2014 Pete Seeger Tribute Concerts Photos
PHOTOS BY JUDY NAHMAN-STOUFFER
PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN MASSER
ANNUAL BENEFIT CONCERT
Saturday April 26 8pm
Reception at 7pm
Our annual benefit concert has always been a fun, ear-opening event and this year promises to be no exception.
SANTA MONICA Woman's Club
1210 Fourth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
(near Wilshire & 4th St.)
Tickets: $20 general admission,
$25 VIP reserved seating
Info: concerts@FolkWorks.org 818-785-3839
Emcee Tracy Newman
Always entertaining, Tracy may throw in some of her own songs.
Los Angeles’ all-natural hillbilly and country blues band, combines the traditional sounds of fiddle and banjo breakdowns with the low-down sound of country blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz. The versatile acoustic ensemble features fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, washboard, and a few odds and ends.
The popular Los Angeles-based women’s chorus that brings to life vocal folk/roots traditions from around the world. Their songs range from Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Bosnia to Rom and Sephardic songs - as well as recently added American and Irish music. Their spellbinding harmonies are at the core of their eclectic repertoire. Whether a simple American song or the complex harmonies of Bulgaria the voices of Nevenka’s women are sure to move you. While mostly singing a cappella, they are occasionally accompanied by percussion, mandolin, guitar, citern or panduri.
Swing Riots Quirktette
The Swing Riots are comprised of 6 core members who have played for decades in everything from Balkan dance bands to traditional Swing groups. They perform an irreverent gumbo of Gypsy & Creole Jazz, Klezmer & Romanian Horas, Parisian Musette & the occasional wild card thrown in for good measure.
Tunacious is a Celtic genre-bending band with songs and dance tunes with a blowout contra dance to wind up the evening.
(Click on hyperlink for tickets)
Series at the Talking Stick Café
FolkWorks Benefit Concert April 26th
Swing Riots Quirktette, Sausage Grinder, Nevenka, Tunacious
emcee: Tracy Newman
Rose Garden of Peace Concert May 31st
With Yuval Ron Ensemble
Remembering Leslie Perry
(May 28, 1936-March 5, 2014)
The last time I saw storyteller Leslie Perry was at a gathering he hosted in Pasadena in order to have his close friends surrounding him one more time; photographs were taken, memories shared and of course stories told.. His body was withering away from the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but his smile was still incandescent as he held forth in typical Leslie fashion, all eyes upon him till the end. He had hosted many such gatherings in recent years, refusing to stop living in the face of his dire medical diagnosis. Indeed, it seemed to propel him into action, as he published two books, organized fundraisers for the Pasadena ALS (Amytropic Lateral Sclerosis) Society and became the center of gravity to his friends who were already missing him. And always this Michigan-born California transplant continued to practice his craft and tell his stories.
One of four African-American storytellers of my acquaintance (Michael McCarty, Barbara Clark and Nick Smith are the others) from LAs Community Storytellers, he devoted as much energy to being the main organizer of storytelling events as he did to actually telling stories. He was a focal point for WOW—With Our Words—whose leader Karen Golden has now put some of Leslie’s best known tales from live performances at the Beverly Hills’ Public Library up on YouTube. But the thing I remember with most fondness about Leslie is not his own storytelling—it was the fact that if he wasn’t performing himself he would always be in the audience listening. He was the Supporter-in-Chief of the entire community and it didn’t diminish his pleasure one iota to be in the audience rather than up on stage. He taught me that the story listener is just as important as the story teller. Without fail with Leslie in the audience you could count on a great performance from the stage; his kinetic energy, his rapt attention, his joy in the entire relationship was profoundly contagious and enveloped the performer as well as the room of other audience members.
Beauty’s Currency: Janis Ian and Tom Paxton
Barbican, London 25.3.14
FolkWorks’ British correspondent Rosa Redoz reviews Ian and Paxton’s Together At Last Tour.
Beauty is a strange currency. Janis Ian’s ode to a youth impoverished by plainness is a lilting bossa nova gem. Had she thought herself endowed with familiar features the art would not have been created.
“That seat will go.” said my neighbour as I spread my coat on an adjacent spare seat in the sold out concert in the Barbican, London on Tuesday evening.
