PAUL VERNON CHESTER
The Ferret Dynasty - Freres
The sparkling recordings by Django's gypsy friends and frequent musical companions - the members of the Ferret family,
One interesting feature for fans of Django's music is that these artists give a sense of his roots in French gypsy guitar techniques before he became immersed in jazz.
The great swing guitarist Oscar Aleman (also a contemporary and friend of Django's) once said that he thought his playing could compare with Django's in some respects, but that Django had a lot of "gypsy tricks" on guitar.
The "gypsy jazz" recordings by the Ferret family (and others) are great in their own right, but they're also fascinating
Djangos greatest musical
accompanists, followers, and ultimately, most innovative successors were three
Gitan Gypsy brothers named Pierre Joseph Baro, Étienne Sarane, and Jean
Matelo Ferret. Django met the frères Ferret while living in a Montmartre hotel
during winter 1931. One day, Djangos second wife, Naguine, stepped out of their
room to find a diminutive Gypsy waif with his ear to their door. Stammering his
apologies, the boy said he had been passing by when he heard the music and
stopped to listen. Naguine invited him in and introduced Django, who was laying
sprawled out on his bed, smoking a cigarette, and picking his guitar,
improvising melodies. The boy introduced himself as Matelo and said that he and
his brothers were all guitarists too. Yet after listening to Djangos playing,
Matelo solemnly pledged to throw his own guitar away. Instead, Django invited
Matelo to retrieve his instrument and the two began playing together, Django
teaching the boy the theme Sugar, the first jazz melody Matelo learned.
Baro Ferret - 1908-1976
Pierre Joseph Ferret (1908 - 1978) was a Gypsy jazz guitarist and composer. He was known by his Gypsy nickname "Baro," which meant "Big One" or even "King" in Romany. Through his brother Jean "Matelo" Ferret, Baro met Jean "Django" Reinhardt, and the two became both friends and notorious rivals. From 1931, the Ferret brothers, along with their third brother Etienne "Sarane" Ferret, were favourite sidemen of Reinhardt. Baro recorded around 80 sides with the great guitarist. Baro's immaculate guitar technique and improvisational style was at the same level as Reinhardt's, although he is said to have been frustrated at always being considered second-best. He retired as a full-time musician during World War II, and devoted himself to being a successful black-market business man during the German occupation of Paris. As a composer, Baro's "valses bebop" were years ahead of the times. His works such as "Panique...!," "La Folle" ("The Madwoman"), "Swing Valse" (written with accordionist Gus Viseur), and "Le Depart de Zorro" were modernistic, surreal, and dark, part Musette, part modern jazz.
Pierre Joseph 'Baro' Ferret, the creator of the swing waltz, was of gypsy origin.
He was born in 1908 in Rouen, France and like his brothers Sarane and Matelo, he began at a very early age to play banjo and banduria in the colourful musette dance halls. Baros virtuosity led to recordings with the famous accordion player Guerino, and his guitar solos were often attributed to Django Reinhardt.
Baros approach to the instrument was fairly close to that of the brilliant manouche (who composed marvellous waltzes, such as Chez Jacqet, when he was very young), but even closer to that of the two pioneers of the style, Mattéo Garcia and Gusti Malha. Legendary heroes of the banjo-guitar, they had won fame at the side of great musette accordion players like Emile Vacher, Fredo Gardoni, and the Peguri brothers, enriching the repertoire with valuable harmonic contributions, and new melodies.
Too often, we do not really know who composed these masterpieces. For example, the Reine Musette was given by Gusti Malha as a present to Jean Peyronnin, who needed a sixth title to become a member of the Société des Auteurs. The Minch Valse was given by Mattéo Garcias son to Baro for him to add a personal touch.
Yet ironically, Baro Ferret set aside his guitar during World War II in honour of and frustration over the brilliance of Djangos music. He ran a series of bars, each more shady than the last one, that became hangouts for Gypsy gangsters and headquarters for Baros own illicit underworld activities. Out of jail for a spell in 1966, Baro was enticed to pick up his guitar again and re-record his valses bebop that Django so admired. Various versions of Baros recordings were released on LP and EP, both entitled Swing valses dhier et daujourdhui. These tunes by Baro remain some of the most idiosyncratic and adventurous jazz masterpieces ever bar noneincluding the best of Django. - Dregni
Baro Ferret Amp Guitar, Jo Privat (acc), Noye-Noye Malha (rg) , circa 1949
For many, the surprise with this recording will be the discovery of Baro Ferrets talent as an innovator. Long before Shorty Rogers, Horace Silver or Dave Brubeck, he brought rhythmic structures in 3/4 and 6/8 meter into jazz. The strange mood and unusual harmonies of his compositions remind us that Baro was once an essential part of Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, with which he recorded nearly eighty titles, between 1935 and 1940. He was also the brilliant soloist in groups that all bear his stamp: the swing musettes, long scorned by purists. Together with Gus Viseur and Jo Privat he explored the swing waltz, a new and rather controversial concept: how could a waltz (3/4) swing (4/4)? Baro Ferret fused them with his genuine touch. He continued the development, and in 1948 he presented his bebop waltzes. Baro Ferret - Monsieur Camembert (a nick name given to him because of his great love of the cheese) - was a cheerful and colourful character of the popular world of Paris, and for a few years he owned a bar, La Lanterne. Many gypsy musicians came to the spot for jam sessions and Baro would sometimes take his guitar down from the hook. When he died in 1976 not a single magazine in the music world mentioned it. Hopefully this beautiful recording will allow him to take the place he well deserves, doing him justice at last.
