Not many genres can be traced back to a single musician. However, the consensus among most musicologists and players of this style is that Django Reinhardt is the father of Gypsy Jazz beginning with the music he created in France in the 1930s. Some of the Django’s early influences were naturally some of the great American jazz musicians and bands of the time but also French impressionism (Debussy, Ravel, Satie). You can hear the impressionism influences in gypsy jazz with the frequent use of 6th chords as well as in some of the diminished and whole-tone runs.
Nowadays, the genre has expanded with players and influences from all over the world. Modern-day professional gypsy jazz guitarists may incorporate South American, blues, rock, country, and other influences that push the genre to new territories. What most often remains consistent in the modern styles is the early Django influences, the style of guitars or instrumentation, and the blazing technical prowess of the musicians. Here are some of my favorite modern artists and their most recent albums.
Artist: Joscho Stephan
Album: Guitar Heroes
Each of the 5 guitarist on this list have jaw-dropping technique, but Joscho Stephan may in fact be otherworldly. In Troy Grady’s brilliant interview series from “Cracking the Code,” Joscho sits down with Troy to dissect elements of Joscho’s personal approach as well as the general gypsy jazz style of playing. The cameras show the unwavering fluidity at which Joscho’s picking hand moves. I encourage anyone to explore Grady’s Cracking the Code for this and many other reasons. Joscho’s 2015 release Guitar Heroes features 3 other phenomenal guitarists, the one-man band from Australia, Tommy Emmanuel and gypsy jazz legends, Biréli Lagréne and Stochelo Rosenberg, on an album that blends gypsy swing with rock, blues, jazz, and funk. From Django to Jimi, there’s a great mix of styles on this album, pumped out by some of the biggest and baddest steel string hard-hitters around.
Artist: Gonzalo Bergara
Argentine guitarist Gonzalo Bergara is another prime example of a guitarist pushing the stylistic boundaries of gypsy jazz. Blues and South American influences make their way into much of his music. Though he can certainly hold his own among the other technically masterful players on this list, his sound and phrasing are some of the most pleasing elements of his playing. His compositions and arrangements are also well thought out and quite moving. This is true for the music on his most recent album, Claroscuro. On this album you can hear a wonderful use of textures, both made acoustically and with some tasteful studio work.
Artist: Stéphane Wrembel
Album:The Django Experiment III
Stéphane Wrembel is a French born guitarist with a lengthy discography. He’s well-known for “Bistro Fada,” the theme song for the Woody Allen Oscar winning film, Midnight in Paris. (Side Note: I recorded a cover of this song; you can find the link HERE.) Stéphane incorporates an eclectic mix of world music with gypsy jazz and doesn’t shy from using effects pedals. The Django Experiment III is Stéphane’s most recent album. It features 3 songs by Django Reinhardt and 9 other compositions by other gypsy jazz artists from around the time of Django. This is a great album to hear modern interpretations on traditional gypsy jazz music.
Artist: Rhythm Future Quartet (Guitarist – Olli Soikkeli)
Led by violinist Jason Anick and Finish guitarist Olli Soikkeli, Rhythm Future Quartet (named after the Django tune, “Rhythm Future”) takes influences from Django’s Hot Club of France and mixes it with international rhythms and harmonies. While their first self-titled album was more traditional in style, their most recent release, Travels, features original compositions and arrangements with an even broader array of influences. All About Jazz and the Huffington Post dubbed Travels as one of the best jazz albums of 2016. Olli Soikkeli is one of the most impressive young guitarists around. He’s a featured artist on Jam Track Central where you can download some of his instructional material.
Artist: Adrien Moignard
Album: Live at Maisons-Laffitte Jazz Festival (Adrien Moignard Trio)
Another incredibly skilled and influential figure in the world of modern gypsy jazz is Adrien Moignard. There isn’t a great deal of information about Adrien online, not in English at least, however you can find several great videos on YouTube. His jams with Gonzalo Bergara are some of my favorite. I’ve been enjoying his live album recorded at the Maisons-Laffitte Jazz Festival. On it, you’ll hear Adrien’s interpretations of Django tunes along with other arrangements like “I Got Rhythm” and “Night and Day.”
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