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  1. #1

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    On a rainy afternoon I’ve been listening to a bunch of Django records and I was struck by how great his musical ideas (as opposed to his physical playing) were and how his solos were like brilliant essays consisting of crystal clear paragraphs divided into beautiful sentences. And the only other guitarist I can think of who has that similar ability is Wes Montgomery .. to string together so many ideas into a composite whole. Of course on other instruments there are similar great talents who play completely unified solos — Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Michael Brecker, etc. But not so much on guitar that I can think of.

    Who else, in your opinion, has that level of clarity on guitar?

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  3. #2

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    Very few, indeed.

    Baro Ferret said of Django, "technically, he didn't scare me...it was his MIND."

    We hear so little of what Django could actually do on record...live he'd take 20 choruses on a tune and never run out of ideas.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver
    On a rainy afternoon I’ve been listening to a bunch of Django records and I was struck by how great his musical ideas (as opposed to his physical playing) were and how his solos were like brilliant essays consisting of crystal clear paragraphs divided into beautiful sentences. And the only other guitarist I can think of who has that similar ability is Wes Montgomery .. to string together so many ideas into a composite whole. Of course on other instruments there are similar great talents who play completely unified solos — Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Michael Brecker, etc. But not so much on guitar that I can think of.

    Who else, in your opinion, has that level of clarity on guitar?
    Nobody.

  5. #4

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    Two or three times in my life I got into GJ playing, and each time got distracted by other players, only to come to the same conclusion each time: the only GJ player I really think is genuine GREAT is Django. He never bores me, all the others soon do. And his compositions are excellent, not just Nuages. Can you name another GJ composition which has truly transcended the GJ style? I can't think of anything on the same level.

  6. #5
    Well everyone is entitled to their tastes, but I think Wes Montgomery rises to equal heights of melodic inventiveness, never breaking his musical train of thought, building excitement, creating seamless improvised compositions on the fly, etc as Django does...

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsilver
    Well everyone is entitled to their tastes, but I think Wes Montgomery rises to equal heights of melodic inventiveness, never breaking his musical train of thought, building excitement, creating seamless improvised compositions on the fly, etc as Django does...
    Well, the OP mentioned Wes Montgomery. Then he asked about anybody else. For me, it's Django, then Wes, then the rest.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Two or three times in my life I got into GJ playing, and each time got distracted by other players, only to come to the same conclusion each time: the only GJ player I really think is genuine GREAT is Django. He never bores me, all the others soon do. And his compositions are excellent, not just Nuages. Can you name another GJ composition which has truly transcended the GJ style? I can't think of anything on the same level.
    I agree completely. Fortunately, I have not been distracted by the others, which is a plus considering my modest skill level.

  9. #8

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    Rob,
    There are quite a few great Gypsy Jazz players around, Birelli Lagrene for one, who is multi talented
    playing a number of styles ,Bebop ,Straight Ahead etc ,and violin & Bass.
    But Jimmy Raney & Tal Farlow were the first guitar heroes when i was very young
    I discovered Wes, late in the day, on his untimely death, ,,,,,If only I could play like him now.
    Then I met Joe Pass, buddy of my tutor , who gave me a couple of lessons, a guitar genius without doubt.
    I;ve been very fortunate in meeting some of the world;'s greatest players who have all been an inspiration
    IMHO they all had a God given gift, aspire as we might, their talent is beyond most of us.

  10. #9

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    Sure, all genius guitar players, but how many of them could have composed Nuages? Not to mention a few other Django compositions.

  11. #10
    Of course I am just writing about how he strikes me. But everyone finds inspiration based on their own tastes. I just find a quality in Django (and later, Wes) that raises them to a higher category. But of course there are other players that I love...

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by silverfoxx View Post
    Rob,
    There are quite a few great Gypsy Jazz players around, Birelli Lagrene for one, who is multi talented
    playing a number of styles ,Bebop ,Straight Ahead etc ,and violin & Bass.
    But Jimmy Raney & Tal Farlow were the first guitar heroes when i was very young
    I discovered Wes, late in the day, on his untimely death, ,,,,,If only I could play like him now.
    Then I met Joe Pass, buddy of my tutor , who gave me a couple of lessons, a guitar genius without doubt.
    I;ve been very fortunate in meeting some of the world;'s greatest players who have all been an inspiration
    IMHO they all had a God given gift, aspire as we might, their talent is beyond most of us.
    Of course I am just writing about how he strikes me. But everyone finds inspiration based on their own tastes. I just find a quality in Django (and later, Wes) that raises them to a higher category.

  13. #12

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    Django still towers over every Gypsy jazzer who followed, IMHO, precisely because of two aspects of his playing:

    1) The consistent flow, beauty and clarity of his ideas at any tempo.
    2) The way he inflected and placed notes and chords in time.

    I would say the same holds for Wes Montgomery.

    Both the above were intuitive geniuses who bolstered their natural talents with much hard work.

    Someone like Jim Hall, whom I'd lump in with the top echelon of the rest of us mere mortals, moved far up the artistic ladder because of his sense of composition in improvisation that pared down the music to the essential beauty and steered so free of cliches.

