Django, Baro, and Gangsters



  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    edited October 2014 Posts: 1,263
    The name changes of the Ferrets/Ferrés are interesting. In Charles Delaunay's original discography, Baro is called simply Pierre Ferret but in the 1981 update, he has become Pierre "Baro" Ferret. In the same two publications, Matelo is first referred to as Jean Ferret and then Jean "Matelot" Férret. Delaunay knew them very well and yet he never wrote Ferré. More recently, Alain Antonietto who knew Matelo quite well has always spelled it Ferret.

    In the "Gipsy Jazz School - Django's Legacy" double CD it has Matelo as both "Matelo" and "Matelot". The surname is written as Ferret throughout as it is in the Fremeaux "Les Frères Ferret" CD Box Set. - Sarane sometimes has two n's and sometimes one. It's hard to keep pace with it all. - I have read that some of Baro's name changes were to try to confuse the police.

    It seems Matelo did prefer the Ferré spelling over the last few years of his life but I rather think it was probably an intiative from Boulou and Elios who have always called themselves Ferré. However, I believe Boulou was actually born Jean-Jacques Ferret.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263
    A Gent wrote: »
    Fascinating article - thank you for posting.
    A Gent wrote: »
    Out of interest, what was Baro sent to prison for? Has anyone ever researched the court records or any police files kept on him?

    We have asked François about that but he says there are problems involved in getting the info. It would certainly be very interesting to know though.

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263
    This name business is all a bit like "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." 8-}
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    The Pigalle district is pretty "interesting". I've spent weeks in Paris in a small hotel in the neighborhood. Between tours . The Royal Fromentin.
    What you see is that these clip joints prey on drunks very systematically . Our management people were quick to point out to new personal the very real dangers of entering such places.
    I've seen people tangled up in that , poor drunk dupes, lured into the place by the hand bills given out on the corners of the district by street guys.
    Its amazing that its so out front.
    A scantily clad woman in the window gesturing and posing , grinning from ear to ear , bathed in red light. The promise of wonders to behold.
    An age old hustle.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 657
    The following is from a letter sent to me in 1998 or so by a guitarist who has played music professionally in Paris since 1959, when he was hired by Matelot Ferret. He was drafted to fight in the Algerian war; the following occurred shortly after his release from duty, around 1962. Translation, mistakes and italics are mine.

    Matelot – Salut, fiston (sonny), it’s good to see you are back, but you’re looking a bit fatigued.
    Jean-Marie – It was the trip, I wasn’t able to sleep on the train last night.
    M –Where were you coming from?
    J-M – I was at l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at my parents house.
    M - Are you out of the army now?
    JM – Yes, that’s finished. I’ve been out nearly a month.
    M – Where are you staying?
    JM – At my usual place, the little hotel in the rue Germaine Pilon. You remember the place?
    M – Sure. With the nice looking girl there who liked you so much…
    JM – Right, that’s the place. She told me that I’d grown old.
    M – No, not exactly – but with your little beard, you’re not the same, either. You’ve changed. I’d say you’ve aged some.
    JM – Maybe that’s true, but not everyone says so!
    M – So tell me, fiston, couldn’t your friend Gino (Bordin, the well-known Hawaiian guitarist) rent you your old room, in rue Audran, I believe?
    JM – Right. I saw Gino this morning. He has promised me that the current tenant will be gone in a couple of weeks.
    M – How’s Gino doing?
    JM – He’s doing fine. We had lunch together, his wife Margot made spaghetti. His old friend Fredo Gardoni was there too.
    M – Impossible! You couldn’t have seen Fredo Gardoni, my brothers and I worked with him all the time, I guess it was way back in 1936 or so.
    JM – Yeah, that’s a long time, and I didn’t know that. I’ll tell you, I have never before seen such a fat man, he’s really enormous. You should have seen how much he ate! I’ll tell you, he really stuffed himself, incredible, I’ve never seen the like!
    M – He didn’t play his accordeon?
    JM – He did. Gino wanted me to accompany him, and he played a valse on his little accordeon. At the end of the piece he was completely out of breath, he wasn’t able to play any more after that. I liked his playing because he had a surprising tempo, a little bit slow, a fine mise en place. His phrasing was very good, supple and flowing. I didn’t exactly know this style, it was interesting for me, but it was hard for him.
    M - Did you find any work yet?
    JM – No, not at the moment. Of course I’m just back in town, I need to renew my contacts.
    M – You know, fiston, I can’t take you back. Since you left, I found another guitarist. Of course I must keep him on. But – I believe my brother Baro is looking for someone, I’m just not sure what for.
    JM – I understand quite well that you can’t take me back, Matelot, and of course I’m not here to ask for that. I wanted to see you again, and I’m happy…
    But I do need a job. You know everybody in town, maybe you can help me? Alors – when can we go to see Baro?
    M - Listen up, fiston… If you like, tonight at half past midnight, we'll meet at his bar-tabac near the porte de Ternes. It’s a little boite on the corner. You’ll see soon enough what he’s got in mind.

