that is what I mean by sincerity. It’s about always staying true to yourself, while keeping an open mind. You should certainly consider other people’s opinions, but don’t let them dictate your life! This is very important, as I feel that many people get lost in this because of the overwhelming amount of information that is available to us; in the end, it is as simple as following your gut instinct. Your first priority should always be to make yourself happy, by specifically working on the things that interest you. These things may change (possibly in drastically different directions) as you evolve as a musician, but as long as you continuously follow this path, there will be much less confusion as to what you should be working on.

As an improvising musician, I respect a very wide range of musicians, but that does not mean that I passionately listen to every single one of them. That is fine by me. I cannot, for example, blaze through John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, simply because I did not  invest the necessary amount of time and energy in order to do so. It is certainly fun to practice, but it is not my priority, and it has very little to do with what I am currently doing.  This is important, because, someone who can blaze through Giant Steps, might have trouble doing the things that I specialize in.  Up to a certain point, there are certain things that are worth working on and that is beneficial for every musician, but on the flip side, working on extremely difficult sets of changes does not mean that you will automatically sound better on easier sets of changes. That is simply not how it works. Bluegrass, for instance, is one of the most harmonically and rhythmically simple styles of music there is, but there is an entire culture and vocabulary behind it; working on Giant Steps will simply not make you a better improviser when playing bluegrass. Work on the things that you are passionate about!

Passion. Some people call it playing "with feel". Many seem to possess a device that I would love to have. Apparently, this mystical device allows them to determine who plays "with feel", based on the number of guitar bends and facial expressions one makes. Those who play fast, have "no feel". Absurd, of course!

Passion is also quite subjective, but to me, it is directly related to sincerity, intent, and awareness. When it comes to improvised music, I tend to believe that we all play like we are. As long as we remain sincere when we practice, we naturally gravitate towards the musician that we want to become. For the athlete "musician" whose sole interest is to become the world’s fastest player, I have no doubt that he/she (OK most likely he) is passionate about his/her goal. Whether others relate to it or not, does not matter.

I have had the good fortune of getting to know and meet many of the world’s best musicians, and I am always fascinated to see a connection between an artist’s personality and his/her playing style. As in real life, there all sorts of people, and that is the beauty of it. We can’t all be best pals with one another, but as long as we are able to find some common level of tolerance and respect, it’s all good. On the other hand, we can also be pals with one another, but sometimes we can only take so much of each other. That’s fine as well.  Music is exactly the same; you can’t please everyone, so worry only about making yourself musically happy, and work hard to be the best that you can be. That, to me, is real passion!

I know that we are treading on very subjective territory here; I’m fully aware of it, but we can take things a bit further when we talk about playing with passion and feel: musical intent. Playing the right notes with the right timing is not enough to make good music, or else we wouldn’t need to learn to play instruments; we would all become MIDI programmers and listen to sampled instruments. You can also call it interpretation, and that is what make music come alive with passion. Everything that we do on our instruments should be intentional. The possibilities are endless! On an acoustic guitar alone, I can pick close to the bridge, close to the edge of the soundhole, close to the neck; I can palm-mute, making the notes ring, or make the notes legato; I can pick with a soft attack, a medium attack, or a hard attack; I can use open strings or closed positions; I can slide into a note, bend into a note, play a note with harmonics, use vibrato, etc. Any and every combination of these things is valid and should be intentional.

Since I’m a guitarist, I will give you one simple idea. Consider the notes G A B C D D# and E, played as 8th notes. Let’s explore a number of different ways of playing these notes while maintaining the same rhythm:

  • Try playing it all with a softl attack
  • Try playing it all with a medium attack
  • Try playing it with a stronger attack (but still not too aggressive)
  • Try playing it with the strongest attack possible
  • Try a crescendo
  • Try only downstrokes
  • Try alternate picking
  • Try sliding up to the first note
  • Try sliding down to the first note
  • Try playing the last note with a harmonic
  • Try bending into the last note
  • Try to use  fingerings that allow the notes to ring in as much as possible
  • Try to play as legato as possible
  • Try to play staccato

 

I could go on and on, the possibilities are truly endless, and one should certainly try to explore as many different ways as possible to articulate the notes.

Now let’s open ourselves to different rhythmic possibilities:

  • Swing the 8th notes
  • Try a dotted 8th + 16th note pattern
  • Try to be as rhythmically precise as possible
  • Try to play slightly ahead of the beat
  • Try to play laidback (behind the beat)

 

These 5 rhythmic examples take into a account that the length of the phrase remains the same (4 beats), but already, so much can be done to alter the feel of a phrase, based on these 5 concepts alone. We can take it even further by displacing certain notes rhythmically to create syncopation; the possibilities then become endless. These rhythmic ideas are absolutely indispensable, yet, often overlooked. If there is one thing, any musician can benefit from, it’s working on timing.

It is extremely important to be rhythmically aware; I cannot stress this enough. It is every musician’s weakness; drummers and percussionists included. You can always improve your timing. It starts by being aware of what you are playing. For example, in jazz and swing music, many players automatically assume that it’s a matter of swinging the 8th notes; I very much disagree. The proof is in the music. Once again, don’t get me wrong, the 8th note swing feel certainly does exist, but it is not what creates the swing. The swing comes from accenting notes at the right moment; a topic that is beyond the scope of this article. In good jazz and swing music, you’ll often hear a lot of quarter notes and straight 8th notes. Using the swing feel is an effect, and one must simply be aware of when to use it and when not to use it. There are no rules for this. Basically, do not automatically do something and not be aware that you are doing it; you must always strive to be aware of what you are doing. Listen to this version of All Of Me by Louis Armstrong:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFzxo-XI8As[/youtube]

This is a great recording that demonstrates many of the concepts that I mentioned above. There is a lot of laid back playing, straight 8th notes, occasional swung 8th notes and even the dotted 8th + 16th note combination. There are short tones, long tones, a wide range of dynamics and attack, and wide palette of rhythmic variety. To me, this is the real passion and soul of music. 

Generally, the best kind of rhythmic feel, is the one that is either very precise, or laid back; this goes without saying that this only works if the rhythm section is good! Any combination of these two (again no rules) will greatly improve the way you sound. In my opinion, playing ahead of the beat rarely works, unless it is truly intentional. Guitarists with dexterity are often guilty of this; I am no exception. It’s something I constantly think about when I practice and perform. It is something that many players struggle with. The best players are often aware of this (sometimes even subconsciously) and it shows in their playing.

This is precisely what I was referring to in my opening statement about my reasons for appreciating a particular artist. Many would often be impressed by the notes played, but I am instead impressed by the way they are played and at what precise moments they are being played.

With regards to a rhythm section, there is much to say about awareness and intent. Once again, I remind you dear readers, that I come from a Gypsy Jazz background. If have ever been to a Gypsy Jazz festival, and listened to a jam session, it can appear to be chaotic; quite frankly, it often is. Jam sessions can certainly be fun. However, do not let jam sessions (of any style) convince you that this is just the way it is, and that it is the best way to learn. The more you participate in these kinds of jam sessions, the more it can influence you, in a bad way. For this reason, it is very important, once again, to be aware. If you are aware, you can jam as much as you want and come out of it musically unscathed!

