Many of you have noticed that I've begun to sell a lot of GJ gear, including books, my spare guitar, my ischell system, etc, and some of you have asked if that means I'm leaving the style. It occurred to me to answer this question by telling my gypsy jazz journey, as maybe some of you have had a similar one, with similar trials.
I started playing gypsy jazz 14 years ago for 2 main reasons - 1) I wanted to learn a style that would push me to improve as a guitarist, and after falling in love with Django's playing, I decided that was the way to go. 2) I thought the gypsy swing sound would be great combined with Rock and Roll, which up to that point had been my main style of guitar playing, and I would eventually come back to rock to create this sound. So I slowly delved into the style, practicing mostly rhythm for years, and then finally taking on lead. About a year after I began to tackle lead playing, I went to my first Django in June, and like many of you, I was awed, inspired, and humbled in equal amounts. Also I was hooked and I would eventually go to Django in June 5 straight years. During that time, I would also become the co-founder of the (now defunct) gypsy jazz band "The Dukes of Manouche".
It was during Django in June at one point in time, that IT happened..... My Ego got involved. Suddenly, I didn't want to be just another DIJ attendee. I wanted to be appreciated and admired by the other attendees, respected by the top players (ie, the Parisians), and welcomed with open arms into the elite jam circles of the Gonzalos, the Mogniards, the Giniaux's, the Holovaty's. etc. Additionally, I wanted my band, and with it, me, to flourish and earn some respect and notoriety in the bay area and beyond as a gypsy jazz group.
Unfortunately, since I could never find the time to practice 2-4 hours a day, I was only able to barely keep up with the class of attendees who started going around the same time I did. Every year, no matter how much better I got, it seemed like everyone else got better-er than I was able to. I still felt WAY too intimidated to even consider sitting in with the elite guys, and on top of that, my band went NOWHERE. right up until the recent end, we were only able to manage one mediocre paying gig a month.
So, somewhere along the line in all this, I decided to bring in my teaching prowess as a way to earn the appreciation and respect I so desired, so I wrote Manifesting Manouche. In addition I started making youtube tutorial videos in hopes that I could leverage my teaching knowledge and relatively decent playing ability into some gypsy jazz notoriety. But, while the book had a nice buzz in the very beginning, one of the groups of people I was really hoping would buy the book were good/great players who wanted to use it to teach their students, but they unfortunately remained uninterested, and so book sales flattened after a big first 6 months or so. In addition, while I was able to get a few thousand views on a couple of youtube videos, it wasn't nearly enough to leverage into any real interest in me as a teacher, specifically, a teacher at Django in June. Did I mention that becoming a teacher (of beginners) at Django in June had become my "Moby dick". I thought, since I don't have the time to practice enough to become amazing, If I can get hired to teach at Django in June, I'll get the respect and admiration my ego wants, and I'll feel important enough to sit in with the "big boy" jams.
And, I got my shot....sort of. Andrew offered me a steep discount in Django in June tuition in exchange for leading morning warmups, leading some facilitated jams, and some late evening slow jams. I did enough teaching that year that I was included in the "how were your teachers" section of the questionnaire sent out at the end of the week.
Maybe this would be my big break..... Um...NOPE. I would later discover that feedback on me was "lukewarm", which I'm guessing was a nice way of saying "not so good". This pretty much eliminated any chance I had of being hired as a teacher unless I somehow became famous in the gypsy jazz community.
This blow to my ego woke me up to what I had been doing. It occurred to me that the reason I was so unhappy about all of this was that this was NOT what I wanted musically at all, and I had actually FORGOTTEN why I had started this journey in the first place, which was to become a better overall guitar player, and combine gypsy jazz and rock and roll somehow. That brings me to my "happy ending". At the beginning of the year, I got some recording software for my computer, set up my own little home studio, and began recording rock and roll songs, some of them with a gypsy jazz flare. And BOOM!!! I had finaly come full circle. Ever since I was a teenager and bought a 4 track tape recorder that I rarely used, I had wanted to record my own songs. This was the plan all along, and I am finally doing it.
So that's where I stand today. I'm recording rock and roll songs. gypsy jazz has taken a back seat (I'm raising an infant so going to Django in June is out of the question anyway). I've stopped worrying about becoming better and better at gypsy jazz, and started doing something I absolutely love, which was the plan all along. So that's my story... cheers!