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Popular tunes that work in Django style

Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
edited February 2011 in Repertoire Posts: 1,497
I'm interested in hearing from other guitarists who do the kind of restaurant gigs where they might play popular tunes that can work in Django style.

I should note that this is not my preferred style, but a few I've found that worked for me were:

Puttin' on the Ritz
Michelle
And I Love Her
You Won't See Me


Will Wilson
Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."
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Comments

  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    Hi Will,

    Do you mean "popular" as in "non-jazz pop songs"? I ask because to my way of thinking, much of what Django played were popular songs--things like All of Me, Stardust, etc--even if they're often thought of as standards today. Are you specifically looking to step outside of that kind of repertoire? I'm not sure because your inclusion of Puttin' on the Ritz (a '20s tune) threw me.

    best,
    Jack.
    p.s. Your Beatles reference just reminded me that we've been working up a bolero version of 'Til There Was You, which is a pretty easy fit.
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    the lost fingers play some pretty unconventional tunes in the django style

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,497
    Jack, what I'm talking about is songs that are familiar to an average audience circa 2008... I included Puttin On The Ritz because it was revived as a radio hit in the 1980's... I like your idea of "Till There Was You", too, by the way.

    I too play standards like Stardust and All The Things You Are, but sadly, to most younger people today, those great songs are not really standards. They don't know the difference between them and any of the other Django tunes that one might just as easily choose to play.

    It seems nowadays that the only songs that folks are almost guaranteed to know are Christmas carols and Beatles numbers. And as great as my admiration is for the Beatles, I've tried to play jazz on a lot of their songs and it just doesn't work very well.

    Now I know Django could improvise over any old thing and make it sound good--- "Norwegian Dance" being a case in point... I and most other GJ players can play over the changes, but what is really achieved?

    So what my dream would be is to miraculously find numbers that the audience already sorta knows that are also good ones to improvise over.

    Unfortunately, this kind of number seems to be as rare as rocking horse shit!
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."
  • TimmyHawkenTimmyHawken Lansing,MINew
    Posts: 118
    I get what you are saying Lango, it is necessary to have a few numbers in your set that most people recognize, at least for most of the gigs that I play. Unfortunately, Django's music hasn't experienced a sort of rebirth here in Lansing, MI like I've seen in other places (but I am working on that), so audiences that I play to definitely require that I mix in a few more recognizable tunes.


    My band plays Suicide is Painless with a rhythm like that of Bossa Dorado. It is always a croud pleaser, no doubt because the TV show MASH was so popular. Actually, we decided to learn it a while back for a gig we did for about 200 psychiatrist. While most recognized it as the MASH theme, a few afterwards told us that they got a kick out of irony of playing Suicide is Painless to psychiatrists.

    anywho, it's real simple song that's fun and easy to improvise over. here's a chart I made, I hope it makes sense, it's kind of a make shift version of the song but I thought of doing like 2 days before that gig and, well, after doing it this way, we never went back and changed it :lol:
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    Got it...it's tough, because it's easy to go over the line into being a novelty act with some of it. That's sort of how I see The Lost Fingers--and they seem to do it pretty successfully, it's just not my thing.

    Maybe look at some Stevie Wonder, whose tunes are already a regular part of a lot of gypsy jazz sets. Radiohead gets covered by all sorts of people (see Brad Mehldau's take on Exit Music for a Film), and I could definitely hear some Dylan tunes over la pompe (e.g. Subterranean Homesick Blues).

    For me, part of the difficulty in this is always making the harmony work--a lot of pop music sounds forced or Musak-y when given a 'jazz' treatment--but it can work. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    best,
    Jack.
    p.s. "I Will Survive" fits nicely into an extended Minor Swing progression. Just saying.
  • CalebFSUCalebFSU Tallahassee, FLModerator Made in USA Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 557
    I always thought it would be cool to do a set of Ramones tunes in GJ context at least if nothing else but for the novelty of it.
    Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,497
    I agree that the serious GJ guitarist doesn't want to come across as a novelty act- at least not I don't. I've worked too hard learning this style to fritter it away!

    So, if I'm hearing you right, fellow GJers, the 21st century "standards" that seem to work for you best in actual performance are

    Beatles- Stevie Wonder- "MASH" (and possibly other TV themes?) Radiohead

    And oh yeah-- Ensemble Zaiti who I saw last summer at Django Camp had a swinging version of the 60's pop tune "Sunny"... which makes me wonder if "Sittin' on the dock of the bay" or other Motown songs might work too?

    And of course there's always "Girl from Ipanema" even though it's been done to death.

    Has anyone ever tried to do anything by Coldplay?

    I'm asking these questions because I want to get more serious about doing more restaurant gigs... and most of the folks who dine out at the restaurants around here are not known for their love of Django!
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."
  • Posts: 597
    and most of the folks who dine out at the restaurants around here are not known for their love of Django!

    The most common request you'll hear in a restaurant ... Could you please play a little more quietly?

    You may or may not keep the gig if you answer ... I think so -- could you hum a few bars? :lol: :roll: :cry:
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    I'd also give some serious thought to the Brill Building pop tunes ("The Look of Love" by Burt Bacharach, "On Broadway" by Leiber/Stoller, etc) as they tend to be really recognizable and have strong melodies, but still feature richer harmony than a lot of more modern tunes...

    Themes are useful too--people often recognize them without quite knowing where it's from. I've heard the Star Wars Cantina Song, The Third Man Theme, music from The Godfather and The Deer Hunter all done by gypsy jazzers, as well as the Spiderman theme (minor blues), the Flintstones theme (rhythm changes), and the Batman theme, Aladdin theme, etc...

    best,
    Jack.
  • TimmyHawkenTimmyHawken Lansing,MINew
    Posts: 118
    I think the key is to play to your audience -as much as you can stand. Do I like playing "girl from Ipanema"? No, but in the right setting, ie a restaurant gig, it's doable.

    I don't know that I've had too many gigs that I've felt too comfortable going %100 GJ, there just isn't a huge audience for it here, and frankly I don't know if I(and the band) am good enough to do so. So we play with a Saxophonist, and play a lot of Getz/Byrd, Getz/Gilberto, Bop, etc too, so we just play it by ear, but certainly our preference is to play GJ.

    Definitely theme songs are one of our favorites to mix it up. Also some oldies, like "what a day for a daydream" or "blue moon"(I know it's not actually an oldie, but most consider it so) Sam Cook has a ton of great songs too. We've done "isnt she lovely" as have most here, I'm sure. I love standard ballads like "the nearness of you" and we've also done some Patsy Cline when we have female friend sit in with us. We do "Summertime" but that's another one like "Girl from Ipanema" where you kind of have to swallow your pride before you play it. It's a give and take, for sure.
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