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What if Django had lived ?

anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
edited August 2013 in Welcome Posts: 561
Hi there folks,

I wanted to bring up a topic that has been hinted at time and again in various threads... This idea of, what Django would have thought about today's gypsy Jazz scene if he had lived.
Sometimes in a thread, someone will bring up the fact that Django seemed less interested in the gypsy swing jazz he created, and more interested in Bebop towards the end of his life.
Often those who post this imply or directly say that he would have laughed at the Gypsy jazz movement he himself created.
Setting aside the obvious argument that -we will never know now will we?... I would like to make a few points.

First off, it is in our nature as humans to evolve in every way possible, and as artists, we NEED to always be growing and changing or we get bored and lose interest. This doesn't in any way impugn our past creations. So of course Django gravitated towards bebop near the end. It was new, exciting, and innovative (if not particularly melodic or pleasant to listen to in MY ass shaped opinion).

BUT

does this mean then that, had he lived another 30 or 40 years, Django would have laughed at the gypsy Jazz movement he created ? OR... Is it possible, that seeing the new artists present their "take" on the style, would have re-inspired him to join the continuing evolution ?
Consider that fact that, for example, many "classic rock" bands (if their primary members survived their crazy shenanigans in the 60's that is) ended up re-forming to make a living off of playing their classic tunes live etc.
Would Django have perhaps cashed in on his status as the creator of the style ?

OR even more sobering, would the gypsy Jazz movement still have taken on a life of it's own and become what it is today had django lived ?? Perhaps his death, and ensuing legend, were necessary for gypsy jazz to grow.
As Ben "Obi wan" kenobi said "If you kill me vader, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine"...

Your thoughts ?

Anthony
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Comments

  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    edited May 2013 Posts: 589
    Django died at age 42. If he's lived until, let's say age 65, he'd have died in 1975. Since he played predominately electric guitar in his later years, I'd say we'd have an additional 22 years of mostly electric Django guitar music.

    It curious to wonder, how this, as well as the continuing evolution he would have brought to his electric sound, might have impacted our current high acceptance of his early acoustic Hot Club period.

    On one hand, his acoustic work is brilliant and there's much to be examined and enjoyed. However, if Django had continued to evolve as an electric guitar player, perhaps his acoustic period would be seen only as an interesting period in his overall career.

    In today's world, how much does the resurgence of Hot Club style have to do with a general resurgence of retro music as a whole? How much of the attention to Django's acoustic period have to do with an old-school mindset brought on by this attention to retro music? And, as complicated as learning Djangoesque Gypsy Jazz may seem, how much does our interest in his acoustic period have to do with the acoustic style being easier to learn and copy than his more eclectic electric outings? Imagine if the electric style had developed for another 22 years.

    And consider too the major musical shifts and developments between 1953 and 1975, all of these could have influenced Django. To name a few: Miles, Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Elvis, Beatles, Dick Dale, the Ventures, Buck Owens, Booker T and the MGs, Jimi, psychedelic music, funk, soul, country, jazz/rock fusion, disco, etc. -- too much to even pretend to list -- and this does not include most European, South American, African or other world music influences.

    One influence I think we would have seen is bossa nova. I think his love of the bolero feel would have been further explored in light of the bossa nova craze of the 1960s.

    But, obviously, this is all just speculation. I'd be interested in hearing what others have to say... AE
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    Interesting questions Anthony and AE. Might he have turned more to composition than playing as a front man? His last (or one of the last) song, Anouman, sounds like a serious effort at main stream composing for the day. The sax carries the melody and the whole character of the song. Django was, of course, one hot guitar player both acoustic and electric, but to me, his biggest strength was his composing skills. More than one writer has spoken of his ability to think in orchestral terms. I wonder if this would have been his future if he had lived to see it.
  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    Posts: 589
    Excellent point Craig. One I hadn't considered. AE
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 301
    In today's world, how much does the resurgence of Hot Club style have to do with a general resurgence of retro music as a whole? How much of the attention to Django's acoustic period have to do with an old-school mindset brought on by this attention to retro music?

    The interest in "old-school" music hasn't led to the same degree of interest in, say, Eddie Lang, let alone Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, and the pre-electric, swing-rooted players. Or, for that matter, in George Van Eps, Oscar Moore, or George Barnes. Thank heavens Bucky Pizzarelli is still alive and playing.

