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Gypsy and Hot Rhythm - Common stylistic ties through banjo

Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
edited May 2005 in History Posts: 612
Hi All,

The banjo in all it's forms was originally a favored time keeping instrument in early jazz. Django's early career has been noted for his prodigious abilities on this instrument and it later served as a very important element in his creation of la pompe and Gypsy rhythm. The use of tremolos; ascending and descending as well as stand-alone, arpeggiated chords, synchopated shuffles all own their origins to the banjo. This style was readily heard on early hot jazz recordings, but perhaps the best example we have of this came from Eddie Condon during the 1930's through his death in the '70's.

Condon, an exquisite time keeper with a swinging beat started his career on banjo and helped to create the Chicago school of jazz (a harder, more swinging version of the New Orleans style perpetrated by white teenagers from Chicago in the 1920's). As the transition from banjo to guitar became solidified, Condon met the transition half way - opting to use an archtop guitar with a four-string neck, tuned to plectrum banjo tuning. So, we have an instrumentalist who never had to relearn his instrument, and was thus able to continue using the same style he forged in speakeasies in the 20's, throughout the rest of his career. The tremolos, synchopations, hits, everything is all there. There are even times when Eddie is playing a slight upstroke on beats 1 and 3, which we hear in Django's rhythm, we also hear in Condon's. This is further emphasised in Condon's 1920's Vitaphone short with Red Nichols' where he is swinging on a lute guitar and his plectrum banjo and into the '50's with his "Goodyear Jazz Special" from American TV.

I'm not saying that either took the idea from the other, but I think we can make the deduction that the common element they both share is use of the banjo during the 1920's. For those without an extensive Django or hot jazz library, these elements are used to this day by Nous'che, Moreno and Serge Camps among others.

I'm interested in reading other peoples comments or thoughts on this subject.

Best,

Ted
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Comments

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,777
    Hey Ted,

    It's interesting that Condon used the upstroke sometimes. If you can send a short mp3 example i'd be glad to post it.

    What I'd like to know is did he also incorporate the heavy accent on 2 and 4....or was he doing flat 4 with an upstroke? My guess is flat 4....

    mazel,

    'm
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 612
    It's interesting that Condon used the upstroke sometimes. If you can send a short mp3 example i'd be glad to post it.

    I'll see if I can find a decent one. The problem with Condon is that he was the most unegotistical musician ever. He didn't care about being heard. He was straight acoustic on gigs - no mic or anything, and during recording sessions he was placed hear the mic, but never right on it so his sound comes in and out depending on what the rest of the band was doing. As a pianist that I work with who was a member of the house band at Condon's, Eddie's NYC club and played with him for years, told me "You could almost never hear him, but when you did, he was right on in his chord choices."

    Condon wasn't the only one, either. Tony Mottola and Allan Reuss also used upstrokes. In the Mottola, I suspect it may have been a little accidental (but he was a huge Django fan, and had a band that was influenced by the Hot Club). With Reuss, it's felt more than heard. He has to be doing that in order to be getting the type of beat that he is getting. I suspect that while he didn't play it much, his right hand was doing the motion.
    What I'd like to know is did he also incorporate the heavy accent on 2 and 4....or was he doing flat 4 with an upstroke? My guess is flat 4....

    He did both, but I think it was all dependent on the tune and where he was in it. There are times when he did a heavier accent on 2 and 4.

    Mazel,

    Ted
  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    Posts: 589
    It's funny Ted should mention that Condon was one of the most unegotistcal musicians ever. While reading his post, I was thinking about one of my favorite photos of Eddie Condon. It shows Condon chatting it up with some fellow musicians while his guitar sits alone at the edge of the stage. Somehow you get the sense that this was a guy who liked being with the players, and the players liked being with him.

    Thanks Ted for all the great historical items in this section.

    A.E.
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 612
    Hey Ed!

    Welcome to the history section. Great to have you here!
    While reading his post, I was thinking about one of my favorite photos of Eddie Condon. It shows Condon chatting it up with some fellow musicians while his guitar sits alone at the edge of the stage.
    Somehow you get the sense that this was a guy who liked being with the players, and the players liked being with him.

    Best,

    Ted
  • LaurentLaurent Calgary, Alberta CanadaNew
    Posts: 34
    Hi all,

    I have recently been fortunate in coming across a collection of Accordion Musette and Swing de Paris Recordings (1913-1941). It is a remarkable collection of early musette recordings that really demonstrates the influence and popularity of musette as well as the influence that Manouche guitarists (Matlo, Sarane, Baro, Django) were bringing to the genre.

    It is an excellent compilation by Didier Roussin, Parisian guitarist who, among other things is accompaniest for Jo Privat. (It is on the Discotheque des Halles label - DH002, 1992)

    Of particular interest to me, is the inclusion of a tune called Ma Régulière featuring Jean Vaissade (accordion) Jiango Renard (banjo) as well as a rather unfortunate sounding slide whistle. It was recorded 20/6/28, not very long before the accident.

    Django plays a form a rythym that resembles his later style, somewhat. There is no "pomp" to speak of. Hopefully this was the only time he recorded with a slide whistle.

    Perhaps you have already heard these early recordings...if so what do you make of them?
  • Ted GottsegenTed Gottsegen Rowayton, CTModerator
    Posts: 612
    Hey Laurent,
    Laurent wrote:
    Django plays a form a rythym that resembles his later style, somewhat. There is no "pomp" to speak of. Hopefully this was the only time he recorded with a slide whistle.

    Yes! This is exactly what I'm talking about. Because the banjo has absolutely zero sustain, banjo players tended to find different rhythmic effects to remain active.
    Laurent wrote:
    Perhaps you have already heard these early recordings...if so what do you make of them?

    This is hard, because it's unlike what we all love about Django - namely his improvisations. I haven't listened to these in about 6 years or so, but I remember liking them for what they were, and to try and get an idea of how that effected his later style.

    Best,

    Ted
  • LaurentLaurent Calgary, Alberta CanadaNew
    Posts: 34
    I'm finding the musette interesting as well.

    Are aware of any other recordings of Django playing the banjo?
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    Laurent,

    get the first volume of the Integrale Django Reinhardt series which has all of Django's early recordings.
  • LaurentLaurent Calgary, Alberta CanadaNew
    Posts: 34
    Thank you! I didn't realize that all those early recordings were now available.

    L.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,777
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