Are bluegrass and gypsy jazz compatible?



  • jovationjovation Austin,TXNew
    Posts: 21
    While there are differences in the playing technique for a guitarist, I still see
    a great deal of compatibility overall. Western Swing basically has some Gypsy
    and bluegrass elements. The the "jazz-grass", or new bluegrass movements
    feature jazz influenced playing.

    Above all, I appreciate that both styles of music feature acoustic string instruments
    who, as a band, balance each other out volume wise rather than relay on electronics.

    Something else I discovered when listening to Gonzalo play at a concert hall with
    great church-style acoustics. The Gyspy picking technique, besides volumes, provides
    a hammering effect on the strings, so the tonality of the Manouche guitar style
    to my ears come across as much like sound like hammered dulcimer as of an acoustic guitar.
  • judsonjudson New
    Posts: 25
    Check out a group called the Hillbilly Hotclub. I saw them once on a PBS show called Song of the Mountains. They mix Django's tunes with Doc Watson's fiddle tune on guitar flatpicking style, and are quite enjoyable. Of course, my favorite current group, the Hot Club of COwtown often does the same, but with a more western influence. I grew up in Boone, NC and learned to play guitar following Doc Watson around. Doc is a big Django fan as are NC natives Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith and Jimmy Capps (perhaps the most recorded guitarist of all time - he's a session man in Nashville and in the Opry House Band).

    So, I'd say yes. Django's genius can influence anyone, perhaps especially bluegrassers like David Grisman and Tony Rice. You can even mix them. Good music is good music. If Gypsy Jazz and bluegrass are both in your soul, then you have to play them both. You have to be true to who YOU are artistically. I find that although I started out playing bluegrass and still enjoy the old stuff, I don't play it much anymore - I'm glad I know both though, because it gives me a much bigger bag of tricks and knowledge of the fretboard than if I had just studied one or the other.
  • Posts: 74
    frater wrote:
    Not a real bluegrass fan but Robert Ickes' playing gives me goose bumps when I hear it:

    Now if this is anal compulsive I'm in for treatment! :D

    Oddly reminiscent of Jimmy Paige
  • HarryRHarryR ✭✭
    Posts: 17

    Draw your own conclusions ! Harry
  • bokchoybokchoy New
    Posts: 19
    Hot Club of North Carolina with Frank Vignola, Viper's Dream of Ashville for two.
    There's another major group out of Ashville that I am thinking of and can't remember right now and will post later.
    Might as well be right there on Tate Street in Greensboro!
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 657
    HC of NC, Viper's Dream, One Leg Up and Musette Guitars are all NC based gypsy jazz bands but none have anything to do with bluegrass - I was a founding member of HC of NC in Greensboro and still play in Musette Guitars (Charlotte/Boone) - all these bands are 100% jazz-based. Some people in those bands play/played bluegrass in other circumstances, that's true. I've played old-timey and bluegrass (among other kinds of music) since the early 70s and still play this music from time to time, but I'm careful to keep all the styles mutually exclusive, which is what most people who play several different styles seem to do - at least around here. My old-timey friends don't like those IV-V diminished passing chords and the bluegrassers certainly don't like you playing in Bb sans capo. These kinds of music, like gypsy jazz, pretty much require you to play a certain way, at least at first, if you want to get the sound right, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's to say, the people who play these styles require that. Audiences don't care. I played a pickup gig last weekend, tunes included Nuages, Beaumont Rag, All Blues, Besame Mucho etc. Everyone was happy. Of course, there did not appear to be any guitarists in the crowd...

    Bluegrass and gypsy jazz cultures do share a certain dogmatic, purist attitude, and that pretty much assures zero compatibility. That's normal, and really, it's for the best. The foundation needs to be preserved, after all. But freedom for those who want to explore is important, too.

    NC gypsy jazz:
  • judsonjudson New
    Posts: 25
    Scott and Bokchoy,

    I'm really thrilled to learn about this gypsy scene in NC. In all honesty I avoid both Charlotte and Asheville as much as possible (I'm not an urban type of guy), so I've missed this. I knew my old friends in Snake Oil Medicine Show moved over to Asheville from Boone - they used to play more swing and early jazz than they do now. I'm relocating to near Johnson City, TN right now, so I'll have to check out the Asheville scene once I get settled.
  • lacrossehotclublacrossehotclub La Crosse WI✭✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    Posts: 116
    Flatpicking Guitar Magazine ran a gypsy jazz issue a few years back...

    Doc, Tony, Clarence, and many other great flatpickers have been influenced by Django Reinhardt’s playing.,%20No.%203/
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 657
    That issue of Flatpicking magazine has Joe Carr's excellent transcription of Django's solo version of "Tea for Two" - at least two choruses of it, and is worth having just for that. Volume 7#6 has Raul Reynoso's great tune "Matelot" transcribed, a terrific tune and a real challenge to play. Both are available from Flatpicking as back issues for a mere $4 each.

    Raul Reynoso is equally talented at gypsy jazz and bluegrass/flatpicking, proof that it can be done at the highest level.

    Judson, PM me and I will point you in the direction of some excellent players around Boone and Asheville.
  • judsonjudson New
    Posts: 25
    Give a listen to the first Tony Rice Unit album if you doubt the styles can be combined.
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