What does "aware" mean in this context? For starters, I would like to say that in 95.684% (I could be wrong by 1.9812%) of jam sessions in which I have personally participated, I have always had to adapt to other players. This happens because no one is really paying attention to what is exactly going on, everyone just blindly assumes that they are playing the same thing when they are definitely not. Many players walk into a jam session, thinking they know a particular song; indeed, they may do, but it may not be a similar version. The chord changes to songs are highly interpretative, and many songs have evolved in different ways. The chords all eventually follow a similar logic, but the paths to resolution can be widely different and conflicting. For instance, you go to any contemporary bass player, and ask him/her to accompany you on a rhythm changes form. Chances are the bass player will play the form that is most popular these days. However, today’s popular changes to the classic form are not what they used to be in the old days, and there are even a number variations. The same thing applies to the blues form; the changes that the vast majority of jazz players use today are not the same as they were in a different era.

It’s certainly fun and good to learn as many songs as possible and then be able to go into a jam session and jam the night away, but, really, what does it mean to learn a song? Pull out a lead sheet, memorize the melody and chords? For many, yes. For me, no. That is why I think the jam session mentality, while fun, can also be a negative influence. When I play an actual show, the repertoire I select is carefully chosen, and each song is carefully researched; my band is therefore on the same musical page as me. Researching a song doesn’t mean you have to play it the way that it was originally intended, but it means that you have an idea of where it comes from.  If it greatly differs than the way it is performed today, within your genre, it gives you the choice to interpret it in different ways.

In Gypsy Jazz alone, many players play the "wrong" changes. This is another topic itself, and deserving of its own article, but playing the "wrong" changes has also become a tradition within the genre. In certain situations, I have played these changes as well (and on purpose), and, I’ll be honest, it can be fun; it’s one of the characteristics of Gypsy Jazz. Nonetheless, other times, I try to adapt the chords to the appropriate situation. As far as I am concerned, I especially adapt the chords to the melody when it is being played. When the improvisation part comes, I play simple chords so that the soloist has more melodic freedom. This is especially true on slower songs, where the chord duration is longer and, therefore, more audible.

For instance, in the song Dinette by Django Reinhardt, in the A section, the V chord should be an Eb7b9, whereas many players play Eb9. This is because the melody is emphasizing the b9 of the chord. To play a regular 9 would then clash against the melody.

In the song Belleville, again by Django Reinhardt, the chords for the melody are different than the chords for the soloing section. The soloing part is a variation on the rhythm changes progression. The chords for the melody section, on the other hand, follow the actual melody; for your information, there are two different popular ways to accompany the melody.

In the song Daphne, at the end of the A section, there is a chromatic ascending pattern. Most players play G to Gm , but in actual fact, the chords should be G to G#dim7 in order to fit the melody. For soloing, I may revert back to Gm if I prefer soloing over those changes.

In the song All Of Me, many players play F to F#dim7, when the original chords are F to Fm. Interestingly enough, however, both chord progressions fit the melody. It’s always fun witnessing a jam session with more than one rhythm guitar player and hearing both changes being played at the same time. Most of the time, the two or more rhythm players are completely oblivious to the clash. I always wonder if they’re even listening!

While on the topic of All Of Me,  the last II V I is not a regular II V I; The II chord is borrowed from the parallel minor tonality: Dm7b5. I’m aware of this, but I personally, still play a regular Dm7, like most jazz musicians.  It’s just good to research, to pay attention, and to be aware.

Another interesting point, is that the song is rather melancholic, and it’s funny to see it played as an upbeat, up-tempo swing in the Gypsy Jazz genre today. When Django Reinhardt recorded it, it was played as a medium/slowish swing, and the melancholy was still preserved. I’d like to think that Django Reinhardt had a very heightened sense of awareness; and that is the difference between Gypsy Jazz and the jazz that Django played. Don’t get me wrong (this must be the 5th time that I warn you, but I don’t want people to misconstrue me), I am not criticizing Gypsy Jazz; I really love it, but the difference between Django’s jazz and Gypsy Jazz is enormous. Once again, it’s definitely deserving of a whole article of its own.

So here we are talking about changes, and which changes/voicings to use. That is one important aspect, and we must ask ourselves: "how should we interpret these changes?" The rhythm section is more than just a time keeping section, it can express a wide variety of moods in the way that the parts are executed. Just because a C6/9 is related to C, does not mean that it’s the right chord for the situation. This is extremely subjective, but when I play a particular voicing, it is because it is the one that I feel is best for the given situation; I won’t automatically use my comfort voicings just because they are the ones that I know. My choice of voicings depend on the song, the people that I am playing with, the style that I am trying to convey, etc. Everything is always fully intentional.

As far as the execution is concerned, from a Gypsy Jazz point of view, the rhythm guitar can do so many things:

  • long tones
  • short tones
  • long tones with regular emphasis of each beat
  • only downstrokes
  • with an upstroke grace note
  • soft attack
  • confident attack (medium)
  • aggressive attack
  • precise timing on all beats
  • laid back on 2 and 4
  • ahead on 2 and 4
  • slight tendency to always play ahead

 

There are so many ways to do things, and many things can be done within the same song. The important thing is to listen to what is going on, and to adapt accordingly. The timing issue is especially important. No one is ever 100% robotically metronomic. The timing does move, but it should move in a pleasant and subtle way. Again, another topic, deserving of its own article, but I will say that everything depends on the factors that I cited above: who you play with, what song you are playing, what style you are trying to evoke, etc.

It’s also important to be aware of certain natural tendencies that we may have, that are in fact mistakes. For example, on a ballad, when playing a staccato and aggressive style of accompaniment, there is a strong tendency to want to accelerate. Therefore, you must be aware of this, and show restraint not to speed up. Or, when accompanying a bass solo on an up-tempo swing, most rhythm players will play as softly as possible. The tendency, then, is to slow down! You must always be aware at all times! Being a rhythm guitar player is more than just doing chunk chunk chunk chunk. There are many important details to which one must pay attention.

The bass player is just as important. Unfortunately, most contemporary jazz players are only aware of playing walking bass with a long note feel. This is certainly a great way of doing things when the situation calls for it, but it is certainly NOT the only way. In my experience working with various contemporary bass players, their idea of playing swing, is to play two feel with long tones. It works for ballads, but for swing songs, it just totally kills the swing. Then there are some bass players who will try to do too much, adding all sorts of unnecessary effects, the same way a guitar player will try to use too many flourishes. These things can be fun if used in moderation (with a heavy emphasis on the word "moderation") but, by and large, are quite unnecessary.

Like rhythm guitarists, bass players have lots to think about:

  • walking bass
  • two feel
  • short notes
  • long notes
  • heavy attack
  • using only one finger for pizz to get a steady tone
  • alternating fingers
  • slap
  • arco
  • long tone arco
  • short arco
  • pedal tones
  • two feel, but each note doubled in quarter notes (C, C, G, G) and staccato

 

Again, the possibilities are endless. One song can make use of various feels depending on what is going on.