    The little bar formerly called Judex (an ironic name - Judex was a mysterious crime fighter in popular novels) was now called La Guitare. Matelot left after he introduced me to his brother. The two of us were sitting face-to-face alone in the bar. Baro gazed a me for a few moments – finally breaking the silence:

    Baro – Look here Barbu – I’ve no need of a guitarist. I need a barman, and I pay very well. Because, this is a bar for “friends”. You get my meaning?
    JM – Yes I think so.
    B – My “friends” will leave you good tips. Interested?
    JM – Monsieur Baro, I’ve never tended bar before – I don’t know anything about it.
    B –Barbu - I didn’t ask you that. I asked - are you interested?
    JM - Yes … Of course… I am just out of the army and I must earn a living. Why not! If you will show me what I must do. When do I start?
    B – You have started already Barbu, tiens. Get your uniform, which you will find in the little room beside the door, then you may take your place behind the bar.

    While I was putting on the white vest, which curiously fit me perfectly, I was reflecting that the events that had brought me to this place were a little disconcerting. After all I had lived through in Algeria, now I found myself as a barman in a little bar with this fantastic character as my new boss.

    B – OK, Barbu. That’s good. You look superb in the vest, I’d say that it fits like it was tailored for you… Listen up, Barbu – I’m going to explain something important to you. When I ask you for a petite Chivas, you must serve it to me in a large glass, this one here, and then fill to this level , just so. Here, you do it now.
    JM – Here, how’s this?
    B – That’s perfect, I knew you weren’t stupid. You understand everything.
    JM – So far, so good. This isn’t too difficult.
    B – You’re right, of course… Barbu, pay attention here. When I am with the “cousins”, I might ask you for my special – listen well here! You will pour me a Chivas from this special bottle, under the bar on the shelf to the right. And after you pour for me put it back immediately. This bottle is for me only. Do not ever serve another person from it! This bottle is water tinted with tea – do you clearly understand all this, Barbu?
    LM – Sure, I get this part, but as for the rest, I don’t know any thing…
    B – We’re not busy, I’ll go and see what’s going on… Ah – one last thing before I forget. If one day, we should receive a “visit” from the flics, you will return to your place behind the bar as quickly as possible, and you will stay there. You with me here, Barbu?
    JM – Yeah…
    B – And try to get out of here under some pretext, don’t tell those poulagas anything. OK, go prepare me a p’tit Chivas and something for yourself, too. It’s my round this time. I think the clients will be arriving soon…

    He rubbed his hands together with satisfaction. Baro was a guy who'd had some trouble with the law and had passed some time “in the cupboard” as he put it. I had quickly understood some important things – first, to keep in my place in any and all circumstances and, especially, to never meddle in his affairs.

    Over the next several months, I poured many “special” Chivas, and opened many bottles of Champagne for Baro and his friends. These “Messieurs”, with their big American cars, their signet rings and chain bracelets of solid gold, their way of dressing, which usually included a not-too-concealed pistol, seemed like characters from the movie “Les Tontons Flingeurers”. That’s to say, their exaggerated dialogues and behavior had a sort of comic side. Baro, on the other hand, was a hell of a guitarist and musician who recorded over 80 sides with the HCQ beside Django. He was also a specialist composer of jazz waltzes like Patte de Velours, Panique, etc, that were played by the greatest accordeonists of the day.

