It's hard to imagine a jazz style that walks more happily on the sunny side of the street than jazz manouche. Often referred to by its older and, to some, politically incorrect monikers of gypsy jazz and gypsy swing, jazz manouche took hold in Paris in the early '30s when guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli formed their groundbreaking ensemble, Quintet of the Hot Club of France.
Reinhardt and Grappelli's music has inspired all kinds of emulators, including Vancouver's Van Django, who will play a free concert on July 30.
The sound of jazz manouche is often upbeat, with a percussive strumming approach on the guitar called “la pompe,” akin to the “chop” that propels American bluegrass music. It is immediately recognizable to the ear, and even contemporary jazz manouche is wound tightly in the apron strings of its 80-year-old antecedent.
Reinhardt’s guitar technique was particularly impressive, especially given the tragic accident he suffered at age 18 that crippled two of the fingers on his left hand. He is revered by guitarists inside and out of the jazz-o-sphere, including English rock guitarist Jeff Beck, who was quoted in Guitar Legends magazine as saying that Reinhardt was "by far the most astonishing guitar player ever."
Reinhardt composed over a 100 pieces, many of which have become standards. Here he is performing “J’attendrai Swing” with Grapelli.
One of the great gifts of jazz manouche, and particularly Reinhardt’s contribution to it, is the lasting effect it has had on musicians through the decades. Jimmy Rosenberg is the most celebrated young guitarist to have come out of the Reinhardt school of jazz.
There are numerous Reinhardt-inspired jazz outfits in this country. Most notable among them is Montreal’s the Lost Fingers, who have been thrilling audiences with their hot jazz treatments of well known pop tunes, such as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
On the West Coast, Vancouver’s Van Django has taken the opposite approach. They compose original tunes that sound as if they could have been performed by Reinhardt and Grapelli. “Tip Toe Trip” was written by Van Django’s violinist, Cameron Wilson.
It’s clear the sound of Reinhardt and jazz manouche will be with us for some time to come.
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on Jul 26, 2012