The important thing in a rhythm section, is that all instruments of the rhythm section should be listening to each other, while also listening to what is going on in the lead section. The rhythm section needs to be on the same page, and they will influence each other in not only the color but also the timing.  There is nothing worse than a stubborn player that thinks that his/her timing is the correct one. Sometimes it may be true, and it is also quite subjective, but if we are dealing with musicians of equal caliber, it should not about one leading all others, but about careful listening and finding a common meeting point. Therefore, a rhythm section is like a relationship, you need to find partners that are on the same page as you. Sometimes, some people don’t work well with each other even if they may be considered "good musicians" of equal caliber. That is fine, you’ll just have to look elsewhere. At any rate, while all this is happening, the rhythm section should also be listening to what the soloist is doing, and going in the same direction. It is a very organic process.

So much can be said about awareness. It even extends beyond the actual music we are playing. For instance, tapping one’s foot when playing guitar can influence how you play. When tapping your foot, the tapping should be precise and locked in to the rhythm section. If your foot is wobbling out of time, it can potentially affect your timing. Granted, some people manage to have a wobbly foot and still play in time, but many cannot! I have also noticed people make very pronounced grimaces when they play difficult passages. Most of the time, I’ve witnessed this, the difficult passages were played sloppily. I urge people to be aware of all these things and more, and to take the time to work on things properly. Then again, one could also argue that those flaws are just how they are. Fair enough! In the end, as musicians, we choose who we play with. As a leader, I hire the musicians that I want to; these are the musicians that I feel can best interpret the music the way I envision it. Sometimes, it’s not always possible to have the musicians we want, in which case, we either refuse the gig, or we just tough it out!

Last but not least, it goes without saying, but striving to improve your ears and memory is also indispensable. After all, can we say that we are fully aware if we cannot hear what we are playing or want to play? There is an international culture of chart readers among professional musicians today. I find this quite unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong (how many times have I said that now?), reading can be a useful skill, but it should never replace our ears and our ability to memorize. In my encounters, however, that is, unfortunately, often the case. I find that so frustrating and sad. Our ears can always be trained, even without an instrument in our hands. Learn to a sing a song or a phrase in time and in tune. Try to figure out melodies you hear in your day to day life. Take any basic melody, a Christmas carol for instance, and figure out the notes in your head. If you don’t have perfect pitch, use a pitch pipe or a smartphone app to determine the key, or just pretend it’s in the key of C. Off the top of my head, "Frosty the snowman" in the key of C, starts on the note G, goes down to E, up to F, up to G, up to C, etc. These are very simple and diatonic melodies. If you cannot even hear these and figure these out quickly, can you say that your improvisations are truly "sincere"?

This article is rather philosophical but I believe that if you strive to be aware of all these things, you can immediately use your current musical knowledge to take your music in better directions. One of the best things that you can do, is to make a live recording of your band. Listen back carefully and with critical ears; listen for all the things that I mentioned above, and ask yourself honestly: "is this exactly how I want it to sound?" If you don’t have a band, you can make your own one-man band, by overdubbing all the parts; use a bass guitar for the bass parts. Above all, play it like you mean it! Most important of all, however, just have fun; play what you want to play, and don’t worry about what other people think.

To quote Beethoven:

"To play a wrong note is insignificant;
to play without passion is inexcusable."

To take that even further, I’ll end with a quote from one of Beethoven’s students, Ferdinand Ries from "Beethoven remembered":

"When I left out something in a passage, a note or a skip, which in many cases he wished to have specially emphasized, or struck a wrong key, he seldom said anything; yet when I was at fault with regard to the expression, the crescendi or matters of that kind, or in the character of the piece, he would grow angry.  Mistakes of the other kind, he said, were due to chance; but these last resulted from want of knowledge, feeling, or attention.  He himself often made mistakes of the first kind, even when playing in public."


If you enjoyed this article, please have a look at my DC Music School website. Many of the lessons that I have produced take all of the concepts, discussed in this article, into account.

www.dc-musicschool.com

For Gypsy Jazz rhythm sections:

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/gypsy-jazz-rhythm-with-denis-chang-vol-1/

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/gypsy-jazz-rhythm-with-denis-chang-vol-2/

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/jazz-swing-bass-ft-tcha-limberger/

For anyone interested in Gypsy Jazz interpretation:

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/gypsy-jazz-guitar-technique/

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/romane-gilia-ft-tcha-limberger-vol-1/

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/romane-gilia-ft-tcha-limberger-vol-2/

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/gypsy-songs-ft-tcha-limberger/

For ear training and awareness:

http://www.dc-musicschool.com/catalogue/video-lessons/essential-skills-for-the-improvising-musician/

 

Excerpt from “Django Reinhardt in Italy”

Excerpt from “Django Reinhardt in Italy” ed. Carish/Music Sales

by Fabio Lossani


copertina alta def.

While on the horizon acetate slowly declined to be replaced by 78 rpm records, in Paris a certain Dizzy was performing what could be defined as the first concert of Modern Jazz, sparking a sharp debate among fans of Be-bop – the Jazz of the future, symbol of modernity and progress – and those of Classic Jazz – a reminder of past times, times of war and suffering and maybe because of this hardly borne, actually more by the plexus than by the ears. Critics ride, exploit, and stir up trouble. The guitarist – born in Belgium but of Manouche origins – and the violinist – born in France but of Italian origins – idols of swing that the war had separated, had just met again and reassembled the Quintette. But even if their greatness was unanimously recognised, they found themselves negatively involved in these internal fights.


Cerri e Django “They play so fast, so fast!” exclaimed Django on one evening of May 1945 while he was listening to Gillespie and His All Star Quintet with Charlie Parker. He was not jealous, he was on the contrary interested in the new trend and it was with a new enthusiasm that he played with Bird, Miles and Dizzy. To the critics, who were sitting many rows behind him hinting at an influence of Bop over the guitarist, the journalist and critic Livio Cerri pointed out that the taste of Django for discords traced back far before the birth of the Bop school, so if anything he was one of its pioneers!


Meanwhile at the Gare de Lyon, Django and Staphane met their American colleagues, who came back to playing in Europe after the end of the war, and greeted them smiling. But on that day their instrument cases seemed heavier, since on them, among the labels of the cities they had played in, was that of a by now out-dated jazz. They left Paris to accept the proposal of an Italian manager, who at that time – just like in a film by Woody Allen – could equally manage ballerinas, magicians, Louis Armstrong or Buffalo Bill and organise both big tours and single evenings.


In the first days of December 1948 Grappelli played in Milan at the night club Ciro’s during some evenings and in a couple of concerts at the New Theatre with Joseph Reinhardt (Django’s brother), the double-bass player Giorgio Poli, the pianist Franco Cassano and the guitarist Angelo Servida. “Django, come to Milan immediately! Here there’s the possibility of a two-month contract at the Astoria, a very elegant night-club in Piazza S. Maria Beltrame, not far from the Cathedral.” The violinist told him after having tracked him down at a friend’s house in Rome.