Baro on the opening of his bar La Lanterne in
Interesting Photo taken on the same day with Archtop Guitar present (Gibson L-5?) and Epiphone Amplifier
Jean Pierre Matelo Ferret was born in Rouen, France, on the first of December 1918, the youngest child of a Gitan gypsy family. Following in his brothers Baro and Saranes footsteps, he started playing the violin and banjo as a child in a dance hall. As musette was coming into fashion and Matelos fame as a talented musician grew in the Parisian musical world, he was soon asked to replace Gusti Malha at the side of the famous accordionist Emile Vacher at the Pigalle Abbaye de Thèléme. At the same time, he was working for Vétese Guérinos orchestra at La Boîte à Matelots.
A short while later he turned to the guitar, and at the age of thirteen joined the well-known Rumanian gypsy violinist Lione Bajac's orchestra at the Casanova. There, thanks to the prodigious cymbalom player Mitza Codolban, Matelo came to understand the richness of the central European traditional forms of music were. The following year Matelo met Django and shortly after started integrating elements from Djangos complex style into his own. From that time on, Matelo was by the sides of the most outstanding gypsy violinists of the time: In little time Matelo became sought after because of his musical ability and his perfect knowledge of the repertoire. He would go from one Parisian spot to the other, always on the move like the true gypsy he was, from one Russian cabaret to another, playing at the Shéhérazade, the Tokay, the Monseigneur, the Dinarzade, the Tsarevitch, the Etoile de Moscou. All the historical places.
Matelo Ferret created his own music. From years playing Tzigane melodies in the Russian cabarets, he forged a style of traditional Eastern European Gypsy music played on a non-traditional instrument, the guitar. He recorded several masterpieces in the coming years. In 1960 and 1966, he played alongside Jo Privat in two sessions that collectively became known as Manouche Partie, a nostalgic revival of the bal musette milieu. In 1978 Matelo recorded a two-album set for Charles Delaunay entitled Tzigansakaïa, an exotic medley of jazz melodies, traditional Tzigane pieces, and original compositions all played with Romany finesse. He passed on his legacy to his three sons, all excellent guitaristsMichel Sarane, Jean-Jacques Boulou, and Elie Elios Ferré.
· Number 698 (Oval Hole) previously owned by Matelo Ferret
Matelo displayed a brilliant and colourful mastery of his instrument, we are reminded that he was one of the few gypsy guitar players to develop his own personal style in the days Django was at his best. Matelo Ferret died of cancer 24 January 1989, and is buried at the cimetière de Bagneux (Hauts de Seine), France. His sons Boulou and Elios Ferré are two of the greatest guitar players of today.
Etienne "Sarane" Ferret is probably the least well known of the famous brothers who performed with Django although he was by far the most famous during the war-time years.
He was born in Rouen in 1912 and took very much the same musical route during his early years as his brothers Baro and Matelo and Django himself.
He initially played banjo at dances on the outskirts of Paris and then guitar at Parisian musettes with accordionist Guarino. However, once he met Django and Joseph in the early 30's, he became converted to jazz and was consistently more jazz-orientated than either of his brothers who both retained and cultivated strong elements of musette and Tzigane in their playing.
He was at his most popular during the war forming his own group the Swing Quintette de Paris whose personnel varied but included Andre Lluis, George Effrosse, Robert Bermoser, Baro Ferret, Matelo Ferret together with the Hot Club Quintet drummer Pierre Fouad and bass player Lucien Simoens. He was also a sideman for Gus Viseur, Charley Bazin, Tony Murena and harmonica player Dany Kaye. Together with Eugene VÃ©es, Sarane had a small part in the Charles Trenet film La Romance de Paris.
Deux Guitars - Swing
Quintette de Paris
350 (D Hole) previously owned by Frances Alfred Moerman, Sarane Ferret's rhythm
350 (D Hole) previously owned by Frances Alfred Moerman, Sarane Ferret's rhythm
His preference for jazz (he
apparently even liked Charlie Christian) has a parallel in the playing of
Joseph Reinhardt who actually began performing on an amplified guitar before
Django. Recordings of Sarane are very limited and commercial considerations
meant that he later began playing more popular and strongly Country & Western
One of the enigmas concerning Sarane is why he never recorded with Django although he presumably jammed with him. This omission is particularly surprising since he was so influenced by Reinhardt and was clearly a very competent rhythm player in the Hot Club style. Another is whether it is actually him playing on Valse Manouche as claimed by Daniel Nevers in Volume 20 of the Fremeaux Integrale Django Reinhardt series.
Maurice Ferret Nuage clip
René 'Challain' Ferret
René "Challain" Ferret (a Southpaw) was the cousin of Baro, Sarane and Matelo Ferret and the uncle of Rene Mailhes. He was born in 1914 and began playing professionally in the 1930's with Gus Viseur, Baro and Matelo and, in 1939, recorded several sides with his cousins under the name "Le Trio Ferret".
He only formally recorded with Django once in the very last recording session of the string quintet made in March, 1948 although there is a poor quality acetate of two tunes from the Nice Jazz Festival in February of the same year. However, it is certain that he occasionally toured with Reinhardt from around 1947. He was left handed.
Valia Belinsky (p) & Challain Ferret Challain Ferret, Marcel Bianchi, Nice 1940
Django, Stéphane Grappelli, Challain Ferret, Joseph Reinhardt, Nice Station, 1948
Challain at Samois Sur Seine 1991
René Challain Ferret followed Matelos path in playing traditional Tzigane music. Throughout the 1950s, he accompanied musette accordionist André Verchuren and Gypsy violinist Yoska Nemeth. He married a Toulouse woman and moved to the Midi where he continued to perform, launching a jazz group in the 1980s called Django Jazz. His son Paul Challain Ferret learned at his side and today plays modern jazz.
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