    Between 1935 and 1940, Baro recorded at Django’s side, something like 90 titles. You don’t spend five years beside such a giant as Django without it leaving some indelible trace on you! For me Baro was a superb guitarist with this strong link to the long ago time of Django.

    (Worth noting is that at this time, the "long-ago time of Django" was less than 10 years past)
    The American tune “Georgia on My Mind” as sung by Ray Charles was popular at the time. One night when it was just the two of us in the bar, Baro asked me to play something for him. After he had listened for a bit, with obvious pleasure at hearing the “modern” chords I was using on the old standard (Jean-Marie has a completely unique and advanced way of voicing and using chords), he said to me that “in my time we didn’t play it that way”. He took my guitar, and had me watch and listen to the way that on 15 October 1936, with Django and the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, he played this same tune with an American singer named Freddy Taylor. After the demonstration, this conversation followed:

    Baro – You see, Barbu, that which we played, it’s not the same as you play it today.
    JM – That’s quite true, Baro, but in reality, the chords you just played for me aren’t the same ones you used in the old days either.
    B – How’s that, Barbu? What do you mean by that? How can you think that you know how I played or didn’t play them? You’re full of it, Barbu…
    JM - No, no – I’m not crazy. Of course I wasn’t there, I wasn’t even born in 1936, but the fact is, you are mistaken about the chords and I can prove it to you.
    B – Ah, he’s a smart one… OK, smart guy, show me what I played – go on – prove it to me, I’m listening…

    I played for him some passages from “Georgia…” with the chords he had forgotten, and which, thanks to the records that I possessed, I had been able to learn exactly as played. Baro was helpless… After a few moments of deep meditiation, he recognized his errors and laughed:

    B - “Non, non, non, Barbu”… I’m not wrong… I’ve forgotten… It’s different…

    He found it quite amazing that I was able, just from listening to an old disc, to “see” how they had played in the old days. I tried to explain to him that it really was not that big of a job, that any modern professional guitarist worthy of the title would find this in every way an ordinary skill. But he simply couldn’t understand how I’d done it. He was totally overwhelmed by the whole business.

    Thanks to these exceptional moments, where we spoke, or where we played together – he occasionally asked me to accompany him, though only when we were alone in the bar – a strong friendship and a real musical respect grew between us. Our musical sessions always ended in a bizarre fashion. Inevitably, he would fail to finish the tune we were playing, then this unknowable character would rise in one motion from his chair, lean his guitar against the wall, rub his hands together quickly in obvious contentment, then he’d say:

    “Allez, Barbu – back to your place behind the bar and set me up a small Chivas. I think the clients will be arriving soon. We’re going to break the bank tonight.”

    I always opened the bar at 1030 PM and usually left around 4 in the morning, though Baro sometimes kept the place open a little later. I was there for many soirees when the gitanes came with their guitars, to play some and compare themselves to the man many of them considered their spiritual master. But Baro always played the same way, the same tunes, and these sessions inevitably ended in some sort of musical cacophony. The implacable Baro would quickly put things to order, and would then ask me to put a disc by Django on the player, thus reminding all in this little world of true reality.

    And here are a couple of quotes from a later interview (from an unreleased film), around 2008:

    FAM - C’est très difficile de definir Baro sans faire d’allusion à ses activités professionnelles, et ce que je ne peux pas faire.

    It's quite difficult to define Baro without discussing this aspect of his life, and that I cannot do.

    JM - C'est possible. Mais vous savez moi j’ai jamais fait de gangsterisme ni avec Monsieur Baro, ni avec Monsieur Montagne. Je, je… sur ce plan là je peux rien vous dire.

    It's possible, but you know I was never involved in this "gangster" business with either Baro or Montagne. So on this subject I can tell you nothing

    Note that there was no reason whatsoever for either of these men to remain silent on the subject, but neither would say anything "on the record".

    It has been suggested for a long time that Montagne took over Baro's "affairs" when he died.

    Baro's "activities" began as black-marketing during the war, continued on with fencing stolen goods, and then he became a powerful "maquereau" or pimp. Apparently in France, prostitution is legal but procuring is not - is that correct?

