First off, apart from having my own gypsy jazz trio, I’ve been involved in playing this style for seventeen years and working as a professional guitarist for over twenty.
Over the years, we’ve played at jazz festivals, arts centres, theatres, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, gypsy music festivals, wakes, corporate functions, private parties, boat launches, embassies, museums, plus the odd bit of TV and radio. All thanks to the timeless popularity of the music.
So now a brief history for anyone who has just discovered gypsy jazz!
The origins can be linked to one man, a Belgian gypsy guitarist called Django Reinhardt (1910 – 1953).
Discovering jazz as a young man, he successfully fused his awesome ethnic playing style with the early American jazz that was finding its way into Europe. In so doing, he created a genre, re-defined plectrum style guitar, wrote enduring melodies and generally become a total legend on every level.
Oh! And he had a disability in the fact that his fretting hand was badly burnt in a fire and he could only fully use his index and middle fingers.
When his recordings started reaching the rest of the world, people were completely blown away. He became a world-wide phenomenon.
Many Gypsies from Europe play this style; Django ignited this quirky branch of jazz and for some, it has become part of their culture, adding a new dimension to their already amazing musical heritage.
I consider myself lucky and honoured, having learnt to play gypsy jazz from some of the greatest exponents on the planet since Django, including Bireli Lagrene, Stochelo Rosenberg and Lulu Reinhardt. Whether on a gig or a jam, I’ve soaked up every second of playing time with these remarkable musicians.
In the my own gypsy jazz trio, TMA025, we’ve kept the format nice and simple. Two acoustic guitars and a double-bass.
Because gypsy jazz is so adaptable we can incorporate elements of swing jazz, Latin and even a little funk into the tunes.
The music has an endearing quality of being both ‘street’ and sophisticated in its sound. Very European and extremely infectious.
Okay, that’s it for now, thanks for reading!