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Learning to improvise Gypsy style...

JazzDawgJazzDawg New
edited July 2009 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 264
Had an interesting discussion with a friend about improvising in gypsy style. First, I'm an old rock and blues player, so I'm new to this style of playing. In our discussion, we talked about how each of us approached the area (he's a a similar player, maybe more folk/bluegrass than me). He talked about scales, I talked about melody and arpeggios being more important. Since, we are both newbies to the style - we probably should not even discuss it, but there it is, anyway.

Of course, the whole thing got blown up in my face when the first tune we jammed on was 'Minor Swing'. "What's the melody in that tune?", he asked. "umm, er, well, got me." is all I could say. I've only got the transcription for the tune. As we listened to other tunes, it became clear that many of the GJ players do not use the melody, at least as much as some kind of basic 'head' to a tune, and then just kind of follow that gypsy path in using those great arps, licks, and everything else thrown in, and coming back to state a modified 'head' in the outro.

Now, I've heard some more familiar Django tunes based on American Jazz standards, but rarely do I hear Django playing a basic melody - moreless that seems to be the job of the other soloist, Django just wails so nicely, the melody kind of gets swallowed by his beastly playing and creative improvisation. Not a bad thing - it's just I'm wondering how others see their approach to soloing?


  • pinkgarypinkgary ✭✭✭
    Posts: 282
    Depends on the mood i'm in, & how well i know the tune. What i'm aiming for is the freedom to just kinda scat sing with my hands, not thinking of tune, scale, or even arpeggio. Just singing....

    But to get there is gonna take a lot more listening & trying...

    Until then, if it's a tune with nice changes (china boy or summit), i'll think in Arpeggios, to highlight the changes. If the changes are too fast, or not really changes (thinking swing 42 here), i'll think in terms of scales.

    But hey, i'm sure Django was just singing.
  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    Oh, yeah, and what a voice he had. Kinda funny you mentioned scatting and singing. I was just listening to Oscar Peterson's Trio + 1 (Clark Terry) CD. I'm taking some of the ideas from Clark Terry's solo and using in a GJ version of 'Mack The Knife', anyway on the CD there are a couple of nice tunes 'Mumbles' and 'Incoherent Blues' that have some great 'scatting'. Thought, at the time I heard them, how much Django is really doing that kind of thing on the guitar.
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    that's an excellent album, it really swings. if you listen to it on head phones you can here oscar peterson is doing that scat thing on basically every solo. it's just sometimes it's more audible than others like on incoherent blues.

    django was supposed to do a trio thing with him and i think that would have been incredible. unfortunately it never happened
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