    With or without an earlier-music subculture (of which I am a part), I suspect Django would be on our radar for the same reason that Charlie Christian and Les Paul and Chet Atkins still are--he's a paradigm creator and breaker. All these players grabbed the attention of the players who heard them. (As did Lang and Van Eps and Freddie Green and Lenny Breau. . . .) The swing workshop I attend every summer has shared its week with bluegrass guys--all of whom dig Django and Hot-Club music. Ditto the western-swing players. Those connections go back to when Django was still alive.
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 561
    hmmm.... interesting take on the acoustic versus electric idea Eddy ! i didn't even think about that. Personally, I've always considered myself a rocker who likes Gypsy Jazz. I've never been a fan of Bebop, electric Jazz etc. That includes Django's later material, of which, I will admit that I am not a fan. To my ears, Bebop is too discordant and non melodic to be enjoyable.
    It didn't occur to me that perhaps one of the reasons gypsy jazz is so focused on his acoustic earlier years was because there was too little of his later electric driven years.
    I had read somewhere that Django's foray into electric guitar/bebop jazz was considered a commercial and creative failure. So I often thought, perhaps incorrectly, that his later years were generally not as highly regarded artistically as his earlier years.
  • AmundLauritzenAmundLauritzen ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 236
    Interesting questions Anthony and AE. Might he have turned more to composition than playing as a front man? His last (or one of the last) song, Anouman, sounds like a serious effort at main stream composing for the day. The sax carries the melody and the whole character of the song. Django was, of course, one hot guitar player both acoustic and electric, but to me, his biggest strength was his composing skills. More than one writer has spoken of his ability to think in orchestral terms. I wonder if this would have been his future if he had lived to see it.

    Great point about Djangos sense of orchestral quality. Imagine Anouman for string ensemble! I get goosebumps just thinking of it.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    I think Louis Armstrong's life and work is an interesting model for helping us understand what might have happened had Django lived. Louis was born in 1901 (or so he said) and died in 1971.

    He was a "Django-level" artist, and by that I mean he rocked his world artistically and technically so thoroughly that he re-wrote the rules of the music he played and superb musicians who would have been household names in any other time went relatively unknown simply because they were born in his era (Red Allen, Bix Beiderbecke...) I'm not going to try to write a synopsis of his life... anything approaching accurate would be a tome. If you're interested in his life and work... start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong

    But suffice it to say, Louis blew minds for decades... and every time he added some new style or song to his repertoire, it was "purely additive" which is to say that it only expanded his range. No one ever forgot that he could play Trad Jazz like no one before or after him, and the genre of Trad Jazz is still alive and kicking worldwide in niches much like GJ - and Louis is the "Emperor of Trad" in much the same way that Django is "King of the Gypsies". There are so many parallels; early lives full of difficulty and coming from disadvantaged ethnic backgrounds are the most obvious, but there are others. The one significant difference I can see is that Louis' instrument didn't evolve technologically during his lifetime. But I don't think this is such a huge thing. I know a lot of guitarists from many genres and they all own multiple guitars both acoustic and electric and they use them based on whether they're the right tool for the job. Perhaps very early on during the invention of the electric guitar, Django would have gone that way until the initial newness wore off. Piano was like this. After the invention of the synthesizer, all pop music went unapologetically synth for a few years... but now the synth is just another tool that a keyboard player uses to get the job done. Even as good as modern piano sampling has become, musicians still own, use & record on acoustic pianos.

    Here are a couple of vids to consider. Louis around the time that Django injured his hand, and Louis within about a year of his death (he died shortly before turning 70)



    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • arjrarjr ✭✭✭
    Posts: 75
    If he lived, there wouldn't be posts about what would Django do, or what if Django lived :roll:



    Angelo
  • SpaloSpalo England✭✭✭✭ Manouche Guitars "Modele Jazz Moreno" No.116, 1980's Saga Blueridge "Macaferri 500", Maton 1960's Semi, Fender Telecaster, Aria FA65 Archtop
    Posts: 186
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 590
    We do know what happened musically in Paris after 1953, and we know what Django's contemporaries went on to do. Joseph Reinhardt played music but he and Eugene Vees generally lived typical gypsy lives after the war. Sarrane Ferret continued to work as a professional/studio guitarist in the jazz and popular music world. Matelot Ferret also continued to work as a professional/studio guitarist, playing jazz, popular, eastern and even mediterranean and arabic music. Henri Crolla became a successful jazz and studio guitarist, was Yves Montand's guitarist for quite a few years, and scored numerous movie soundtracks. Marcel Bianchi became a celebrity guitarist on the cote d'azur. Didi Duprat continued to work as a professional guitarist in the music halls and with popular singers. Baro became an underworld figure and bar owner. Nearly everyone who was part of Django's pre-war circle of musicians in Paris, including Stephane Grapelly, followed the same career path after the war. They adjusted as necessary to continue to make a living as musicians; most of them were fairly successful at their craft.

    Django might not have been especially happy with this professional work-a-day life, though he was certainly a man who liked having money to spend. He was accustomed to being the top dog - he had a star's ego and a lackadaisical professional sense; he would not have done well in the new professional milieu of the postwar, which was all about rebuilding. Modern jazz was popular in places but the critics and the public had lost all their appetite for the prewar and wartime styles of music - of pretty much everything from those grim years. They wanted new things and that included music - and who could blame them for that?

    My best guess is that if Django lived, and if he had continued to play music, he would have gone on to serious composing and possibly film work, and playing the occasional jazz gig with younger musicians. I've seen the score for the symphony - he had the capability and certainly could think "orchestrally". And he did have friends like Henri Crolla working in that world. But it's all just speculation...
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