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Gypsy Jazz in North America

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  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 269
    scot wrote:
    Now that we have a growing pool of musicians of mature and growing capabilities in North America, we should start looking to the future, to see what kinds of contributions we can make. We shouldn’t be thinking about copying the Euros. Just as the Dutch, the Germans and the French did, we also have something to offer this style. What that might be is anyone’s guess right now. If the strong interest continues, it’ll happen, because that’s just how things work.

    An interesting idea...an American interpretation of a European's interpretation of American music. Will this result in a fresh new sound or a mannered, grotesque version of '30's swing?

    Marc Blitzstein put his own American spin on Kurt Weill's music, which was itself inspired in part by American popular music, and Blitzstein ended up with portentous sing-alongs weighed down by their European modernist pedigree. But then again, Tom Waits mined Weill's work for The Black Rider and ended up making what I consider the best album of his career.

    Is it a matter of re-Americanizing Django's music, or simply playing swinging jazz that's open to his influence?

    Jeez, I'm really overanalyzing this. Sorry.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 569
    I chose the Bluegrass analogy because in a general sense it's a similar niche genre. I'll have to disagree with Scot, I think Gypsy jazz has the same ethnic connections that Bluegrass does. In a general sense Gypsy jazz is an identity music for Gypsies in the same way the Bluegrass is an identity music for Southerners. Also, Bluegrass is widely played by non-Southerners. Scot, since you live in the South you probably don't see it as much, but there are Bluegrass fanatics all around the world. Seattle has a HUGE bluegrass and old timey scene. They're all college educated professionals and hippies from non-Southern origins. Marc O'Conner is from here!

    This is exactly my point. Bluegrass and old-timey are international - sort of. No doubt there is a thriving scene of hippies and professionals who play bluegrass and old-timey music in Seattle - this exists in every city. I’ll bet there isn’t much of an audience for it outside the “scene” there, though - or anywhere else outside the south. But - at the Galax fiddler's convention, in the heart of bluegrass country, there are around 20,000 non-musicians in attendance on Friday and Saturday night, with very few college-educated professionals and hippies among them. There's your cultural base! The thing is, bluegrass and old timey music don't need hippies and professionals to stay alive. The cultures that gave us these kinds of music are still alive and well.

    It's the same with all the smaller regional styles of fiddle playing, too - cajun, New England, Texas style, even the Pacific NW style (made famous by Mr O'Connor) which has more in common with Texas style than bluegrass. The cultures that gave us these styles of music will sustain them. This will remain true (for gypsy jazz, too, I think) regardless of how many people from outside the home cultures learn to play the music. And make no mistake, people from all countries (even the NE USA) and walks of life today play appalachian music with conviction and excellence and have pushed the limits of bluegrass and old-timey in all sorts of good (and bad) ways.

    Gypsy jazz doesn't have any of this home culture in North America, though it certainly does have it both in Paris and among gypsies in Europe All it has here is hipsters and professionals to sustain it – a few hundred people on this whole vast continent. Not much, in other words That’s why I say we are now at the point where someone needs to DO something – something more than mimic the Euros.

    Something our community could learn from the bluegrassers is the ready acceptance of people from outside the home culture. Bluegrass and old-timey are pretty international and that’s not a new thing. It’s music that can be played well by anyone, and everyone knows it. Yet it’s clear that many people here still look down their noses at home-grown talent. I sold three times as many Musette Guitars CDs overseas as I did here.
  • Posts: 101
    Yet it’s clear that many people here still look down their noses at home-grown talent.

    You think so? I reall don't get that myself, just more a sense that people are very fascinated by the gypsy cultures in Europe, there's always going to be that "exotic" image folks have.
  • i agree... also, in my opinion, if you play and sound like or sound slightly like other american players or american genres then you are not unique enough. its important to sound foreign or else the local audience will get bored easily. we have all heard that its important to have a unique sound to be successful. well... its also important to have unique roots.

    as american influence gets integrated into gypsy jazz, then it will become more american and there will be less interest in the music here in the U.S.

    I personally think that the persons who are able to resist american influence and project a true european sound will be the most successful with this stuff in the united states. I also makes sense that it is harder to acheive this.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,920
    scot wrote:
    The thing is, bluegrass and old timey music don't need hippies and professionals to stay alive.

    Neither does Gypsy jazz....you know better then anyone this music survived within the Gypsy community for decades. No one other then the Gypsies and a few aficionados really cared until 5 or so years ago.

    Gypsy jazz doesn't have any of this home culture in North America, though it certainly does have it both in Paris and among gypsies in Europe

    I see....you were just talking about the US. No, it doesn't really have a home here. Sort of does in Seattle and the greater NW. It's well known enough here that I don't have to tell people that "d" in Django's name is silent and that he played with two fingers. Venues actually look specifically for Gypsy jazz bands...so it's sort of come into its own, at least in a small way.

    Something our community could learn from the bluegrassers is the ready acceptance of people from outside the home culture. Bluegrass and old-timey are pretty international and that’s not a new thing. It’s music that can be played well by anyone, and everyone knows it. Yet it’s clear that many people here still look down their noses at home-grown talent. I sold three times as many Musette Guitars CDs overseas as I did here.

    Funny how that is. I'm not sure you can ever overcome that phenomenon. The local guys usually don't get any respect until the local audience realizes that their own home grown talent is actually appreciated elsewhere.

    'm
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