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Speed kills the swing/time to get back to dancing.

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  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 170
    Bob Holo wrote:
    Is this really an issue?
    No... it's not an issue. You're absolutely and completely spot on about that.
    The original author 'anthon_74' even came back and said: "Man, that's not even what I meant"
    We have one of these every year or so. lol.
    Don't worry. It sounds like it's very near the end now.

    Yes, we get these regularly, the most common arguments being that a) in Django's time swing was meant for dancing and b) today bands play too fast.

    It seems evident, however, that Django and Grappelli didn't consider swing as dance music. They had been playing dance music (and backing up singers) for money before QHCF, and continued to do so on the side before swing could provide them sufficient income. In fact, QHCF first was formed in the back stage taking a break from tea dance sets. But that doesn't seem to have been what they wanted.

    When they finally got their first longer engagement as Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, they came into Bricktops before opening hours just to fill the dance floor with tables and seats to prevent people from dancing. They obviously wanted their audience to be able to appreciate their art without distractive participation.

    Another evidence for Django's opposing attitude towards dance music - at least in its older forms - is the fact that he converted every waltz (except Pigalle) in their repertoire into 4/4-swing (Songe d'automne, Les yeux noirs, Anniversary Song, etc).
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 360
    Late to the party, but nevertheless--

    On playing-too-damn-fast, swing to bop, the rise of listening-mode jazz, and such:

    For seventeen years I've been attending a swing music and dance week (at the Augusta Heritage Center* in West Virginia), and Rusty Mason, who served as the program's master artist until he died recently, used to explain that part of what killed (big band) swing was economics and part was technology. It was expensive to run a big dance band (17 pieces for the full-size organizations), and when effective amplification came along, a five-piece (sax, electric guitars, bass, drumkit) could be heard in a big hall as easily as a traditional band. This, along with cultural (that is, taste) changes, led to jump blues, which is also dance-based music but coupled to dance styles that were faster and more athletic. (And this led to R&B, which led to rock 'n' roll, and here we are.) The big bands didn't vanish altogether, but eventually they became concert- rather than dance-venue outfits. When I saw the Basie Band in the late 1960s and Ella in the 1970s, it was all sit-down--though the music remained muscular, swinging, and quite danceable.

    Then there's the familiar after-hours-jamming part of the story, with skilled and ambitious players getting together to play something other than the charts and tempos that they were limited to on standard gigs. BTW, Michael Bauer's point about academics following rather than leading the changes is on the money. Plenty of the big-band and early bop players were quite well-schooled and knew exactly what they were doing--that couldn't-read-music stuff might apply to a few players, but Rusty Mason (who started playing in the mid-1930s and was still gigging a few months before he died at 89) got conservatory training when he came home after WWII, and the overwhelming majority of the younger (that is, mostly middle-aged) guys on the Augusta staff know more theory than I can absorb--and they still swing like crazy. (Solomon Douglas, mentioned upthread, has been the keyboard teacher for the last couple years--very schooled, very swinging. Peter Ecklund, a ferociously sophisticated arranger, has taught ensemble classes that accomodate players with very modest chops--and Peter's own trumpet playing is as laid-back and accessible as any I've ever heard. You'll find him on a lot of Marty Grosz's recordings. Musicality and "academic" skills are independent variables that sometimes reinforce each other in delightful ways.)

    But back to Hot-Club culture: One of the things I never liked about Djangofest NW jams was the push to play everything fast, and it was pretty clear to me (middle-aged and now Old and with personal roots in American big-band swing) that it came from the same guy-culture forces that I saw in other guitar subcultures. Instrumental guitar music as played by young men tends toward the showy and fast--I remember when everybody wanted to play fingerstyle like Leo Kottke, and preferably his up-tempo compositions. (A variation on this is to focus on the most difficult material, which is what happened when hobbyists discovered Michael Hedges or the more elaborate reaches of Irish music.)

    And while Django and Stephane might have wanted their music presented in more of a listening than dancing environment, their tempos remained danceable--you could still dance to most Grappelli tunes when I started listening to him in the 1960s.

