Gypsy jazz ge­nius in 25 licks

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

One of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­si­cians of all time, he in­flu­enced many greats who came af­ter him. Learn his stun­ning style through 25 licks.

Django Rein­hardt is the com­plete gui­tarist’s gui­tarist. Ge­orge Ben­son, Brian May, Jeff Beck, Hank Marvin, Pe­ter Framp­ton, Les Paul, Yng­wie Malm­steen, Al­lan Holdsworth, Chet Atkins and mil­lions of gui­tarists world­wide, fa­mous and not so fa­mous, have been cap­ti­vated by the self-taught gypsy ge­nius who knew noth­ing of mu­sic the­ory and could barely read and write. What’s more, he only had two func­tion­ing fin­gers on his fret­ting hand!

I was around 14 years of age and was be­ing told off by my dad yet again. “Turn that racket down, and any­way; that mu­sic’s ter­ri­ble. You should lis­ten to this gui­tarist. He’s by far the best around!” Cer­tain that a rec­om­men­da­tion from my dad was bound to be rub­bish and that my pointy-head­stocked-wield­ing, span­dex-wear­ing, uber-shred­ding hero could not pos­si­bly be topped (it was the 80s, af­ter all), I be­grudg­ingly checked him out, mainly so that I could point out how un­be­liev­ably mis­guided and out of touch the old man was. Such is the im­petu­ous­ness of youth.

How wrong could I be! Django’s play­ing had it all: tech­ni­cal dex­ter­ity be­yond any­thing I’d ever heard be­fore (or since for that mat­ter), filled with sense of joy and play­ful­ness. There was the feel­ing of no re­stric­tions what­so­ever, with such a com­plete ex­pres­sive and dy­namic de­liv­ery, and all ex­e­cuted with to­tal ease. I lit­er­ally couldn’t be­lieve that the gui­tar could sound that beau­ti­ful, and when I then learnt that he was ex­e­cut­ing all of this with mostly two fret­ting fin­gers, I be­came a fan for life. So where did this mu­si­cal ge­nius come from?

Django was born in in 1910 in Liber­chies, Bel­gium, into a fam­ily of Manouche gyp­sies. Prodi­giously ta­lented, by age 13 he was per­form­ing with the street en­ter­tain­ers of Paris but in 1928 he sur­vived a fire that left him with a se­verely dis­fig­ured left hand. He only had full use of the first and sec­ond fin­gers, but with great de­ter­mi­na­tion he evolved a com­pletely new method for fin­ger­ing, us­ing two fin­gers for sin­gle notes and mak­ing limited use of the crip­pled third and fourth fin­gers for play­ing cer­tain chords.

In­spired by the rad­i­cal new art form of jazz, and the trum­pet style of Louis Arm­strong in par­tic­u­lar, Django was per­form­ing again and in 1934 he formed the Quin­tette du Hot Club de France with Stephane Grap­pelli. This was the first all-string jazz group, an un­usual line-up of two rhythm gui­tars, vi­o­lin, dou­ble bass and with Django on acoustic lead.

In 1946 he vis­ited Amer­ica as the guest of Duke Elling­ton, and on his re­turn he switched to elec­tric gui­tar and be­gan in­cor­po­rat­ing the in­flu­ence of ‘be-bop’ into his play­ing. Sadly he suf­fered a fatal stroke in 1953. But each year in June thou­sands of mu­sic fans visit the Jazz Manouche fes­ti­val in Samois to cel­e­brate the legacy of this gypsy jazz mae­stro.

I’ve pre­sented 25 ex­am­ples that work in a va­ri­ety of har­monic set­tings, fol­lowed by a longer 12-bar study against a blues in G mi­nor. This is lit­er­ally the tip of the ice­berg, as I could eas­ily present an­other 25 new ideas each month for the next 10 years. The aim is en­cour­age some re­search of your own, as this is where the real learn­ing will be­gin, but for now grab your acoustic and dive in.

There’s no need to play the ex­am­ples us­ing Rein­hardt’s fin­ger­ings (although it’s al­ways fun dis­cov­er­ing how they work). In a per­for­mance sit­u­a­tion any­thing goes, so I’d ad­vise that you play them which­ever way works for you. I hope you en­joy play th­ese ideas as much as I did putting this ar­ti­cle to­gether. So, à bi­en­tôt et bon chance!


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.