Santa Claus brought a big present that year to the young guitarist from Milan, Franco Cerri, who found himself playing on Boxing Day with the best guitarists of the period.  Armando Camera – the other guitarist hired – must instead have regretted having signed a prior contract with an orchestra of Turin and being therefore replaced by Piero Visani! At the back of the night club they smoke, Grappelli sips a cognac; Reinhardt plays poker with the double-bass player Ubaldo Beduschi and other two people.  In the seat of RAI in Corso Sempione the musicians of the Gorni Kramer orchestra were left gaping listening to Django, who played Cerri’s electric guitar for twenty minutes.  


astoriaclub “Live he is even more extraordinary!”, exclaimed a customer, since the news that Django was playing at the Astoria Club spread like wildfire and many were the jazz lovers, musicians and guitarists – some of which already well-known – who went to the club that evening to listen to him. Among them were probably Michele Ortuso or Giovanni Ferrero, Cosimo Di Ceglie, Alfio and Rocco Grasso and Franco Pisano. Some had even paid homage to him, like the well-known Luciano Zuccheri, who under his influence founded the ensemble “Quintetto Ritmico di Milano”. Neither tarot cards nor tea leaves could, however, have predicted that the contract would be rejected after only twelve days. “Dance, dance everyone, please do! Django is leaving.”


On the train heading to the capital city Django, singing softly “Tornerai” (“J’attendrai”) written by the Italian Dino Olivier – one of the rare pieces of video evidence – he thinks about the first time he came to Italy: it was 1915 in Livorno and then in Rome. His friend, Vittorio Spina, sitting with his guitar on his lap in one the first carriages of the Italian Jazz, remembers Django as a five-year-old boy who spent his days in the Usignolo in Via Anime Sante, listening to the waltzes, polkas and fox trots he played with Paolo, the gipsy guitarist Django strolled around Roma with.


Posing in front of a building named in his honour, Stefano Grappelli wears a tricolour scarf around his waist, but it is not about the violinist so much as his grandfather, mayor of the town of Alatri. “The most important names of wealthy Rome come here” Christian Livorness, a big fan of theirs, informed them while pointing at the Rupe Tarpea, a club at number 13 Via Veneto, in which they were going to play. The two friends were attracted above all by the wonderful smell coming from the kitchen, which wafted right into the dining room where they would be playing. A poster advertised: “The three fulminating fingers” – Django smiled sarcastically looking at his hand. They passed by a little room, named Jicky Club, which was used as a dance hall.


Voilà La Dolce Vita! Boys of good families, politicians and some members of the Vatican. “Look! Porfirio Rubirosa is at that table over there!” The well-selected audience – particularly by the price – was miscellaneous and, apart from some toffee-nosed rich layabouts from Rome, there were people who were really interested in jazz – some even knew it quite well – as well as in beautiful women and champagne. Lover of swing, but father of the intransigent bopper and grandfather of the unbridled rocker who would hardly bear the beat grandchild, he often moved the chairs around the dance floor in order to better listen to the performance of the quintet. Sergio Sangiorgi, president of the Hot Club of Rome, who once organised a concert in the Bernini theatre in Via Borgognona, did the same.  


Sometimes Carlo Loffredo replaced Pecori at the double bass and when the manouche couldn’t stand the miserable rooms of the Hotel Alexandra anymore, he took him to Piazzale Clodio, where there was a funfair run by some gipsy cousins, who lived in ten or so caravans. He often spent the night there.


The fork kills more than the sword! Is it possible to give up Italian cuisine? “Well, it is not as refined as the French…and how does Gianni Safred lay the table? And what about how Carlo Percori serves the plates?! Oh mon dieu, Aurelio De Carolis’ pots!” Only a biased palate could state that this cuisine is insipid, spurs taking new risks – also regarding the rhythm – and finding a “broken” accompaniment – like those of the bopper friends – with a quite original phrasings and chords and that it forces the embellishment of the accompaniment of Grappelli’s solos with exquisite and strong interventions.


Don’t you enjoy it Django? And so why did you agree that Livorness should take the matter up with Rai – with which he collaborated hosting a weekly programme from France – to get you a contract and record 70 songs, which would then be aired? Classics of the Quintette du Hot Club de France and famous songs, but also recent compositions or tracks that would become standards of the be-bop repertoire. “I also want to play a guitar improvisation in honour of the great Joaquin Turina, who died about ten days ago”.


Over The Rainbow/Night And Day/Minor Blues/Nature Boy/The World Is Waiting
For The Sunrise/Vous, Qui Passez Sans Me Voir/Hallelujah/Nagasaki/I’ll Never Be
The Same/Swing 39/Clopin-Clopant/Honeysuckle Rose/All The Things You
Are/Djangology/Liza/For Sentimental Reasons/Daphne/La Mer /Sweet Georgia
Brown/Lover Man/Marie/Stormy Weather/Minor Swing/To Each His Own/What Is
This Thing Called Love?/Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour?/Undecided/Improvisation N°4/I’m
in the Mood for Love/Swing 42/I Surrender Dear/After You’ve Gone/Mam’zelle/I
Got Rythym/I Saw Stars/Artillerie Lourde/It’s Only A Paper Moon/Time On My
Hands/Bricktop/Improvisation Sur La Symphonie No. 6 De Tchaikovsky/My Blue
Heaven/Menilmontant/Swing Guitars/My Melancholy Baby/Truckin’/Webster/Micro
(Mike)1-2/Dream Of You/Begin The Beguine/How High The Moon/Nuages 1-2/I Can’t
Get Started/I Can’t Give You Anything But Love/Manoir De Mes Reves/The Man I
Love/The Peanuts Vendor/Just A Gigolo/Troublant Bolero/Rosetta/Blue Skies/It
Might As Well Be Spring/Blue Lou/I’ll Never Be The Same/Brazil/What A
Difference A Day Made/Pigalle/Body and Soul/Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours.


Everything in complete freedom in the choice of both songs and the tempo of playing, without any bonds of duration in minutes, and sometimes with no fixed arrangements, but relying completely on the strong empathy between the guitarist and the violinist. Now it would be called a “live disco” or an “unplugged”. Regarding the mystery of these recordings, My Lord, Members of the Court, with the support of the experience of who worked in Rai, we would like to ask the witness Christian Livorness two simple questions:

1. Could a national Body like RAI allow the arbitrary use of its recording studios without a contract providing for the payment of the musicians and the relative right of ownership of what is recorded?


2. In view of the lack of a rigorous control, could it have been possible that someone, maybe a collaborator of Rai, brought home laquers, tapes or discs?
The verdict is up to you!


At the opening of the cine-theatre Metropolitan of Milan they performed the last concert, the last song, the last note. Then the roads that the destiny had joined together, giving birth to a fantastic musical fellowship, went their separate ways forever – Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli leave Italy, the boot-shaped peninsula, the freeze of March and the snow covering South Italy until Palermo. What remain are the memories and the anecdotes to be told, maybe mediated – as it should be –  by the personal perception of events, but above all remain the immortal pages of Great Music.

The wind of Jazz blows always quicker among the reeds of brass instruments and a brush more often replaces the plectrum in Django’s hands.