    Because of the easy money and the unlimited supply of naive performers to take advantage of, crime and popular culture/popular music have always been joined at the hip. From Storyville/New Orleans through the bebop era, through payola in the 50s, Las Vegas in the days of the Rat Pack, and Hollywood from the very beginning, organized and other crime was always there to help out. In the late 60s you had the LA/Laurel Canyon scene where all manner of psychopaths, predators, drug dealers and the porn industry freely mingled with the many rock musicians who lived there, and Hell's Angels were always part of the Bay Area rock/drug scene. The list of rockers who were fleeced by their managers is a long one... I'm sure it's the same everywhere. And today, popular music (and popular culture in general) glorifies crime and criminals more than ever before, so there are probably still many criminals in that world.

    But Baro was unique; nowhere else in modern popular music/popular culture do we find a genuine crime boss with the kind of rare talent that Baro had. I have listened to "Swing Valses..." hundreds of times since I bought the CD in 1993, and really it's just impossible to tell where these tunes came from. It's weird, spooky and unique music - some kind of strange jazz modernism, full of odd dissonances and harmonies. It's not the music of a mild personality, it's the original music of a strong and forceful character - "here's what I have to say - take it or leave it." It isn't the music that we call "gypsy jazz" nowadays, and I suppose that many people don't like it for that reason. But it is part of the family tree and is important for that reason. But since no one else seems capable of playing these compositions, they'll probably remain obscurities... I always wondered if Charles Delauney's connection to the world of cubism and modern art was part of the reason he was willing to take a chance on music this bizarre.

    I have more notes from other interviews, I will have to see if I can find them. Baro had some connection to the famous partisan/bank robber Pierrot le Fou, I will see if I can find those notes. I also have a photograph of Sarrane Ferret with the notorious crime lord Jo Attia, will try to scan it somehow.

    I have a fascinating recording from a session at "La Lanterne" later in time, but it's too big to post here. Suggestions on how to post it where all can hear?
    Teddy DupontBucopickitjohnMichaelHorowitzAl WatskywimFrank WekenmannSvanis1337NoneJazzaferriand 1 other.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263
    "scot wrote: »
    .......The implacable Baro would quickly put things to order, and would then ask me to put a disc by Django on the player, thus reminding all in this little world of true reality.

    That sums up the relationship between Baro and Django to me.

  • François RAVEZFrançois RAVEZ FranceProdigy
    Posts: 294
    Hi Al,

    May be you did not choose the Royal Fromentin at 11 rue Fromentin by mere chance.

    In the 30's the cabaret 'Au Don Juan' was there, Tony Murena wrote with his cousin Louis Ferrari a swing valse in honor of the place.

    Django played there with Baro, Grappelli and the QHCF during the winter of 1936. Grappelli was exasperated by Django's temperamental and disconnected behaviour. Joseph could not stand anymore to be Django's lackey. Baro and Louis Vola were trying to accommodate the situation and played the moderators between each others.

    During NYE night, after a few glasses of wine, the discord broke between the two Reinhardt brothers.

    I would strongly recommand to anyone interested in Paris Under the German Occupation the site of Jean Rousseau (unfortunately just in french) :


    François RAVEZ
    Al Watsky
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,263
    Django played there with Baro, Grappelli and the QHCF during the winter of 1936. Grappelli was exasperated by Django's temperamental and disconnected behaviour. Joseph could not stand anymore to be Django's lackey. Baro and Louis Vola were trying to accommodate the situation and played the moderators between each others.

    During NYE night, after a few glasses of wine, the discord broke between the two Reinhardt brothers.

    Yes that is where Madeleine Gauthier says Django and Joseph pulled knives on each other and someone had to go to find their mother as she was the only one who could separate them.

  • François RAVEZFrançois RAVEZ FranceProdigy
    Posts: 294
    Here is how it looked then (see attached photo) and now (see the clip of the Hotel site) but beware, it will give you Paris nostalgy :


  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    Thats the breakfast room^^. The mantlepiece is now a walk through for the rest of the tables . The Fromentin still has its charm in tact . It was chosen because it was known by my boss who knows Paris well and understands its musical and cultural history. Oh and the prices are reasonable and the staff are discrete .
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