“Have you seen Janis Ian before?” she asked me. “I did a few years ago and she was fabulous.”
And they were; from the moment Tom Paxton and Janis Ian took to the stage with Robin Bullock on mandolin.
“Yes we all still sing songs of hope and peace,” said Paxton after a fine opening rendition of How Beautiful upon the Mountain - the harmonies were perfect; the mandolin fills were divine and I caught glimpses of the extraordinary guitar skill Ian was to reveal as the set continued.
Who Put the Jangle in Mr. Bojangles?
In Concert at McCabe’s March 16, 2014
There are guitarists, and then there are guitarists. And then there is David Bromberg, the guitarist who put the jangle in Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker’s hit song about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary African-American tap dancer who was for black America what Fred Astaire was to white America—the standard against which all others would be judged. But before you even heard Jerry Jeff’s voice on his signature recording, you already were captured by its descending bass-line guitar intro hook—that made you see Mr. Bojangles descending a staircase—as he did in one of his famous dance routines. It was musical magic at its finest—and the guitarist who came up with it was David Bromberg.
To see him live at McCabe’s last night was pure acoustic artistry that comes along about as often as that great dancer—once in a generation—if you’re lucky.
We were lucky to hear him—solo (for the most part) acoustic—just Bromberg and his orchestral vintage Martin D-28 sitting on stage in front of McCabe’s legendary microphone—where so many great musicians have now stood—and none greater than David Bromberg; if you love folk music, Bromberg is as good as it gets. And it is truly a rare pleasure to get to hear him solo; on his current tour every one of his other bookings is with his band, or at larger venues his “Big Band.” I prefer the one-man band and he gave us a very generous two and a half hour concert with one intermission, two standing ovations and three—three!—encores.
New Celtic Pub Sessions In Los Angeles
2014 started well for Celtic music In the Los Angeles area, with two new regular pub sessions filling in a desert between the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach. A pub session – or seisiún for those who like their Irish spelling – is a great way either to play or hear (and usually both) live music outside a stiff formal setting and nice to have two weekly sessions back in our area. Any type of jam session can be ephemeral and initial excitement wanes rapidly, but these two may have legs and be around for a while:
The first one is every Sunday night, starting at 7:30pm, at O'Brien's Irish Pub, 2226 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. Easy parking and little traffic. The inside setup is ok because it becomes more of an aisle than a circle. But fits about a dozen players within that (misshaped) circle. No center table and limited space for your beer if you are in the musician’s circle in case that matters to you. As happened last night, consider spilled Guinness as a natural stain.
Following Those Fantastic Fingers
His name conjures up the terms "Gypsy Jazz," "Hot Jazz Guitar,” "Le Jazz Hot,” and "Jazz Manouche." Gone for 59 years but far from forgotten, Django Reinhardt has inspired countless guitarists and ensembles to honor his memory with both imitations and innovations. In fact, a Django fever of sorts seems to be afoot. The recent Martin Scorsese film Hugo features a character that portrays the founder of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. French jazz guitarist Stéphane Wrembel composed “Gypsy jazz” music for Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris and performed on the 2012 Academy Awards show. Django tribute concerts and “Gypsy Jazz” festivals abound throughout Europe and North America.
In our Southern California backyard, a multi-ensemble musical project known as In the Footsteps of Django begins a North American tour this fall with a concert at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on October 6. The musical credentials are intriguing. Bandleader/guitarist Lulo Reinhardt is a grandnephew of Django. A native of Germany, he grew up playing “Gypsy jazz,” but most recently has been focusing on Latin jazz with his Lulo Reinhardt Latin Swing Project. Another ensemble, Les Doigts de l'Homme (literally "the fingers of man") is described by Guitar Acoustic as "one of the best interpreters of Django's music while keeping their own personal and colorful jazz style" and by the publication Ouest-France as a band that "brings a hint of world music,…energy close to punk bands, and an unmistakable authenticity." Rounding out the Footsteps program is Norig, a “Gypsy jazz”-inspired French singer with Catalan roots, whose first album is titled Gadji, the Roma word for non-Roma.
Django Reinhardt most definitely drew from elements outside his musical roots, but do Latin swing, punk rock, and world music follow in Django’s footsteps? Do they emulate his fantastic fingers?