Pope Pio XII blesses the Saint Year 1950 and among the three million believers who came to Rome, there also were five French musicians, gathered together for the last time as the legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France. They arrive after a 24-hour train journey, but better like this than by plane, for the memories and the fear for the tragedy of the football players of the great Turin team of few months before were too strong. They arrive in Via San Nicola da Tolentino no. 4, where, at the corner with via Bassolati, a great building has been erected a few months before  – a pagan cathedral, seat of the roman administrative department of Fiat: offices, an exposition centre, galleries, meeting rooms, shops, two cinemas (Fiamma and Fiammetta) and in the cellar, connected by a long staircase, there was the club which hired them, the Open Gate Club. “What? They’ve sent away Sven Asmussen and his ensemble, one of the most highly regarded?? Ach moune! When does the next train to Paris leave?” Django asked Alf Masselier, the double bass player.


django 1950For sure, playing in that club during dinner was not easy. “Three”, gestured Roger Paraboschi, the drummer, granting the request of the maître d’, and away! They started playing for the fourth time the theme of “Il Terzo Uomo” (The third man). “As soon as I find a moment I’ll see that film!” said the pianist Ralph Schécroun. The audience were even richer and selected that at the Rupe Tarpea, but among these were Greek ship-owners and American oil tycoons. But where are the Italian Jazz lovers?? Ah, there’s Mario De Crescenzo! “For your birthday I’ll give you one of my drawings”.  Bye bye Carlo Pes and Armando Trovajoli! See you later at your house in Monte Mario, Armando, and maybe we can do a jam session until six in the morning with the musicians of Benny Goodmann’s sextet – I knocked them all down last time! I’m sorry Mr. Goodmann, thank you for the invitation, but I won’t go back to the US.


“J’adore Rome!” And actually Rome is beautiful in April, and ten minutes from here is the Trevi Fountain – I wonder if Misses Ekbar is already in there?! How can you resist the charm of the Eternal City? How wonderful it is, stopping by to look at the old column capitals, with a broad-brimmed hat and red scarf around the neck? So, what puts you in such a bad mood? The irreverent club? The rain that’s started falling? The feeling that time is running faster than your fingers? Still, you have a lot to say and this is why you are recording once again in Rai. Here you are with Andrè Ekyan, the saxophonist – who has been a friend of yours for 20 years – and the quintet; all gathered around one microphone in the middle of the recording room. Paraboschi, who was playing a little far from you, is not pictured in this photo, but don’t worry Robert, fifty years later a young musician from Milan will send you a photo, in which you too are pictured and in return you will maybe tell him your memories.


Again in the Rai studios but this time you left Maccaferri for Galimberti – the luthier of the company MOnzino-GARlandini – actually you left the acoustic and a little clanking sound for the electronic one of a electrified Mogar with a pick-up application…..and an amplifier…… During those 30 days you run wild. The quest for a new sonority nearer to anxiety that pervades you is a fundamental element of the be-bob curse. Because of the electric instrument the phrasing is modified and the anxiety becomes distortion…


Anniversary Song/Stormy Weather/Russian Songs Medley/Jersey Bounce/Dinette/
Sophisticated Lady/Micro/Dream Of You/Nuages/Darktown Strutters’ Ball/Danse
Norvegienne N° 2/A-Tisket A-Tasket/Manoir De Mes Reves/Place De
Bouckere/September Song/Royal Garden Blues/Saint Louis Blues/Sweet Georgia
Brown/Minor Swing/Double Scotch (Double Whisky)/Artillerie Lourde/St James’
Infirmary/C Jam Blues/Honeysuckle Rose/Stompin’ At The Savoy/
Rêverie/Impromptu/Black Night/Boogie-Woogie/Boléro.


Precious but short-lived documents which disappear after being aired on the radio, but eventually turn up many years later in a roman villa – with the name “C. Livorness” on the gate – some of which crumble in the hands, just like ancient roman denarii. You hear a thunder, but it is not the sound of applause so much as the rain, which doesn’t want spring to bloom in Rome and prevents painters from promenading and painting portraits. “Excuse me, does this train stop in Montecarlone (Capena), as in the film “La Route du Bonheur”? Django, Naguine, Babik hurry; the train is leaving!

The keen researcher looking for old documents, rummaging through old photos yellowed with time, would excitedly find a photo of Django at the Astoria of Milan, but the careless photographer forgot to wind the roll on and so he exposed two different pictures: one of the musicians and one of a couple going down the staircase of the club. Images which blur like the memories of who lived those moments as a protagonist or as a spectator. And so all the articles, the interviews, the books from Delaunay onwards help to remember but, at the same time, they confuse. It has been possible to tell this story – romancing it a little – because of the testimonies provided by those who lived – as spectator or protagonist – Django’s adventure in Italy, which I personally collected in some cases. For this I thank:


Livio Cerri, Franco Cerri, Mario De Crescenzo, Stephane Grappelli, Christian
Livorness, Carlo Loffredo, Adriano Mazzoletti, Roberto Nicolosi, Roger Paraboschi,
Arrigo Polillo, Vittorio Spina, Piero Visani, Luciano Zuccheri.

Books:
Charles Delaunay – “Django Reinhardt – Souvenirs” Ed. Jazz Hot
“Django, Mon Frere” Eric Losfeld Ed.
Adriano Mazzoletti – “Il Jazz in Italia – dalle Origini al Dopoguerra”ed. Laterza
“Il Jazz in Italia” ed. EDT
Alain Antonietto – “François Billard – “Django il Gigante del Jazz Tzigano” ed. Arcana
“Django Reinhardt – Rythmes futurs” ed. Fayard 2004

Films :
“La Route du Bonheur” prod. Italia/Francia by Labro e Simonelli film
with Django (his wife Naguine, his son Babik ?) replaced in the Italian version by Yves Montand with Henri Crolla .

“Open Gate club” newsreel “La Settimana Incom “ 17/03/1950
http://www.archivioluce.com/archivio/

Breakdown & Analysis of Stochelo Rosenberg’s solo on “Bossa Dorado”

By Barry Wahrhaftig

Bossa Dorado is a ‘must know,’ song for Gypsy Jazz players of all levels. It’s a staple of Jam Sessions and a favorite of players everywhere, and it goes over well at concerts and gigs. Just as we all need to know some of Django’s solos on the HCOF sides, as they are basically now parts of the song. Any player worth their salt should be familiar with Stochelo’s iconic solo on ‘Bossa Dorado.’ The piece was penned by Dorado Schmitt, who also wrote classics like ‘Tchavolo Swing,’ and the beautiful ‘Kali Sara.’[1]

The rhythm of the piece is actually a Rhumba, not a Bossa Nova, and the groove is a staple of Gypsy Jazz at this time. Needless to say, you should make sure that you have mastered the rhythm guitar part before you learn the solo [!] The Rhumba is Afro-Cuban in origin. It’s very similar to the grooves played by the ‘Gypsy Kings.’ [There’s a bit of Flamenco flavor in the groove and melody. Gypsy Jazz is truly ‘World Music’].   I would suggest taking some time to ingrain the rhythm guitar part, as it’s the heart and soul of the piece. Pick up Denis Chang’s Art of Accompaniment DVD[2], or get with a teacher if possible, [or both]. In my travels, I sometimes hear players struggling with the rhythm. The rhythm should have a soulful push to it. My friend Niglo Grünholz, [David Emerald], had to read the riot act to a bunch of jammers at Samoreau campground last June. He pointed out that the players were dragging the rhythm. They were slightly shocked, but he was right. You can’t play funk like a white-boy, and you shouldn’t play Gypsy Jazz like a Gadjo[!]   Oh, and while I’m at it, for God’s sake memorize the piece, melody and changes, and intro and outro. It’s OK to bring music to jam sessions when you have only been playing for a little while, but you should wean yourself off of music, [including ipads], ASAP. If you are soloing over a piece and reading the changes, it will sound like it. If you want to step up your game, toss the charts ASAP. Same goes for gigs, try to memorize all your pieces. This shows respect for the music and your audience and fellow players. [OK, I’ll step off my soap box now]!

