Sunday, March 09, 2008

Leigh Jackson: “Swing Gitan”

This is Leigh Jackson playing “Swing Gitan” in the gypsy swing jazz style. Jackson is a New Zealander and plays with the “Nouveau Manouche” band.

Gypsy jazz (a.k.a. "Gypsy Swing") is an idiom sometimes said to have been started by guitarist Django Reinhardt in the 1930’s. Because its origins are largely in France it is often called by the French name, "Jazz manouche," or alternatively, "manouche jazz," even in English language sources. Django was foremost among a group of guitarists working in and around Paris in the late 1920s and 30s.

Many of the musicians in this style worked in Paris in various popular Musette ensembles. The Musette style waltz remains an important component in the Gypsy jazz repertoire. Reinhardt was noted for combining a dark, chromatic Gypsy flavor with the swing articulation of the period. This combination is critical to this style of jazz. In addition to this his approach continues to form the basis for contemporary Gypsy jazz guitar. Reinhardt's most famous group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France, also brought fame to jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

In Gypsy jazz, guitar and violin are the main solo instruments, although clarinet and accordion are also common. The rhythm guitar is played using a distinct percussive technique, "la pompe", that essentially replaces the drums; however, in Eastern gypsy jazz, rhythm section is most likely covered by one or two cymbaloms, or (less frequently) a cymbalom and an acoustic guitar (the cymbalom accompaniment technique is called in Romanian "ţiitură"). An upright bass fills out the ensembles. Although many instrumental lineups exist, a group including one lead guitar, violin, two rhythm guitars, and bass is often the norm.

You can see another example of the style in this video clip of Django Reinhardt and Quintette du Hot Club de France here.

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