This issue John Wheatcroft examines the extraordinary style of the Flying Dutchman of gypsy jazz, the incredible Stochelo Rosenberg.
John Wheatcroft on the staggering technique of Dutch gypsy jazzer Stochelo Rosenberg.
Stochelo Rosenberg is rightly considered to be gypsy jazz royalty. For nearly 30 years the Rosenberg Trio, including cousins Nou’che and Nonnie, have been at the forefront of this engaging and infectious genre. If any guitar player disproves the old adage that it’s impossible to be both a technical virtuoso and an expressive feel-based player then it’s Stochelo, who manages to balance incredible speed, articulation and accuracy with a romantic and emotional sense of touch that can be both intense and exhilarating, and touchingly delicate and sensitive.
Even within his own family, brother Mozes, cousins Jimmy and Nomy and countless others have all taken much of their sound, technique and vocabulary from Stochelo’s benchmark. His impact outside the gypsy community is just as impressive and significant. As his friend and fellow virtuoso gypsy guitarist Biréli Lagrène plainly states, “Stochelo Rosenberg is the guitar player that represents the most, the music of Django Reinhardt”.
Our lesson here consists of eight musical examples, each typical of the kind of thing Stochelo might play within improvised solos against common jazz chord progressions. You may notice that in keeping with this style, the chords are relatively straightforward and Rosenberg frequently stays faithful and close to the fundamental notes within these chords. The sophistication here is often in the delivery and the frequent use of embellishments and expressive devices such as bending and vibrato that are, like Django, arguably closer to violin technique than conventional jazz guitar.
As Stochelo’s style is predominantly acoustic, the best thing you can do to get close to his tone and maximise your volume and projection is to sort your picking out. Most modern gypsy players play with a relaxed ‘broken’ wrist posture and introduce each new string with a downstroke. The real trick here is to travel through each string, so a note on the second string ends with the pick resting on the first, rather like a classical guitarist’s rest stroke. Use gravity and the weight of the hand to do this, rather than brute force, as this will create tension in the wrist, actually slow you down and produce a sound that is tight and forced rather than loose and fluent. I’ve had the good fortune to witness Stiochelo on many occasions playing completely acoustically and his tone is always supremely clear, fluid, smooth and expressive. As always, enjoy.
NEXT MONTH John gets to the heart of the wonderful blues-jazz player Robben Ford
Stochelo Rosenberg is the guitar player that represents the most, the music of Django Reinhard t Biréli Lagrène
Stochelo Rosenberg with his oval hole Maccaferri style
Almost exclusively playing an oval-hole Maccaferristyle acoustic, Stochelo has played instruments from a variety of makers such as Favino, Eimers and even a Selmer with the serial number 504, just one away from Django’s. Recently he’s been playing a guitar from French luthier Jean Barault . Stochelo’s style is all about making an acoustic guitar work so stay away from amps at first and work on making the instrument project, completely au naturel.