The well-known intro starts the piece out. It’s based on a moving line that starts on the 5th of the D minor chord, which is ‘A’ natural. It moves up a half step to Bb, then to B natural, back down to Bb and A. The intro is basically a Montuno[3] , and it uses a harmonic device called CESH[4]. I sometimes tell the audience that we are playing the James Bond Theme, since it uses the same harmonic device [!][5]

On the live recording, it sounds like Stochelo is just playing the moving line, and Nous’che, the rhythm guitarist, is playing the written figure. I combined both parts in my transcription. You might want to just play the written intro and have the 2nd guitar play the rhythm part, even though nobody is playing rhythm on the intro on the recording. The recording isn’t ‘A’ 440. I had to bring it down -31 cents. The form is AABA. The melody is built around a common device and harmonic progression found in Gypsy Jazz and also in G.J’s Musette roots;   Dmi-E7-Emi7b5-A7. [We can look at the Emi7b5 as a Passing chord]. The melody implies two parts; the lower one, that starts on ‘A’ natural, and descends by ½ steps to G#-G natural. The upper voice starts on ‘F’ natural, and goes to ‘E’. It basically resolves to an ‘F’ Nat the 3rd of the key of D Minor. The piece uses a b9 on the E7, [F nat.] It builds tension by repeating the F nat. over the E7 and Emi7b5. The bridge has a temporary shift to Gmi, by way of Ami7b5-D7, [ii7-V7 of Gmi]. E7 acts as a secondary dominant, leading to A7 by way of Emi7b5, which sets up a return of the theme. When Stochelo plays the last ‘A’ section of the song, he uses double-stops, based on the 5th and 7th of the A7 chord. And also the 3rd and 5th of the chord. [Bar 25 of my transcription].    Note to theory-wonks;   Powertab is a great program, but it does some strange things. I ended up calling the Emi7b5 a Gmi/E or Gmi6/E. Same for Ami7b5, which I called Cmi/A or Cmi6/A. The reason for that is that Powertab changes notes to double flats in the notation part if you use certain chords. It also doesn’t really show all accidentals or slides, etc. in the notation. I suggest that you print out the transcription and pencil in accidentals and slides etc., if you read music. Also, I didn’t write in the picking, but Gypsy Picking rules apply. I suggest that you work the piece out carefully, taking time to write in left hand fingerings and pickings. It’s worth taking the time to ingrain the material carefully. The tactile aspect of playing is important, and it will serve you well in performance, so the time spent is worth it. I tried my best to show where I thought Stochelo played the passages, but if you find a way that works better for you, feel free to use it.

We can learn a lot my dissecting Stochelo’s solo. When he ends the melodic statement [which uses parts of a D blues scale] he goes right into outlining a Dmi 6th chord, [bars 27 & 28], then plays a bit of a Dmi scale with ‘backtracking ‘ embellishments, ending with a high ‘A’ natural, leaping down to a C#, bar 2 of the ‘A’ section. The C# is the Major 7th of the Dmi chord, and is a bit dissonant, [or interesting]! The ‘B’ naturals which he played just before in the pickup to the solo are typical of Gypsy Jazz, outlining a minor 6th chord. The raised 6th and 7th is very common to all types of Jazz. It’s worth mentioning that holding a C# gives you a much different effect that playing it as a passing note. When you break this solo down, keep in mind that music is built of the principle of tension and release. Look for the parts that build tension, and the parts that release tension. Great soloist like Stochelo is an expert at exploiting that principle. Check out his use of repeated double stops in bars 31-33 of the transcript.

Top players like Stochelo are masters of phrasing, so it’s a good idea to look at where he begins and ends ideas. Check out the double-time passage in bars 34-36. He is using D harmonic Minor in bar 34. [See Ex. 8 for D Harmonic minor scale]. The Harmonic Minor scale has a flat 3rd, 6th and raised 7th. The raised 7th is the major 3rd of the Dominant chord of the key, [A7]. In Jazz, especially Gypsy Jazz, the most common scale used on the Dominant chord is the Harmonic minor scale, starting and ending on the 5th degree of the scale, A-A. [See Ex. 6]. The scale is called Gypsy Dominant, and is also used in Klezmer music, where it’s called ‘Ahava Raba.’  It’s also used in Flamenco music. It’s used in songs like ‘Dark Eyes,’ for the Dominant chord, and it fits the ii7, [Emi7b5], too. The most common mode or scale that fits the ii7b5 chord is the Lochrian mode, which is an F major scale played E-E. The only difference between the 2 scales is the C# in the Gypsy Dom scale. [I’m hoping that your head isn’t spinning at this point]! Basically, you want to learn your theory and then forget it. If you ingrain the sounds and scales and chord shapes in your hands and eras, you will be able to use them on the spur of the moment. The names don’t really matter, but being to know where and when to use them without having to really think about it is the goal, so however you get there is cool. At any rate, the double-time bit in bars 34-36 is quite effective, helping to keep the energy of the solo going at the end of the 1st ‘A’ section of the song. He is basically ‘change running, playing the scale or chord shape that fits the change. Note the Eb passing tone at the end of bar 34, so that the line lands on the D natural on the 1st beat of bar 35. The notes in bar 35 suggest D Dorian, and there is an enclosure bit at the end of the bar; the F natural-C# which resolves to D natural in bar 36. The idea continues on with a similar Dmi 7- Dmi6th chord shape. Here Stochelo is playing on the Tonic Dmi chord thru the iimi7b5-A7 turnaround. It works in part because of the speed of the song and the double-time feel of the line.

He takes a little breath at the last beat of bar 36, [at the A7 cadence which is end of the1st eight bar phrase. He rests until the upbeat of the 1st beat of Bar 37. Note what effect is created by not starting on the 1st beat of the bar. He slows the action down with a Dmi9 Arp idea in bar 37, embellished with a trill on the root D to the 9th, and uses basically the same shape in bars 35 and 36, ending on the F-E in bar 39. He uses Gypsy Dom for the E7 chord, played in 16ths for double-time effect. He continues the line in bar 40, playing F Nat – G natural, [b9, and #9]. The line ends with enclosure on a lower E. [F nat.-Eb to E]. The next part of the phrase starts on the upbeat of the 3rd beat in bar 41, acting as a pick-up to the dominant 7th change in 42. [The Gmi6 or Emi7b5 change is really just a passing change to the A7. You’ll find that you can play less, or leave more space on that part of the progression. In general, it’s the Dominant chords that are most interesting. And, because they are Dom 7th chords, they are dissonant, and the stand out more. Remember, we are thinking about tension and release. The E7 creates some tension, the Emi7b5 is less dissonant, and it leads to the most important Dom, which is the A7. Stochelo plays his signature double-stops at the end of Bar 43. It creates tension by holding and repeating the E and G double-stops for beats 2, 3 and 4, and the downbeat of bar 44. It’s a delayed resolution of the A7 in bar 42. [Holding the 9th and 11th, or 2nd and 4th creates a suspension, often found in classical and rock music. It resolves on the upbeat of the 2nd beat. Also, it’s worth pointing out that it’s more effective to emphasize or bring out the aspects of more dissonant chords. Leaning on the dissonant chords and backing off on the resolutions are key to being a great improviser. Examine the overall harmony and melody, and observe where it is active and static. The greats do this at an almost unconscious level. Again, many of the Gypsy Greats may not use theory; they don’t need it, because they do it by instinct with soul. That’s the goal.

