RIP Nick Lehr

StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
The founder of Djangofest passed away yesterday. Nick did a lot for Gypsy jazz in North America. He will be missed, but not forgotten. RiP
"When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass


  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,308
    This is very sad news. Djangofest NW was one of my first introductions into the scene back in ~2002. He had a great vision for bringing the scene he saw in Europe back home to the States. He worked hard to expand it to other places in the country too besides just Whidbey Island and I'm grateful for what he accomplished.

    Requiescat in pace
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,153
    So sad to hear this. People take for granted how much Gypsy jazz there is in the US now, but turn the clock back to 2000 and there was pretty well nothing. Nick changed all that with DjangoFest. RIP.....
  • pmgpmg Atherton, CANew Dupont MD50R, Shelley Park Custom, Super 400, 68 Les Paul Deluxe, Stevie Ray Strat
    Posts: 140
    Nick was not only a close friend and occasional jamming buddy, he was a passionate leader and visionary that helped many of us find each other and further develop our musical passions. Hope he is introducing Django and his group at a nice venue somewhere above.
    I'm always interested in jamming with experienced jazz and gypsy jazz players in the San Francisco - San Jose area. Drop me a line. Bass players welcome!
  • Nick was a man with a big heart. I first got to know him in 2005 sponsoring a young mandolinist to a camp in California. Nick was organizing part of that. He has done much for our community and will be missed. My condolences to his family.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    So sad to hear this... ... turn the clock back to 2000 and there was pretty well nothing. Nick changed all that with DjangoFest. RIP.....

    True true. It was a different landscape entirely and Nick brought the spark of the Samois flame across the ocean. Rhythm Future is putting out its new album and seeing the announcement, I said to my wife, something like: "This is sort of wild, but do you realize we have 3 musical generations of talent in the US now. "Max, son of Gonzalo, grandson of John... is putting out a new album. How did that happen so quickly?" She replied: "Good people doing what they love -- make things happen."

    Many thanks to the grand gent who did what he loved, and to whom we owe much gratitude. Rest well, Nick.

    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,319
    That is sad news. My sincere condolences to his family. RIP.
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465
    Nick and I had a huge falling out and hadn’t spoke for almost 10 years. I was recovering from my own near-death experience and had heard of how sick he was so I reached out to bury the hatchet and I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to have to go through what he did. I’m glad that he passed as peacefully as he died with Django’s music in his ears.

    To be fair, I can’t comment on post-2006 Nick Lehr, but between 2001-2006 I (and many others) can tell you that he was not the benevolent tireless promoter of this music and champion of the independent musician that some are making him out to be. He was a shady promoter out to make as much money as possible so he didn’t have to get up and go to work everyday and he did that by underpaying and holding serious, dedicated and hard working musicians to ransom. A very famous European musician refused to go on until he was paid everything, in cash, before he walked out on stage because of questionable accounting. Another time at a private party in a house a famous European musician walked into what he thought was a bathroom but was actually a set-up to record the concert. He had not be asked permission, nor offered compensation until he refused to play.

    He would “guarantee” your fee for playing and usually come up with only half to 2/3’rds and mumbling some vague response as to how he’ll get you the rest of the money as he shuffled off. If you tried to call him out on it he’s say something like “well I can get so-and-so to do it for free so why should I pay you?” When I did the Djangofest tour Andreas, Kruno and Stéphane’s trio he told me to hold onto all my receipts for expenses (driving from Seattle to Laguna Beach and back again) and when I presented them after the tour he looked me right in the eye and said “I don’t remember having that conversation with you. Sorry.” So I wrote off the $500+ loss to “cost of doing business” and moved on. It was a very important lesson that I’d have had to learn at some point, the business of music. In the end I forgave Nick for becoming consumed by power.

    I owe many of my early professional successes and more importantly my professional failures to the opportunities Nick gave me. They are lessons that I’ll always be appreciative of and thankful for.

    RIP Nick....

    I have had a very different experience. I played at many Djangofests and Nick always kept his word with me and those I played with. I performed with Bruce Forman, Mimi Fox and Larry Coryell at several Djangofests and all of those jazz guitar luminaries were treated fairly and paid what was due.

    While I would not presume to challenge Ted's experiences with Nick, I do think that this was a highly inappropriate time to air this "dirty laundry".

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465
    Ted, if attacking the character of a man who has just died, and therefore cannot rebut your assertions, does not strike you as inappropriate, I am afraid I will be unable to satisfy your curiosity.

    I did my business with Nick on a handshake basis at Mill Valley and Laguna Beach and the first couple of Langley shows that I did. Afterwards, the Langley shows had a written contract, but from my point of view, that was unnecessary. My handshake is a binding contract and my experience with Nick was that his was too.
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465

    I have no idea if there were sponsors involved in those gigs where I brought famous Jazz guitarists to the Djangofests. I do know that Nick lost money on the Laguna Beach festival. I doubt that he got rich doing what he did. I can assure all who read these threads that Nick Lehr had a genuine love for the music of Django Reinhardt.

    Will Djangofest Mill Valley and DFNW go on without Nick? Hard to say. I have been out of the loop for many years now on all of this. My band, Hot Club Pacific has morphed into more of a modern Swing ensemble that plays some Django tunes along with the Great American songbook stuff. Think Kenny Davern and Howard Alden and you get the picture. I was never very interested in playing orthodox Gypsy jazz in any case. I way prefer archtops to Selmacs, though my Dupont MD-20 remains at the ready for gigs where it is "required". I hope DFNW survives. I have many fond memories of playing several of those festivals along with all night Djams at Troy's house (I remember Djamming with you at Troy's on at least one occasion).

    Gypsy jazz in North America has had quite a journey these last 20 years and Nick Lehr was a big part of making that journey happen. Latcho Drom Nick!
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • Posts: 4,737

    Ted I'd like to ask if you would've said the same at Nick's wake?
    If not, then why here?

    Mark, I applaud you for being so even handed.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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