PAUL VERNON CHESTER
Typically, its practitioners - many of them Gypsies - perform music in the style of the Hot Club of France, almost always using phrases from Django’s early vocabulary, and sometimes even performing his solos note for note. There is little progressive improvising in Gypsy Jazz. There are some great musicians who play “Gypsy Jazz,” and it has its own niche fan base. It’s just not what Django was all about. What is important to remember is that Django was a jazz musician, not some Gypsy, folk, world music hybrid musician that the title “Gypsy Jazz” suggests. Most of the major annual festivals that honour Django’s music, usually employ one or more of these “Gyspy Jazz” musicians/groups. A problem that arises as a result is that audiences come to think that what Django played was this “Gypsy Jazz,” completely separate from the American jazz he played. Worse, some of these players are less than capable jazz improvisers. Fine musicians, but not jazz improvisers at the level of Django. (Then again, who is?).
Julian Bream cited Reinhardt as an inspiration: "My Father had a number of very good jazz records, but the music that really interested me, and enthused me was the Hot Club of France with Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. It was Reinhardt’s guitar playing that so stimulated me musically, that I was drawn to the guitar like a magnet. I felt his playing was so evocative, so powerful at times, so dramatic, and then other times so lyrical, that he seemed to hold within his musical grasp the whole gamut of human expression.”
Django at a Gypsy Wedding circa 1943 Circled l-to-r Pie Fouad, Django, Eugène Vées, Sarane Ferret, Huber Rostaing. - Joseph Reinhardt immediately right of Fouad Emmanuel Soudieux on bass behind the newly wed couple
It's important that we get a
brief, generational family tree. Currently there are four generations of Gypsy
Jazz guitarists going back to Django's era. They are as follows:
"Usually, no one quite knew where Django Reinhardt was going to be, but I met his brother and about an hour later in walks Django with an entourage of friends. He always travelled with a large group - carried his own admirers with him, the most sinister-looking bunch of hoodlums you've ever seen. I walked up and offered to buy him a drink. That seemed to be the right thing to do... he was the first really brilliant solo guitarist I ever became aware of, I had records of his when I was 10 years old. It just blew my mind that anyone could play a guitar like that. Still does." - Charlie Byrd
Eugène Vées was among the most loyal of all Django’s rhythm guitarists. He performed regularly with the maestro from around 1936 until 1947. A simple, superstitious, naïve, Manouche gypsy, he never truly came to terms with the “outside” world and preferred the flea-markets and caravan sites to the sophistication and professionalism his membership of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France offered.
Eugène “Ninine” Vées was either the first or second cousin of Django (reports vary) and was born in 1915. It has been claimed that he was one of the many gypsy banjo players who was sent along to deputise for the young, unreliable Django at the bal-musettes and night clubs when the latter inevitably did not feel like playing but there is no tangible evidence of Vées involvement with Reinhardt until the mid-thirties.
Eugène Vées died in 1977 and could possibly be best described as a session swing rhythm guitarist who is somewhat peripheral to the gypsy jazz story. His input during the pre-war string quintet days is difficult to determine as there was always another rhythm guitarist present.
Rene Thomas playing guitar dates from the beginning of the 40's, with Gaston Houssa Orchestra. His guitar was a kind of "folk" acoustic guitar. For his first recordings in 1943 with Hubert Simplisse, Thomas was really inspired by Django until the end of the 40's, and it seems that he played very well in this style : Django himself was impressed by him when they met in Brussels in 1947-1948.
René Thomas was born 25 February 1927 in
René Didi Duprat
In the 1930s and 1940s there was a left handed guitar player, René Didi Duprat, who wasn’t a manouche, a gypsy, like many French guitar players, but a gadjo, which means in the Sinti-language, that he isn’t a gypsy. He was a great accompanist at the guitar and played with great musicians, like Tony Muréna and numerous others. George Lankester wrote an article about this unknown French guitar player, titled René Didi Duprat, that was published in Dutch. Today you'll find the English version René Didi Duprat - Maitre de Musette."Didi" was born on the 12th of October 1926 in Paris. As a kid he learned to play the mandolin and the banjo, but the guitar would soon become his major instrument. Django Reinhardt was his inspiration and soon he played with important manouche guitarists.
At sixteen he played in the Michel Warlop Orchestra and in 1943 he accompanied Gus Viseur, the most important accordion player in those days and also with Tony Muréna, another accordion player with whom he played in the parks and streets of Paris, when he was a kid. He performed with the Orchestra of Louis Ferrari, yet another accordionist and bandleader, until 1952. He became a friend of Marcel Azzola, a well known musette player in those days.
In 1958 Didi replaces guitarist Henri Crolla in some tours of the famous singer Yves Montand and it brings him some fame. He becomes a sought after accompanist for musicians like Dalida, Juliette Gréco and Marléne Dietrich until the mid 1970s.
People who enjoy Hot Club Jazz will
like to know that the left-handed guitarist Didi Duprat,
is to be heard on several recordings of the late 1930s and 1940s, in recordings
with Musette musicians like Muréna. It is remarkable to learn that he also played with musicians like Gus
Viseur, the accordion player who was so famous because of his swing and
improvisations. His records were released on the Swing label.
Léo Petit, better known as composer as William Stanray, who was a famous session man, one the first guitarist in Paris to play with a Fender in the fifties. Léo Petit came from the Jazz scene, and concentrated in sessions he backed almost all the French singers from Johnny Hallyday to Gilbert Becaud or Françoise Hardy. He also composed some good tracks like "Galaxie" , a hit by Les champions, les Guitares and his own band les Guitares du Diable. He recorded with both Django and Grapelli
Django's first son was is a much less well known personality. Lousson was born to Django's first wife, Florine "Bella" Mayer but Django had already separated from Bella before his birth. It appears Django was not at all involved in Lousson's upbringing and since the latter remained a nomadic, somewhat unsociable individual all his life, there is very little information available about him.
One cannot help but feel that Django's apparent indifference to Lousson contrasts dramatically with his obvious devotion to Babik. Like Babik, Django's second and more famous son, Lousson was also an excellent guitarist. Since Lousson was older he actually played with his father on occasions and even accompanied him on numerous recordings in the 1940s. Like many of the second generation players, Lousson played more contemporary styles of jazz on an archtop electric guitar. Despite Lousson's modern bebop approach, his Gypsy heritage is evident in his technique, repertoire, and sense of aesthetics. Note the Fender Electric Bass
Lousson Reinhardt Samois 1978
Henri "Louson" Baumgartner brother to Babik Reinhardt also played guitar and recorded the "Concert De Bruxelles" in 1948 with Django, Hubert Rostaing, Louis Vola and Arthur Motta.
Performed regularly in Paris bars throughout the 1960s but never recorded commercially. Lousson’s style was electric and modern. He died in 1992.
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