Stochelo takes a short break at the end of the ‘A’ section, starting his solo on the Bridge on the upbeat of four in bar 44. He does an interesting bit in bar 45, using the ‘A’ Locrian mode starting on an F Nat., [connecting the Dmi sound from bar 44], he uses trills and passing tones [E Nat, and B Nat to delay the line, creating some tension leading to the D7 in bar 46. He employs suspensions and double-stops again, playing a G Nat on 1st beat, so that the line that he started on the last beat of bar 44, really doesn’t rest until beat 2 of bar 46. It doesn’t rest much because of the double-stops in bar 46 and 47. The suspension effect happens again in bar 47, by playing the A & C double-stops, so that the D7 of bar 46 isn’t resolved until the upbeat of 4 in bar 47. He plays a very cool lower neighbor syncopated double-stop classic Jazz bit in bars 48 and 49, a la Kenny Burrell. Check out the Bad-ass Gypsy dom-Double time idea in bars 50 & 51, leading into a classic Django cliché based on A7 Gypsy Dom, bars 52 and 53. [He’s basically using Django’s favorite Diminished chord shape device, used in Dark Eyes, and using it to set up the now-classic Sinti style suspension bit in bars 54-57. [It’s hard to play the song or hear anyone play it, without unconsciously expecting to hear that bit]! In the transcript I used a repeat on bar 56, so we can say there’s a bar 56-b, after bar 56. He uses the A7 Gypsy Dominant scale in bar 57, over the Gmi6, [Emi7b5], using an Eb passing tone. Stochelo uses double-stops again to close out the 1st chorus. [Nice ‘bookending’ effect, since he used the device in the beginning of the solo.

The piece isn’t very long, partly because of how fast it’s played, and Stochelo only plays another half chorus solo before returning to the melody. I transcribed just the melody and 1st chorus. Stochelo playing of the melody and solo[s] are similar to what he does on ‘Seresta,’ the Trio’s earlier studio CD.[6] You can learn a great deal from examining and learning Stochelo’s playing here. His sound and feel are as important as his formidable technique. [His left hand vibrato is quite strong, sometimes bending the pitch of the sting]. I know that I’ve said this before, but we can learn a lot by emulating the tone and feel of players like Stochelo, not just focusing on his amazing speed.[7] The most important thing is the soul, beauty and fire of his playing. He plays from the heart, and that’s what matters. The devices that he uses work at any tempo. The theory is important, especially for us unlucky ‘Gadje,’ [non-Gypsy]. Perhaps we have to learn how to be natural, and to express ourselves musically like our mentors like Stochelo and Dorado. They don’t need the theory and terms, they can hear and play it all naturally, and that’s our goal. [Reminds me of the line from the Film ‘Treasure of the ‘Sierra Madre,’ “Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”! By the way, Michael Horowitz has told me that the Stochelo Rosenberg will be at DjangoFest NW this Sept, so get out to see him if you can, by hook or by crook!

I included some basic scales and material at the end of the piece. They are only meant to be a used for quick reference. Ex 2 is a common device that uses just the 1ST, 2nd, 3RD & 5TH degrees of the minor scale. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions and comments. My email is Barwarren@aol.com Also; I have some interviews and lesson material at my blog, including one with Stochelo. Check out www.GypsyJazzGuitarOnline.com, and say hi.

Barry Wahrhaftig performs with the Hot Club of Philadelphia. Their 2nd CD is due for Fall release. See www.HotClubPhilly.com for bookings and workshops.

 

[1] Both featured in the Tony Gatlif Film ‘Latcho Drom.’

[2] Available here: The Art of Accompaniment

[3] A Montuno is a repeating harmonic progression, used in Latin music. It has a rhythmic underpinning that is quite important. See ‘Clave,’ for more info. Pat Metheny uses the device a lot in his compositions. Check out ‘Phase Dance.’

[4] CESH is an acronym that stands for ‘Chromatic Elaboration of Static Harmony.’ Basically, just a fancy way of saying that notes in the chord change, while the chord stays the same. The intro to ‘For Wesley,’ by Jimmy Rosenberg, uses a descending minor device, which can also be called ‘CESH.’ Jimmy’s iconic soloing and writing were also hugely important influences on the modern Gypsy Jazz styles, especially his use of Latin Rhythms,

and chordal suspensions, used which are heard thru out Stochelo’s solo and melodic statement.

[5] BTW, I think that Dorado wrote the piece in the key of E minor.

[6] ‘Seresta’ Rosenberg Trio, 1989, Hot Club Records

[7] The amazing scat singer and Rhythm Guitarist Philippe ‘Doudou’ Cuillerier compared Stochelo’s amazingly accurate timing and technique to a Swiss watch. You can hear his accuracy even at ½ speed.

 

Analysis and Breakdown of Stochelo Rosenberg’s “Minor Swing” Solo from Live at the North Sea Festival

By Barry Wahrhaftig

Live at the North Sea Festival, is certainly on my “Desert Island Gypsy Jazz CD list.” The 1993 recording is significant in showing the virtuosity of the Earth Force known as Stochelo Rosenberg. He is usually assisted by his cousins; Nonnie on bass, and Nous’che on rhythm guitar. Their first CD Seresta released in 1989, introduced Stochelo and crew to the world. Live at the North Sea, further established and solidified Stochelo’s importance, and the influence of players from the “Dutch School”, exemplified by Stochelo and his cousin Jimmy Rosenberg. These proponents of the style brought much life into the Gypsy Jazz revival, and demonstrated how the genre was growing and evolving.

The Rosenbergs are part of the Sinti Gypsy community, based in the Netherlands. Some of the elements of the style are rapid-fire arpeggiated runs, and open-string/closed string syncopated ideas.[1]

Stochelo’s Live at the North Sea “Minor Swing”, solo is a tour de force, and there’s much that we can learn from it. Needless to say, the iconic piece is probably the most played song of the style, so you could say that it contains many of the elements of Gypsy Jazz. He uses some ideas from Django’s 1949 recording of Minor Swing.  Recorded in Rome with an Italian rhythm section, it features Django on an acoustic guitar. If we compare the ’49 version with his groundbreaking version recorded in 1937 with the Hot Club of France, we can see that Django was starting to experiment with Bebop ideas, and he was moving in a new direction.[2]

A word about my transcription; I tried to represent the rhythms as accurately as possible, basically as with any transcription, it is meant to act as a guide and a record of what the musician played. You should of course listen to the track to get the feel. Since it’s played in swing time, it’s a dotted 8th note-16th feel for the most part. I didn’t write out all of the funky subdivisions, [the chordal bit in the 5th chorus for example is simplified a bit]. There are times when Stochelo plays a dead string between notes, etc., and I didn’t notate them all.