    But when it comes to Django, he was on an artistic plane that comes once in a century; forever indelible.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Sure, all genius guitar players, but how many of them could have composed Nuages? Not to mention a few other Django compositions.

    Touch'e and especially accompanied by Stephane Grappelli & Yehudi Menuhin

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Sure, all genius guitar players, but how many of them could have composed Nuages? Not to mention a few other Django compositions.
    Anouman comes to mind.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Two or three times in my life I got into GJ playing, and each time got distracted by other players, only to come to the same conclusion each time: the only GJ player I really think is genuine GREAT is Django. He never bores me, all the others soon do. And his compositions are excellent, not just Nuages. Can you name another GJ composition which has truly transcended the GJ style? I can't think of anything on the same level.
    Django was operating in such a different world from the modern GJ players (those emerging in the 1970s's to the present). Django formed his aesthetic listening to, roughly speaking, soloists like Louis Armstrong and jazz composers like Duke Ellington. Music that wasn't relegated to the 2-3% margins of the music industry like jazz is today...Django wanted to connect, and his biographer Michael Dregni says that by the early 40s, in occupied France, he was something of a pop star, a french Benny Goodman.

    His solos often have the hum-able, skipping quality I find in Lester Young, and his ballads often have that heavy Ellington romanticism that mostly vanished from jazz ballads after the war. A swing piece like "Mystery Pacific" even evokes the novelty tunes of Raymond Scott. All that kind of stuff became passe long before the GJ revival.

    I know there are GJ musicians tucked away in local scenes that just want to swing hard and connect with "civilian" listeners, but on the international scene, the incentives are so different. It's concert music for virtuosos, and it doesn't seem to spawn tunes with "legs".

    Hugues Panassié attended some of my all-time favorite QHCF sessions in 1937 (for Swing records), and wrote a little piece about the experience titled (in the English translation) "The Quintet in the Studio" (Douzes Annees de Jazz 1927-1938 / Souvenir, 1946). The thing that stood out to me about the piece is how hard the QHCF worked to polish those arrangements in the studio. Some tunes were repeated over and over until the golden take emerged. (I don't know if Django was behind the perfectionism or if it was Stephane or a producer). For some musicians, the best stuff always happens in take 1 or 2, but I think the QHCF's best studio stuff has the tightness that comes from rehearsing and making sure the groove and the arrangement are tuned up, and that no seconds are wasted. I wish there were extended live tapes of the QHCF from the 1930s to show us how the band sounded in a freer context. The 1947 "Surprise-Partie" radio sessions are maybe the closest thing for pre-bebop Django stretching out.

    You can read Panassié's essay here, at the bottom of a customer review:
    Robot Check

  17. #16

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    I have so many recordings of Django that when I put my iPod on shuffle, he comes up about every 4th song! Groups from every phase of his career and a bunch of solo stuff too. I never get tired of his playing because it always sounds fresh and it swings so hard.And you can hear the joy of making music in everything he does.

    I've played a lot of Country and Country Swing gigs and his ideas translate really well to that genre.

  18. #17
    Another thing about Django is that the SOUND of his guitar — the brightness and clarity of the notes — even on those old recordings, always seems to pop out and be live. He transcended the limitations of the recording technology of the day in a way that I don’t understand but certainly appreciate.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilpy View Post
    I've played a lot of Country and Country Swing gigs and his ideas translate really well to that genre.
    Great observation! How?

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil59 View Post
    Great observation! How?
    Mostly when soloing: Django often starts solos on an interesting note. His use of diminished runs. Phrasing. I use those plus the odd bop riff. I find these things make my country solos better. A lot of the classic country guys were similarly influenced.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilpy View Post
    Mostly when soloing: Django often starts solos on an interesting note. His use of diminished runs. Phrasing. I use those plus the odd bop riff. I find these things make my country solos better. A lot of the classic country guys were similarly influenced.
    Thanks. Constant diminished, arpeggios of course and some chromaticism too. I would appreciate if if you would tell me some of the country/country swing tunes/solos where the Django influence shows up.

  22. #21

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    Anything by Asleep at the wheel. Try “Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills”.
    His influence is all over that album. Lots of great guest artists.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilpy View Post
    Anything by Asleep at the wheel. Try “Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills”.
    His influence is all over that album. Lots of great guest artists.
    Thanks, Gilpy, I will do that. I actually saw them once in the '70s, in NYC of all places. I see Ray Benson is still going strong and they're about to start a tour.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil59 View Post
    Thanks, Gilpy, I will do that. I actually saw them once in the '70s, in NYC of all places. I see Ray Benson is still going strong and they're about to start a tour.
    My band opened for them 3 or 4 times in the SF Bay Area back then. The musicians have changed, but they’re always worth seeing.

  25. #24

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    I don’t think of Django as a Gypsy Jazz player.

    I mean he was obviously a jazz guitarist who belonged to the Manouche ethnic group, but GJ is a codification of the music that Django played which was a fusion of all sorts of things. So, it became a tradition out of Django... Django was an innovator...

  26. #25

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    Besides the other reasons mentioned in this thread, one reason why I love both Django and Charlie Christian is that they both have drive and energy in their playing even if they play tenderly. That's something I would like to have in an ideal world when playing guitar. Jazz guitar is sometimes a bit too polite and sleepy.