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



  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    I respect the skills the current GJ greats, but have always preferred to listen and be inspired from Django.
    A formula 1 style of music is thrilling for about 3 laps, then gets mindless. I often feel lost (and unhappy) in even simple verses at high speed. When 12 measures go by in 12 seconds, .........I'm just to old. It's like work just to keep the thread (context) going just to hear a good idea or presentation.
    I always hear dialogue in Django. He's usually just "talking" at whatever BPM best makes the musical point.
    Also, and obviously, within every slow passage is a kind of speed.
    Django is more about beauty than power for me.

    Separately, I think that Django mostly didn't play "Gypsy" music to his audience. He was playing into a new crowd, wanting the "new" sound for which the U.S. was the biggest reference.
    Since 1939 or so, the audience and their points of reference all slowly died away (cept a few) only to be reborn in the last couple decades but under completely different circumstances. Meanwhile the "Gypsy" side of Django was brought forward perhaps because of the pride of place of Gypsies themselves. Without a dance crowd, and with the interested plurality being Gypsies themselves, taking pride in one of their own, virtuosity became the coin of the realm rather than bringing new forms of art, beauty, and rebellion to the masses. Their are no more "masses" dancing their ass off to the "new" sounds. Instead GJ tends to be a kind of organic museum which showcases guitar virtuosity above everything else.
    Swing wasn't just a era or a genre, it was a kind of social movement. Hard to duplicate.

    That said, I love Bireli's improv. solo work. Always full of beautiful ideas played at constantly and widely varying tempos, and pulling from a dozen genres.
    Fapy's melodic sense can bring tears and most reminds me of Django.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • AhabAhab GB✭✭
    Posts: 88
    Well, to me the key aspect of this style is not the speed or the technique as such but the melodicism. The best players are the most melodic and they have the most ideas. When I hear Django or Fapy or Bireli playing I hear a voice talking to me, telling a story. When I hear people playing endless runs at breakneck speed I hear...I don't know!

    A band I really like is a french group called Caravan Palace. Some of you may have heard of them, if you haven't they're definitely worth checking out, they combine gypsy swing with the best of modern electronic music. Some of the purists will hate them no doubt, but the guitarist who plays with them plays incredibly well, he really does have fantastic chops, but the reason why I like it a lot over some other modern forms of gypsy jazz is that it's more in touch with the roots of the music because it does make you want to dance, I have seen people at their concerts going wild and having a great time! I don't think music should be a museum, it should be something that is alive and vital!
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,858
    Great thread, Anthony, thanks for getting the ball rolling... I, too, love the players who keep the speed in their back pocket and then pull it out every now and then to totally WOW you... to me, that is real musicianship!

    I wish you luck, Anthony, in your quest to bring dance-ability back to our kind of jazz.

    And since you are a former dancer, I'm hoping next year you can take a leaf from Oscar Aleman's book and do a little dancing while you play one of your solos! :idea:

    Now, that, my friend, would make you a STAR!


    Re: Django in June--- yes, it was amazing to see Christine holding her own right up there with the big boys! She was awesome, and I was glad to see the supportive reaction she got from all the staff players.

    Another non-staff player I really dug at Django in June was a dark-haired 30-ish muscleman named Emmet from Hawaii. Real tasteful Django-style musicianship.

    As I told him--- man, I wish I could play just like you, buddy!

    Something I noticed while watching some of the top guys like Dennis Chang and Stephane Wrembel and some of the others: these guys actually speak to each other, and send little sarcastic messages to each other, with their guitars. This kind of mastery alone was worth the price of admission! Thanks again, Mr. Andrew Lawrence, for bringing us such joy every year.
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    edited June 2012 Posts: 349
    Agree with the OP 100%. Love melodic, swinging GJ ...can't stand the shredding. Come on, it's not a race, or attempt at land speed records. Excessive speed kills the swing and leaves me cold. He's also right about the dancing aspect. The swing era was heavily focused on dances and dancing. In my limited experience playing out (not GJ) I always enjoyed playing to a dance crowd. It's fun to share music with an audience obviously having a good time and getting, ahem physical. The lack of females enjoying GJ seems to be less of an issue in Europe. Perhaps because jazz is generally more popular there and the GJ scene has been flourishing much longer. Been to a few GJ gigs at clubs here in LA and the ladies always seem to like it, especially if vocals are thrown in... so it may just be a question of lack of exposure. Festivals seem to draw hard core enthusiasts and players (who tend to be male).
    Mi dos centavos.
    Swang on,
  • Appropriate thread, especially as I went to DiJ with a very specific agenda:
    -get my right hand in order
    -digest the variations on the style from the teaching staff and from jams
    -figure out what appeals to me as I work my way into the melodic aspect (solos) of the style.

    Emmet Mahoney is a great player and a very nice guy. During our one sanctioned GGG meetup, Emmet's group was recording versions of "Rhythmes Gitans" by Jo Privat for Patrus. This is a tune my group normally plays so I am always interested in the interpretations of the form and listening to how the soloists approach the changes. Emmet has a real nice style and was one of the guys who had zero trouble picking up licks up a first listen. This is a great skill to have and one that I'll endeavor to develop.

    Michel, from Montreal, was another player who I stopped often to listen to in jams. Extremely tasteful and lyrical player that has that elusive thing that we are discussing here: playing melodically, but having a very strong technical base that allows him to obtain a comfortable level of speed. Of the non-teachers, I enjoyed his playing the most and it is akin to where I would like to be some years down the line when I have logged some more hours.

