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The Essence of Gypsy Jazz

AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator Gallato RS-39 Modèle Noir
edited March 2009 in Archtop Eddy's Corner Posts: 277
What is the essence of gypsy jazz?

I know this kind of question is unfashionable and often considered impertinent or useless, which is precisely why I'm asking it.

Is its essence a set of techniques? A set of tunes? A stylistic approach? How would you describe it?

Also, what things dilute its essence, or prevent it from flourishing?

(Please don't post the usual nonsense about "there being no single essence, you're being mean by even asking, waah!" We already know that. This question is designed to get some discussion going, not to clamp anything down.)


  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio
    Posts: 674
    The essence of Gypsy Jazz comes from the heart, it's from within, it's a feeling inside, which the 'true' GJ guitarist expresses through the voice of his guitar. As an example: listen to any Tchavolo recording.
    ~ Cheers, Phil
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 748
    the essence of Gypsy Jazz is Django Reinhardt
  • NolanNolan Amsterdam✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 149
    Have to go with Dennis on this one.......definately the SHOES!

  • ScroogeScrooge AustraliaNew
    Posts: 12
    I think you are right to ask this question because, to my mind, Django's jazz has taken a real dive over the last few years. The main reason for this is because Django's style of jazz is now considered out of date. Most modern "Gypsy Jazz" has taken the "American" route in which speed, volume and technique are seen to be superior to melody, feel, sensitivity and most notably communication between and audience and musician. For example if you go to a jamm session the main object seems to be to see who is the loudest rhythm guitarist. (Guitar retailers are even promoting their guitars as being "the loudest I have ever heard" etc.) Little thought is given to the musical statement the melody instrument is actually playing.
    The true essence of this music, however, should lie with Django and can only be appreciated in his interpretation and creation of a unique genre, "Django Jazz". If you want to know his essence and enjoy it, listen to "I'll see you in my Dreams", "Twelfth Year", "Nuages", "Don't Worry About Me", or "Runnin' Wild". If these pieces don't move you, you've missed the essence of Django Jazz. Django's musical innovations express a unique outlook on life, this is the essence of it all and why we are drawn to it. Some people have come close, but there is only one Django, listen and weep.
    I'll do any thing for 30 cents an hour
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,223
    spatzo wrote:
    the essence of Gypsy Jazz is Django Reinhardt
    Absolutely right. :D
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 452
    the essence of Gypsy Jazz is Django Reinhardt

    Quite right (though the shoes help! :D ).

    Having been enjoying (and playing) this music for about 5 years now, I have to say that I am completely bored with the speed demon, parlor trick laden stuff that permeates modern Gypsy Jazz (though I wish I could do some of that well myself!), but when I hear Django play, it speaks to me in a way that few other musicians can.

    There is an organic quality to this music , which essentially is jazz, played on acoustic instruments, using old fashioned 4 to the bar rhythm, with "in the pocket" solos.

    Maybe at the end of the day it is just Dixieland without the hats and vests. But to paraphrase an old rock tune, its only Gypsy jazz, but I like it!


    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • Ken BloomKen Bloom Pilot Mountain, North CarolinaNew
    Posts: 164
    What speaks to me is the rhapsodic abandon with which Django plays. he has plenty of chops but doesn't seem to worry about impressing with them. It's only a tool. The best of the gypsy music I've heard has this intense emotional abandon. The dynamics are just as important as the notes, maybe more so.
    When players forget the emotion and only worry about power, I think the essence is lost. In the end, it's having something to say and then doing it in a profound way.

    Ken Bloom
    Ken Bloom
  • sockeyesockeye Philadelphie sur SchuylkillNew
    Posts: 415
    Yeah, I wonder if painters try to impress one another with their speed, or if it's more about knowing what to express and how to express it. (A rhetorical question, naturally.)

    However, I wouldn't say speed is always bad. Stochelo, Angelo, Joscho Stephan are a few examples of ridiculously fast players who I think also have a lot to say.

    (Of the 3, I suspect Angelo has the best shoes.)
  • symboliquesymbolique wellington, new zealandNew
    Posts: 20
    Scrooge wrote:
    Most modern "Gypsy Jazz" has taken the "American" route in which speed, volume and technique are seen to be superior to melody, feel, sensitivity and most notably communication between and audience and musician. For example if you go to a jamm session the main object seems to be to see who is the loudest rhythm guitarist.

    This raises another question to mind that has me (and my wife) curious. Django used to play to audiences who danced. I have never seen audiences dance to Gypsy Jazz (swing).

    Here in New Zealand the few Gypsy Jazz ensembles play in cafes/restaurants semi-regularly and they are often overlooked. People go along to be seen but as the evening wears on the clapping/interest wears down (even my students whom I have taken along notice this, though concerts without food or wine tend to have the audiences sitting concentration). My wife and I would love to get up to dance but that too seems a lost relationship between musician and audience. I'm unsure what that's like overseas elsewhere (I've only seen GJ in NZ & the US).

    I hope this doesn't appear a hijacking of the thread, I just think it is an inimical element to GJ (the interplay).

    Kind regards
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