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How does "North American" GJ differ from the Euro style?

Jim GallaherJim Gallaher Staunton, VA 2012 ALD La Brune
in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 23
I've been listening to Gypsy Jazz for over a year, mostly the European artists. When I heard a North American band recently (The Djangoners), it seemed that the "pompe" was not as strongly-defined and the bass "walked" a good deal more.

I liked their approach to the standard repertoire, but it got me thinking about whether there is a North American "flavor" of Gypsy Jazz that more experienced forum members can define for me.

Care to comment?


  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,122
    that s a huge topic, that ca be further divided into the difference betwee how gypsies and non gypsies play, and even how the gypsies in different regions play

    i wrote an article for this site that briefly talks about this, and there s alo this month s featured article where i talk about it as well...

    in america, the style has seen a lot of change over the past 5 years or so, thanks a lot to the wonderful django in june festival and also djnagofest northwest
  • Posts: 3,049
    There are so many flavors in both European and North American scene that it's hard to draw lines but a few things that come to my mind is sometimes a different instrumentation. Say in US a mandolin is fairly common, at least in jams if not so much on records. I might be way off but it seems like the scene in US is more open to instruments other than classical Hot Club line up.
    Also in US you might have bands that use some percussion, I haven't seen that in Europe but than internet and YouTube is my only insight. In US there are bands where rhythm guitar has more of western swing influence.

    In Europe they smoke way more but when it comes to beer we can probably compete. Top guys over there also seem , however briefly, to have a superstar status. We've seen YouTube videos where top guys have filled concert halls with what looks like over 5000 seats although it was with most of very best on the same stage, like 10 people on stage.
    In US you have around 500 musicians, a guess from the other thread, compete for audience of 10.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,172
    Yes, many guys from the US I've heard play with a really weird pompe! I like to use the analogy of an accent, if you learn to speak English in USA you will end up with an American accent, and if you learn to speak it in France you will get a French accent, etc... well I think it's just the same thing with playing music! Of course there are some exceptions, some guys can imitate well a French sound on the guitar if they have practised it (just like some guys can speak very well, with a convincing accent, in their second language - if they have worked on it).

    Even the style between the French and the Dutch is very different, and last Samois when I saw so many Italian players I really thought I could pick out the Italian accent common in their playing too.
  • Probably somewhat different repertoire too. Though lots of commonality too
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x3, Petrarca, Catelluccia, Hoyer, Epiphone & Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 609
    I agree that the U.S. version of La Pompe is not the same as the Euro players. That is ok as far as it goes, but I have found at least one American guitarist giving 'Pompe' lessons on Youtube and it is way off, so there is a possibility of passing on the wrong feel to the next generation. One theory could be that while most European guitarists have had close encounters as it were; it is not hard to travel within mainland Europe and the leading French, Dutch (and other) Gypsy guitarists are never far away. I am not just talking Samois, but between Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and even further afield there are many regular venues to catch the real thing and these cities are all within a few hours travelling time of each other. When I was living in England I regularly got to see Fapy, Romane, Boulou and Elios and further afield even Babik and many others. This and the fact the lesser known or younger players are still learning from such primary sources means the tradition can carry on undiluted. American players on the other hand may have come to Django and GJ from a previous jazz background which influences how they interpret what they are hearing. Most of the American GJ players I have heard have a more conventional four to the bar easy going swing to their feel and maybe it is harder to unlearn a dominant influence to be able to hear the original Gypsy feel correctly. Just my observation.
    Andrew Ulle
  • Jim GallaherJim Gallaher Staunton, VA 2012 ALD La Brune
    Posts: 23
    I think the "easy going swing feel" that Chris describes is what I've been hearing in my recordings. I don't find it unpleasant, just different. I don't have any problem with an artist interpreting the standard repertoire in a way that reflects his/her own influences.
  • Andrew UlleAndrew Ulle Cleveland, OH✭✭✭ Antoine DiMauro modele Django
    Posts: 502
    I'll second what Chris Martin said above. In the US, authentic highly skilled gypsy players are rarer than hen's teeth. Even the best home grown players we have usually came from other genres, rock or traditional jazz. The gypsy sound is distinctive, but subtle in many ways, and coming from another style, it's tough to get the nuances just right especially considering that we (1) weren't steeped in the GJ tradition, and (2) have few live examples to observe and learn from. It's almost like learning to speak Latin.
  • edited April 2015 Posts: 3,707
    If you grow up with Sinti, you will have that accent Tzigane that accent. If you grow up with other music and then learn Gypsy Jazz you will have a different accent. They are all just different. I have heard lots of players from lots of different cultural backgrounds. More important than the accent is their artistry IMO
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x3, Petrarca, Catelluccia, Hoyer, Epiphone & Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 609
    Of course it is unfair to generalise, and I am not saying one is better than the other but there are differences. I did not mean there is a strict division between America and Europe. Of the American players, I have recordings by the great John Jorgensen and Frank Vignola and these guys know their onions, but I have also heard examples of a uniquely American GJ style which do have a different feel to anything in Europe. Yes there are also some players in Europe who have not got the Gypsy thing down quite either, but that is a different genre again. I am now in Australia and there is a different mix here too, with some who really nail it, but I have yet to hear the American Pompe played here.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 559
    This is already sounding like one of those "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" threads. This style of music is not defined by one single way to play. Maurice Ferret and Joseph Pouville did not sound remotely like the Rosenberg Trio. Mondine Garcia did not sound anything like Tchavolo and his son Ninine (like Joseph Pouville) played a rhythm that was in no way a traditional "pompe". Alma Sinti did not sound like one of Schnukenack Reinhardt's bands - an uneducated ear would probably not even make the connection between the two bands - yet that connection is real. Even in Django's day, the rhythm section of Chaput/Reinhardt did not sound much like Ferret/Bianchi.

    Here in the USA, we have all kinds of musicians. On the one hand are the perpetual students who will struggle for years trying to find the "authenticity" that only comes from trying to mimic the "real thing" but can never get there. On the other hand are the many players who just decided to get on with it and play Django-inspired music the way they wanted to without worrying too much about whether they sounded like rhythm players from here or there or if they had the right pick. Dave Biller (a guitarist of truly amazing skill and versatility) is a good example of this; so is Frank Vignola. And we have all sorts of players between these two poles - just like the rest of the world.

    American guitarists often played other styles of music before they came to play this music? OK, probably true, but I don't see how that's a bad thing. As I have pointed out in the past (for those people who are not from here and don't really know how things work here), stuff that comes here from other places always get modified to suit our ways. Good examples are the way cricket morphed into baseball, or the way outdoor motocross led to supercross. It did not corrupt cricket or motocross, it just gave us more options for sports to enjoy playing or watching.

    We're not Europeans here, and we have our own jazz heritage - jazz is an American style, after all - and our own guitar culture as well. Tony Green, Rick Olivarez, Alfonso Ponticelli, Dave Biller, Paul Mehling, Raul Reynoso, Troy Chapman, Neil Andersson, John Jorgenson, Andy Page, Ivan Pena, Jesse Barksdale, ****, Roberto Rosenman and Chris Bezant, the guys in Ultrafaux who recorded an entire CD of original material(!) - these are just a few of the fine guitar players on this continent who play this kind of music with skill, originality and imagination. Doubtless there are many more I haven't heard of yet. N. Americans can and do have much to offer the world of Django-influenced music. If some people don't like this, that is their loss.

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