    I'm generally in agreement of all that is said here, in that this is the way we approach our variant in Jersey City. There is quite a bit of singing in our band, mainly from the French guy, and people seem to respond much better to this than a declaration of pure speed and technique. I mean, most of the tunes in the general repertoire are based from songs with vocals from decades past. I'd be lying if I said I have no interest in reaching a higher level of technique where I'm able to add some flash and dazzle as punctuation marks to solos, as I develop my style. It is certainly fun at the end of the night when guest players come in to jam and strut their stuff and that is the place for it. For me, the music is infinitely more interesting both in the midst of a band or jam and for the casual listener if there is melody. I get more "right ons" in the band when I nail a django blues lick, as opposed to ripping a wicked fast arpeggio run. We actually played a gig in Brooklyn on Saturday where it was specifically requested that we play music at tempos where folks can get their dance on and it was well received.

    That all being said, I really appreciate the pure energy exhibited by the young blood in this music. The quest for speed can drive many people nuts or even be a turn off, but it is an accomplishment and at points jaw dropping. I was watching the private jam between Gonzalo and Antoine (with Olli periodically jumping in) on Thursday night in Northrop and there were perma-smiles on their faces as they were doing some seemingly impossible stuff.
    In the end, the fact that there are many folks out there who don't value speed as a primary soloing device gives me a degree of hopefulness that a degree of competency in this music is a reachable goal. I just want to be able to get a "right" or "truth" from my band members when I'm able to solo and to feel comfortable that I'm meaning what I play. The rest is gravy.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471
    Great post, Jim. Michel was wonderful to listen to, and play beside in jams (so long as my jaw dropping didn't cause me to blow the simple harmony I was gamely trying to keep). A monster player, but with very clean music in his body and mind, as you said. I hope to pay him, Christine and Eric a visit in their own turf, sooner rather than later. Meeting and listening to these 3 was one of the high points, for me. (Just got a couple of Christine's cd's, can't wait).

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Yeah. I'd never heard of Christine until the guitar show on Wednesday night. Her playing was turning heads. I've seen Eric the last time I went to Montreal. I'll be headed up in August, so I hope to see at least one of these groups play.
  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 191
    Good post. To quote Irving Mills "It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)" holds so true for this music.

    I've been to DjangoFest NW a number of times now and what I remember enjoying more are the slow ballads, some fun stuff (I wish they would bring back Opus 4 and I'm glad they are bringing back Zazi), and anything slow. I come away after hearing the breakneck speed stuff thinking about Emperor Joseph II in the 1984 movie about Mozart Amadeus:
    Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.

    Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?

    I've been involved in Irish music sessions in the past and like Gypsy Jazz there seems to be an arms race of who can play faster and faster, leaving the rest of us and much of the music behind. I find I listen to the modern renditions less and less and listen to Django and his Swing Years contemporaries more and more. lately I've been enjoying some of Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart's music.

    The cure for this is to play in front of dancers. They will teach you proper tempo.
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 561
    cbwim wrote:
    I come away after hearing the breakneck speed stuff thinking about Emperor Joseph II in the 1984 movie about Mozart Amadeus

    Yeah I thought the EXACT same thing like a mantra the entire week at DIJ. Like I said, at those speeds you can't even hear the melodic phrasing clear enough to appreciate it.

    I was listening to Old Django last night and found that it sounded NOTHING like what I heard in northampton.

    Soloing aside, In the early years, Django's group did a very noticeable up strum that modern gypsy's would never allow their rhythm guy to do.

    At DIJ, Even though he was a bit over-boisterous and loud, I found that the kid Max had that OLD school django style in your face pompe' down really well.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471
    I was listening to Old Django last night and found that it sounded NOTHING like what I heard in northampton.

    Soloing aside, In the early years, Django's group did a very noticeable up strum that modern gypsy's would never allow their rhythm guy to do.

    To be honest, Anthony, I wouldn't even expect old Django to sound like Northampton Django, if he were alive today. Django's unfortunate early death sort of enshrined him in a epoch, but every sign is that he was enthralled with bebop and experimentation.

    I love old Django, too. I love big band swing. I also love the experiments that have stood time since then, as they make musical sense. Not to say my experience from DIJ was that the style de la semaine was that all were on a meth rush, because I didn't get that at all, a very different experience, I guess.

    Django reportedly tired himself of the pronounced upstroke style - forget the pejorative, but it was clear he was pretty tired of it by the time he moved to a different accompaniment sound. I think everyone finds their sound - Adrien Moignard, the "young French lions" (young lions of all national stripes) have developed that really clean, bass growl; I agree with Gonzalo, as he says on the DC school website, "you know, bouncy, easy to play over....".

    That said, and as much as I appreciate the downstroke only thing, it's going to take some work for me to be able to do it at all (feels really stiff. mechanical to these arms, accustomed to using an upstroke). I grant my "upstroke" pompe is leagues away from where I want it to be, so I'm not surprised I find the downstroke style doubly challenging.

    I have personally been trying to grab Hono as much as I can - and it's interesting to work his stuff, from Series I-III on the DC Gypsy school. His first 2 series, much wetter and trebly than I would have expected. By the time you get to series 3, tunes in a performance context, it's all very dry. and his upstroke is so subtle. I actually had to go back and freeze the stream several times, just to discern he was, in fact, doing an upstroke. Adrian Holovaty, too, sounds to me in this vein. I enjoy the hell out of all these "houses" of rhythm.

    I am very much a traditionalist, sincere in saying, to a fault. It's a problem I recognize, coming I suppose from my former training in French cooking and traditional martial and zen ways. But I've seen what happens when anything becomes a religion - becomes enshrined simply because it "is," as opposed to what it offers. I think the same could be said here. An addiction to speed for speed's sake is a religion. But so is eschewing it altogether, or otherwise enshrining one approach to this music, for that matter. That's my take away, anyway.

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
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