Jazz Lives Here: Dorado Schmitt Keeps European Jazz Alive
When you think of jazz, brass and woodwind instruments may come to mind, but a large measure of the sound is about percussion and rhythm, the sounds of the standing bass and guitar. While Jazz has been exported from the US around the world, early jazz guitar lessons came from abroad. And to some extent it still does. NY1’s George Whipple filed the following report.
It was called hot jazz, and the music blazed a trial in European cities in the 1930's and 1940's and its trial blazer was the Belgian born gypsy, Django Reinhardt. Overcoming life threatening injuries sustained in a fire, Reinhardt, in his short life, would handle the neck of a guitar better with two fingers, than most would with five.
His staccato playing would provide a rhythm, but never limit his capacity to swing, just an innate spirit to roam.
That musical wanderlust is still very much on display, especially at a New York City appearance this past summer, where one of Django's disciples,the French born, Dorado Schmitt, was doing his best to keep the legacy alive.
Joined by his son Samson and Dorado's cousin on violin, they form the nucleus of a group that is known as much for its precision as it is for its improvisation.
By any other name, it is Jazz.
“Yes, improvisation is part of the deal for tonight, but I already play with all people on stage, not at the same time, but you know, we share the same passion in music,” said Ludovic Beier, an accordionist who played with the band. “We share the same language, jazz music, we know the same CD'S. We have the same culture you know, it’s like we are talking the same language so it’s not a problem.”
And that language has many dialects.
“I call it the golden child of culture,” said pianist, Peter Beets. “The mixture between African rhythms and western harmony and melody, and also melody from the blues out of Africa and the pentatonic skills is out of Africa. So ,there's more than rhythm coming out of Africa. I call it Bach and blues. Those together were mixed in America and it became be-bop.
A sample of the Schmitt sound owes as much to Coleman Hawkins as it does to Cole Porter
Speaking through an interpreter to NY1, Dorado said he believes his medium contains his message.
“The spirit culture is part of the music and for him being on the stage, like gypsy musician is not really to show the community, but it is to show the spirit of the music of the Jungle Reinhardt legacy to show the part of the culture of the gypsy, there is a kind of message to say music make all the world happy,” said Schmitt. “You know, its like the message is, we are gypsy; we are giving happiness.”
If you are a fan of the gypsy sound, you are in luck because The Django Rheinhard New York Festival returns to Birdland November 7th to the 12th.