    * Augusta's swing culture is about dance and song as much as instrumental chops, and that focus serves as a governor even when a set consists mainly of up-tempo tunes for the more active dancers. One dance set this year was a quartet of two guitars, bass, and drumkit, and they did some Django compositions that danced wonderfully well.
  • andmerandmer New York✭✭✭
    Posts: 92
    Saw this somewhere else and it just fits perfectly: Django Jazz vs Gypsy Jazz

    Lollo Meier on the subject in a discussion with Adrian Underhill at Samois 2011:
    He (Lollo) made the distinction between Django Jazz and Gypsy Jazz. He said listen to this piece of Django, and he played a CD track and said "What do you notice? He leaves lots of space. It swings. You can dance to it. It is intelligent. He plays fast occasionally, when needed, otherwise at about a quarter or half of his maximum speed. And above all it is MUSICAL. This is the kind of music I would like to play and I encourage in others".

    And I said to Lollo "OK, so what do you mean by Gypsy Jazz?" And he replied "The opposite. There is no space. It is maximum speed the whole time. The tune itself is shredded. It does not swing and you could not dance to it."
  • MatteoMatteo Sweden✭✭✭✭ JWC Modele Jazz, Lottonen "Selmer-Maccaferri"
    Posts: 393
    That is a brilliant quote! Lollo really hits the nail, I think. And of course he knows what he is talking about. One of the most fabulous concerts I have ever been to was with Lollo and his band, in Paris many years ago. They swung incredibly hard. The audience was in extacy!

    Hello everyone, by the way! This is my first post here, though I've been visiting this forum regularly for quite some time. There's so much information to be found here, and this has been an interesting thread to follow! I'm in Sweden and I've been experimenting with the Django guitar playing style on and off for a long time. I got more serious about it two years ago after buying a new guitar, a D-hole model that seems to work better for me than other guitars that I have owned.

    I can add that I have danced the lindy hop a little and have had the opportunity to dance to the Hot Club de Suède once, which was fantastic. Another thing, I also play the trumpet, in a smaller, late 1920's, early 1930's style big band. We always seem to swing more when we play for really good swing dancers. There's some kind of communication that takes place, between the orchestra and the dancers, which seem to reinforce the swing rhythm in both us and them. It's a tremendous feeling when that starts to happen! So, to get back to dancing is not a bad idea at all, as I see it.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    This is not so much about the ability to swing at speed as it is about speed in general. I've shared this with friends and bandmates lately and will share it here also. My sister, who is one of the finest musicians I have ever known, gave me a bit of advice years ago that I've never forgotten. She said that the audience's perception of your speed can be very different from your own as a player. Whenever you are playing a fast tune, you need to actually play it a little slower than you think it ought to go, because the audience will hear it as faster than you do. Conversely, slow tunes need to be sped up a little lest they seem to drag. Many times I've listened to a recording of my own live performance and thought, Holy crap, that sounds a lot faster than I thought it was when I was playing it.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471
    klaatu wrote:
    This is not so much about the ability to swing at speed as it is about speed in general. I've shared this with friends and bandmates lately and will share it here also. My sister, who is one of the finest musicians I have ever known, gave me a bit of advice years ago that I've never forgotten. She said that the audience's perception of your speed can be very different from your own as a player. Whenever you are playing a fast tune, you need to actually play it a little slower than you think it ought to go, because the audience will hear it as faster than you do. Conversely, slow tunes need to be sped up a little lest they seem to drag. Many times I've listened to a recording of my own live performance and thought, Holy crap, that sounds a lot faster than I thought it was when I was playing it.

    That's really interesting, Ben, the perception of speed.

    Don't recall exactly where I saw it, but someone/somewhere talked about how Stochelo's speed is aided, in perception, by just how cleanly he plays. I know this is almost bizarre, but Stochelo and the Rosenberg Trio are a relatively new discovery for me (I know, it's nuts). And since buying both of Denis's DVDs featuring Stochelo, and listening to them a lot more, I can't get enough of them. He's an example of someone who has such a sense of drama and punctuation that no matter how fast he plays, I always feel like he's telling me something, which I guess is what I was trying to say earlier re: artistry and speed.
    -Paul

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    Interesting comment, P. My favorite classical conductor growing up was Arturo Toscanini. He had a reputation for fast tempos, but it was said that he did not really conduct all that fast, it was just that the orchestra played so cleanly and with such precision that it seemed faster than it was. I've never put his recordings against a metronome to see if that's true, but there may be something to that. Makes a great story, anyway.
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
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