John Wheatcroft concludes his look at Django Rein­hardt's in­flu­ence, bring­ing us up to date with the cur­rent crop of amaz­ing gypsy jazz gui­tarists.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

John Wheatcroft takes a look at mod­ern gypsy play­ers in­clud­ing Bireli La­grene, Fapy Lafertin, Boulou Ferre and Stoch­elo Rosen­berg.

last month we looked at the style of the leg­endary Django Rein­hardt. here we see how Django’s le­gacy has thrived and evolved due to the tal­ents of re­mark­able mu­si­cians, gypsy and non-gypsy, that have cre­ated an­other link in the chain while sound­ing ground­break­ing in their own right. no mean feat when you con­sider Django’s huge in­flu­ence. In fact, there are few styles that can be traced back to one soli­tary mu­si­cal fig­ure­head. While Char­lie Parker was of mighty sig­nif­i­cance to be­bop, you also have monk and Gille­spie. while Robert John­son was an­other vi­tal mu­si­cian, so too were son house, lead­belly and dozens of oth­ers.

with gypsy jazz, all roads lead back to Django. It’s im­pos­si­ble to go around him, such is the weight of his in­flu­ence. I can only think of Earl Scruggs’ five-string banjo play­ing as an­other in­stance where one sin­gle player de­fined an en­tire move­ment based upon their style alone.

we have nine ex­am­ples, each based around the fol­low­ing artists, from the 40s to the present day...

ar­gen­tinian os­car ale­man was based in Paris dur­ing Django’s time and is con­sid­ered to be one of the few con­tem­po­raries in his class. ale­man un­usu­ally favoured a thumbpick and fin­ger ap­proach. Although Pierre ‘Baro’ Fer­ret per­formed with Django many times on rhythm, he was a for­mi­da­ble im­pro­viser. a swing waltz de­mon, much of to­day’s reper­toire can be traced back to him.

Fapy lafertin has per­formed in the gypsy jazz style for years and, for many, he comes clos­est to pre­serv­ing Rein­hardt’s early sound, tone and feel. Baro’s nephew, Bolou Ferré was one of the genre’s first child prodi­gies, play­ing his first con­cert at eight years old. now in his six­ties, he con­tin­ues, along with brother elios, to blend tra­di­tional gypsy ma­te­rial with be­bop, clas­si­cal and even free jazz in­flu­ences.

an­other child star, Bireli la­grene is a ter­ri­fy­ing gui­tarist but al­ways so mu­si­cal with it. equally at home with straight-ahead and fu­sion styles Bireli recorded a se­lec­tion of al­bums in his early teens that dis­play a phe­nom­e­nal mas­tery of the genre and the in­stru­ment. he’s a lit­tle over 30 years older now and con­tin­ues to grow and grow. Bireli’s favourite gypsy jazz player, with a more tra­di­tion­ally au­then­tic style is the mighty stoch­elo Rosen­berg. he has stunning vi­brato and phras­ing, with an im­mac­u­late rest-stroke pick­ing tech­nique and pro­jec­tion. French gui­tarist an­gelo De­barre is one of the most ex­cit­ing gypsy play­ers ac­tive to­day, with su­per ar­tic­u­late tech­nique and an en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge of the style. he’s also not afraid to push the en­ve­lope in terms of note se­lec­tion, rhythm and har­mony, although gen­er­ally within a fairly tra­di­tional reper­toire of tunes.

Jimmy Rosen­berg achieved huge suc­cess be­fore even hit­ting dou­ble-fig­ures, age wise. now in his mid-30s, per­sonal prob­lems have stunted his ca­reer but he re­mains one of the most ex­pres­sive play­ers in the genre, still with a ridicu­lous clean and su­per fast tech­nique.

as both a solo artist and as part of the gypsy jazz ‘su­per­group’, selmer 607, adrien moignard is an in­ven­tive im­pro­viser and the shin­ing light of the cur­rent Parisi­enne scene, equally at home with gypsy and mod­ern jazz vo­cab­u­lary - def­i­nitely a name to keep your eye on, a real player for the fu­ture.

there are hun­dreds more amaz­ing play­ers in this style, such as Liver­pool’s Gary Pot­ter, from amer­ica John Jor­gen­son and Frank Vig­nola, the group les Doigts de l’homme, swedish vir­tu­oso an­dreas oberg, Robin nolan, Ro­mane, a dozen play­ers with the name Rosen­berg - and not for­get­ting Django’s grand­son, David Rein­hardt. even hank marvin has adopted the gypsy style! any­way, enough read­ing and not enough play­ing, so grab your gui­tar and dive straight in!

There are sen­sa­tional play­ers in the gypsy jazz world, not nec­es­sar­ily fa­mous, but they de­serve to be. Hank Marvin

Birelli La­grene: equally at home with straight or gypsy jazz styles

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