About the chord progression; most of you know the progression, and good chord voicings for it. If you don’t, check out Michael Horowitz’s book Gypsy Rhythm which includes transcriptions of Django’s original chord progression as well as variations used by the Rosenbergs and other contemporary players. The progression for the solos, after the little minor triad is played is basically; 2 bars of Ami or Ami6, 2 bars of Bmi7b5, or Dmi6, [Dmi/B], 2 bars of E7, 2 bars of Ami, 2 bars of Dmi, 2 of Ami, 2 of E7, then 1 bar of Ami, followed by a bar of E7. The final bar of E7 acts as a turnaround, similar to a 12 bar blues form.  

It’s a 16 bar form, Tonic minor to a iimi7b5, then V7 to tonic. Iv minor to tonic, to V7 then tonic, followed by V7.  The 2nd chord can be thought of as either the ii chord of Ami, or a Dmi6th with B in bass. Dmi and Bmi7b5 have the same basic function. It might be easier for beginners to think of the 2nd chord as a Dmi with a ‘B’ note added].

It’s amazing to see what Django and Stochelo do with such a simple progression. One device that is pretty common is to play an A7 instead of Ami for bar 8. Sometimes you will hear a soloist use the notes in an A7 or A7b9 at the point in the form, even when the other chord player is playing an Ami. Basically, it works even when only the soloist outlines the notes, [A-C#-E-G-Bb]. The most important aspect is playing the C#, since it’s the 3rd of the chord.  Stochelo and company add some harmonic variations to this simple progression, and they are worth checking out and understanding.

We can hear that in bar 9 of Stochelo’s 2nd chorus, that they play a commonly used harmonic variation on the progression. It’s a cycle of 4ths; Dmi[7] to G7 to Cma7 to Fma7 to Bmi7b5 to E7. [A common cliché, it can be found in many songs, Autumn Leaves, for example. The Dmi or Dmi7 in bar 9 [which can be thought of as the ii chord in the Key of  ‘C’ major], sets up a cycle of 4ths, resting for a bar on C major, before shifting back to Ami, thru a  ii ½ diminished   – V7 –Tonic bit. Listen to how Stochelo plays off of those chords when they use that progression. It’s a nice variation that you can use in a performance. You’ll want to be sure that your band mates are hip to it, and make eye contact with them to avoid train wrecks[!] Eventually you’ll get to the point where everyone can feel when these things are going to happen, and that helps to make it fun and interesting.  

For the solo, Stochelo begins with a phrase based around ‘E’ natural, which is the V7 or Dominant chord and note of the key. The 1st few bars are based a bit on the beginning of Django’s solo from his 1949 recording. He outlines Ami and Ami6, then dmi6, and then E7b9, resting on the Ami in bars 8 & 9. Note how Stochelo draws out a phrase at times to prepare for the next change. The Ami tonic is a chord of rest, so it sort of speaks for itself in a way. The line is more active at bars 10 and 11. The line holds an ‘F’ natural over the Ami in bar 12. You can see more examples of this device, which holds a note over from a previous chord, or even anticipates the next change. He uses the bit at bars 10 & 11 again at bars 26. [BTW, it’s good to work out some of these riffs and take them apart, and learn to weave in and out of them. Everybody uses riffs or thematic material. You still need to know how to improvise, and believe me players like Stochelo certainly do, but it’s nice to have some things under your fingers to use and develop.  Moving on, an F7 is implied over the E7 in bar 22. A Bb is outlined over the E7 in bar 37. Bar 38 uses enclosure targeting the ‘E’ natural. He uses a cross-rhythm ‘false fingering’ bit in bars 45-48. It was used by sax players like Lester Young, and is common in Sinti style. [Chuck Berry uses a variation too]. Note, I may have missed a note or rhythm in that bit, it’s tricky. You can work something out based on the transcription and your ear. He uses a passing tone device in bar 63, and a cool Benson sounding blues lick in bar 44. The octave theme and chord bit in the 5th chorus are from Django’s ’49 solo.

There’s a lot to learn and appreciate here. You can see how Stochelo uses trills to make the line longer and target the 3rd of the next important chord, and you can also see how important it is to know all of your chord shapes and scale patterns.  He also develops his ideas very well, based usually on “question and answer,” concepts. This involves playing a simple theme, and then developing it and ending it in a pleasing way. Stephane Wrembel talks about this, and all good players do it, even unconsciously. Last note; I used the Amazing Slowdowner to transcribe this. The recording was a bit sharp of A’ 440. I had to lower the track about 19cents to match it. It’s also amazingly fast, I had the speed at times at 45 or 50%!

I hope that you enjoy learning the solo and working the ideas into your vocabulary.

Stochelo’s agent, Ivan told me that they will be playing in Canada at the end of May.

[MAY 30th, MONTREAL, Chamber Music Festival MAY 31st, TORONTO, Miracle Arena].

More details to follow.

Please feel free to email me with questions; Barwarren@aol.com,

And please check out my blog for more cool info, and interviews with players like Stochelo; www.GypsyJazzGuitarOnline.com . Oh, and check out my band, the infamous Hot Club of Philadelphia at www.HotClubPhilly.com



[1] See bars 45-46 in my transcription of Stochelo’s solo.  See also Django’s solo on Le Yeux Noir, 1947 recording, bars 87-88.  For further study check out Gypsy Fire, by my friends Andreas Öberg & Michael Horowitz, published by Djangobooks.

[2] For example Django uses some ii-V   ideas employing upper partials, playing Bmi9 sounds over the E7 towards the end of the progression.

Minor swing-Stochelo26-PDF_Page_1

Lesson #6: Minor Line Cliche

This month’s lesson is one of the numerous Gypsy chordal devices you’ll find in the Pearl Django Play-along Songbook and Unaccompanied Django.

This chordal sequence (min, min/maj7, min7, min6) is commonly known as a minor “line cliche.” This progression is usually voiced so that there is a descending chromatic line starting from the tonic moving down to the minor 6 (i.e. in D minor the line goes D, C#, C, B). This device was used regularly by Django and has become even more common among contemporary Gypsy jazz guitarists. See my transcriptions of Improvisation #1, J’Attendrai, Just Relax, and Gypsy Etude #3 to see how Django and other Gypsies use major and minor line cliches to create harmonic movement.

This example of a line cliche places the chromatic line in the top voice. Its a great way to make a minor chord more interesting. Especially when you have to sit on one chord for 2 bars or more. In the audio example I play the line cliche twice: First time as written and then the second time I play a common rhythmic variation. This particular line cliche is commonly used by Dutch Gypsies such as Stochelo Rosenberg, Jimmy Rosenberg, Paulus Schafer, and Martin Limberger.

Audio Example

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