I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, but Joscho Stephen is hardly ever brought up in discussion as one of the greats alongside people like bireli, stochello, Jimmy etc. However, he is the person who I guess inspired me to play this music and in my opinion is very unique in his style and has tremendous technique. His playing is very clean even at the high tempos and is versatile too ( can play straight ahead jazz and bepop as well as gypsy swing).
I’m wondering what other people’s opinions on this are as like I said I never hear him put on that level with the other legends of this style.
Joscho certainly has tremendous technique!
Musically, it's not near the level of Bireli, who has so much creativity, inventiveness and spontaneity evident in his improvisation. If you listen to Joscho, he'll often begin his phrasing on the 1 beat. Doesn't seem to 'flow' through the changes like Django could, instead starts and stops in obvious and predictable places (licks). It can sound like a lot of exceptionally well rehearsed tricks just strung together endlessly, which becomes tiring to listen to- at least to my ears. You'll never hear him make a mistake, but maybe that means he doesn't take many risks either?
Joscho is obviously a world class player. It's subjective and up to your own musical tastes, so please take that all as "I don't listen to it much because..." rather than as "this is better than that". I'll tell you Bach kills it and Mozart is dull, another person might feel the opposite way. 🤷
I think Stephen is really, really, really great....but in a very overt way, as its mostly the impeccable razor technique & his distinct flash that comes at (blinds?) audiences, in my view. Sure, no one plays like him. Maybe no one will. But for me it's all very showy & overwhelming. Everything is so certain, so there in-my-face, so over the top, and... too desperate for attention. And not simply in the notes -- one can hear all this in his pick attack alone. I'll admit that I haven't listened to all that much of his recordings. But that's because I don't enjoy listening to him for any extended period of time, as it gets kind of exhausting.
Also, can one be considered a "legend" when not even 45 years old yet? I didn't think so. But maybe. What do I know?
Interesting point that he mostly works with licks rather than improvising ( thinking of Jimmy and stochello). I think his more recent work has a lot more creativity than his older stuff and he also isn’t as flashy as his older stuff either.
this is definitely just an opinion (so don’t go crazy over it) but his videos with bireli, I personally think he outplayed him but in a way went to his roots ( flashy licks and tremendous speed in order to do so). I obviously think though most likely Bireli wasn’t giving it his all and was letting Joscho take the limelight.
I would say his accuracy in his technique is sort of I guess not in the style of gypsy jazz where a lot of people don’t try to play everything as clean as possible.
in my opinion Jimmy Rosenberg was already a legend before he turned 18.
Wow-You guys are a tuff audience! 🙂
Awareness of gypsy jazz in the USA kind of began with the release of "Django Legacy" on VHS in the early 90s. For many people, including me, it was the first time they'd seen anyone actually playing this music - Birili, Stochelo, Fapy Lafertin, the Ferres, Serge Kreif.... At the time, there were only a few people playing at the level those guys were, and they have all gone on to become legends of this music.
Today, there are a whole lot of people who can play this music with amazing skill, and that certainly includes Joscho. But who is a legend? I think we reserve that for players like Bireli and Stochelo, Boulou and Fapy.... Because really, who can touch those guys?
it’s interesting because to me a legend is someone who is an innovator and also to me Joscho is different to Bireli, stochello and so on. Obviously my ears aren’t great so potentially Joscho is just recycling licks that everyone has heard hundreds of times. But I think more recently in the past few years you can hear that Joscho has definitely fine tuned his approach and I feel as though he is a level above people such as Olli soikelli for example. Maybe he is more in between being someone who is a great player and a legend
Legend or not, he already has a fine legacy behind him and will do more.
I can say that I enjoyed his earlier playing more. His sound today? Well, for one I think all can agree that his sound is unmistakable. That's not something you can say about every top player on the scene. I was also at his shows where he literally brought the audience to their feet.
Much like early 2000s Jimmy Rosenberg, Joscho can definitely be a "gateway drug" kinda player because at first listen his virtuoso technique is almost stupefying. I think some of the criticism revolves around the fact he often seems to play certain phrases simply for the sake of theatrics and this becomes especially apparent in some of his earlier jams with other players where he seemingly comes off like he's more concerned about having a cutting session as opposed to building the tune by organically playing off one and other (imo) - the Djangology jam with him and Gonzalo from 10 years ago really stands out as an example of this, imo.
That said, he's definitely made efforts to expand his vocabulary and imo current Joscho plays with far more complexity, nuance and maturity than younger, more theatric-based Joscho. My only criticism would be he sometimes seems almost too polished, even when he "isn't playing it safe" and gets a little bit more out. But lord knows he's made some beautiful music and has recorded some truly wonderful jams with his contemporaries.