The Rough Guide to Gypsy Swing

Various Artists

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The Rough Guide to Gypsy Swing Review

by Adam Greenberg

Gypsy swing is one of those beautiful styles of music that's played little enough in the grand scheme of things that nearly all performers of the form can be traced musically (or genetically) to one or two prototypical performers that set the stage for all that followed. Here, the influence of Django Reinhardt is all-encompassing (as it should be, really). Using Django as the source for the vast majority of this album makes description seemingly simpler, but nonetheless there's a wide variety of music to be heard here. Django performs on some five or six works here specifically, showcasing his early years, his masterful time with the Hot Club, as well as his later years of musical exploration (as well as some futuristic compositions played out by Romane in honor of Django). Surprisingly, Stephane Grappelli shows up only in combination with the Hot Club here. Masterful followers of Django's guitar lineage include Romane and his various groups and collaborations, as well as the young Bireli Lagrene. The connections to the bal musette genre are detailed a bit by accordion-heavy works from Gus Viseur and Serge Desaunay. The more tenuous ends of the gypsy swing repertoire are hit by the contemporary group Swing Gadjé, who mix the Eastern European and Oriental influences ably, including a bit of a hip-hop breakbeat (allowed by some clever string-scraping on the guitar), though largely ignoring the swing end. Featuring heavily throughout all of the performances is the unavoidable focus on virtuosity that pervades the majority of gypsy-influenced music. Everyone that plays here has thoroughly earned their wings and is worth hearing a couple of times beyond the album as well. The key here is in the mix of gypsy virtuosity and the basics of American jazz concepts. Incidentally, the album holds a special little treat for the listener with an outstanding Hot Club rendition of "La Marseillaise" that was banned for some time for its patriotic blasphemy.

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