November 12, 2006
How often do you look closely at how you are playing gypsy jazz guitar? Whenever I learn a new guitar technique I look very closely to see that I have got it right before I start regular practice, because regular practice programmes in the technique – bad technique gets programmed in just as easily as good. Gypsy jazz guitar has a number of fundamental techniques which have to be programmed in absolutely correctly otherwise huge problems emerge later when you try to use them at fast tempos or for a whole gig. The plectrum rest stroke (of which more soon) and the loose wrist (not arm) action for rhythm guitar are quite difficult to learn intially and there is considerable scope for error. Sometimes I play in front of a large mirror to check my technique but recently I have been using a video camera which is more useful because you can look at the replayed images with full concentration. I mounted the camera on a tripod and turned the viewing screen round so it was facing me, it was easy to set up and use.
I learnt a lot from looking at a few minutes of clips – I still move my forearm more than I should when playing rhythm guitar but this only happens at high tempos, I angle my plectrum correctly for rest strokes on the upper strings but don’t have enough angle on the lower strings (which is a counterintuitive finding) – all things that I can easily correct before I do more practice but which I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. I recommend a session of video feedback every couple of months to check for creeping bad habits – but I won’t be posting mine on YouTube!
November 4, 2006
This CD chronologically came before Entre Amis but I heard it later. Usually a review of ‘more of the same’ might be thought damning but here it is the highest of praise because it means that it is a CD of some of the best gypsy jazz guitar and accordeon playing around. Once again it is a simple line up of lead guitar, accordeon, rhythm guitar and double bass but the playing is anything but simple. There is a good mixture of Django standards and original compositions, the latter being so good that there is no noticeable difference as you listen though the tracks. Some highlights for me were What is This Thing Called Love (with the bebop head Hothouse tagged on the end) and a very spritely rendition of Stomping at Decca. Highly recommended.
November 3, 2006
A CD with Angelo Debarre and Tchavolo Schmitt on it is never going to be bad but listening to this I fell that someone, either the producer or the guitarists could have made a bit more effort. The tunes are all either very popular Django tunes (Minor Swing, Nuages) or well-worn jazz standards (It Had to Be You, All of Me) and they haven’t been arranged in any interesting ways. What you do get is some good gypsy jazz playing from two great guitarists and there is some interest in comparing Tchavolo’s Alsace style with Angelo’s more sophisticated Parisian style, neither better than the other just different.
November 2, 2006
This is a very hot gypsy jazz CD. Everyone I have played it to have been completely blown away by the playing and have wondered why they have never heard of Ludovic Beier (most have heard something of Angelo Debarre). The band is a straight gypsy jazz lineup with Angelo Debarre on lead guitar, Ludovic Beier on button accordeon, with two rhythm guitars and a double bass. The tunes are mainly gypsy jazz standards (Douce Ambiance, Yeux Noirs, Troublant Bolero, China Boy) with a few originals including solo tracks by each of the lead musicians. Angelo Debarre is on excellent form as usual playing anything from blisteringly fast swing through to ballads with a beautiful solid tone and clear articulation. I had not heard Ludovic Beier until this CD and he is a complete revelation, I have never heard an accordeon played like this. He too can play at amazing speed but the thing I was most impressed with was his thematic development in solos – taking a little motif and carrying it through a number of different chords changes. When trading 4s and 8s with he appears to be able to reproduce anything that Angelo plays at will. These players are astonishing virtuosos who never lose sight of the fact that they are playing music – very highly recommended