Who’s to say no? I am certainly interested in finding out at the October 6 concert. Perhaps you will be, too. In the meantime, let’s explore the origins of "Hot Jazz Guitar,” Django’s legacy.
Most people whose ethnic roots were once labeled “Gypsy” now prefer to be called Roma. In the world of jazz, however, the term Gypsy has persisted, possibly because so many non-Roma are playing the music. In any case, Romani music and its practitioners originated in northern India. Their extensive nomadic travels brought them in contact with Greek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Czech, Slavic, Romanian, German, French, and Spanish musical traditions. While absorbing new musical elements, they retained a Romani style characterized by soulful vocals, chromaticism, and prominent glissandi between the notes. Fast Romani melodies often were accompanied by tongue-clacking, handclapping, and the clicking of wooden spoons. Spanish flamenco is largely derived from the Romani people of Andalusia.
In the Europe of centuries past, Roma musicians became professional entertainers, distinguishing their bravura performance music from the folk music they played within their family circles. In Eastern Europe, the professional ensembles tended to include a cimbalom (a type of hammered dulcimer) along with violins. Western European Roma ensembles sometimes dropped the cimbalom and by the 19th century had adopted rhythm and lead guitars. Romani orchestras became increasingly popular across Europe in the second half of the 19th century and were particularly sought-after from the 1920s through about 1960.
Jean Reinhardt, whose nickname “Django" is Romani for "I awake," was born in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium into a family of Manouche musicians. (Manouche here is used to mean “French-speaking Roma.” Harrap's French-English Dictionary defines "Manouche" as “traveler.” My all-French Larousse defines it as "Roma.") He was first taught to play violin and then became enthralled with a once-popular hybrid called the banjo-guitar. By age 13, Django had mastered the banjo-guitar to the point that he could earn a living playing in bars and cafés after the family caravan moved to the outskirts of Paris.
Reinhardt did not make the guitar his principal instrument until after the catastrophic accident that threatened to end his musical career. At age 18 he was badly burned in a fire that consumed the caravan he shared with his first wife. As well as burning over half his body, the accident mangled the third and fourth fingers of his left hand, severely limiting his ability to use them at all.
Some two years later, after a remarkable recovery, the young musician was not only playing guitar but also beginning to absorb the sounds of American jazz from records in a friend’s collection. In the early 1930s, he became friends with Stéphane Grappelli, a Parisian violinist who embraced jazz with equal fervor. By 1934, Reinhardt and Grappelli had formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France as lead musicians backed up by two rhythm guitarists and a bass player.
The Hot Club ushered in an entirely new kind of music for Parisians. Even the rhythm guitars sounded different, using a distinct percussive technique known as "la pompe” to replace drums. Much of the repertoire was in a minor key, but this "Gypsy jazz" had a minor feel to it even when it was playing in a major key. It often used major seventh and major sixth chords rather than standard major chords and substituted a minor sixth court for dominant seventh. Melodies came from Musette waltz music that was prevalent in France in the early decades of the 20th century, jazz standards that found their way from 42nd Street to the streets of Paris, and Django's original compositions. Often the up-tempo performance style of the musicians contrasted the dark, modal sound of the melodies.
Django's injury did not hold him back from embellishing melodies with passionate tremolo, string bends, staccato, and glissando not to mention dizzying arpeggios This ‘hot’ jazz guitar technique, known as Manouche in France, became a cherished tradition within the Roma musical community and a gift to jazz lovers worldwide.
The Second World War split up the original Quintette (Django spent the war in France while Grappelli stayed in England) although it was later reestablished without Grappelli. In post-war ensembles, Django often included horns, with the clarinet taking the lead role that the violin had held previously. He continued exploring creative frontiers and was an enthused by the be-bop innovations of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In 1946, Django toured the United States as a guest soloist with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Before returning to France, he played two nights at Carnegie Hall to great ovations. By now, his numerous recordings were gaining wider distribution.
In 1949, the celebrated guitarist collaborated with Stéphane Grappelli in Rome for what was to be his final recording, the double album, Djangology.
Since Django’s death in 1953, family members --his sons Babik and Lousson, his brother Joseph, and his grandson David Reinhardt--have had notable careers as guitarists. A new generation of “Gypsy swing” proponents has emerged with such prodigious talents as Biréli Lagrène and Angelo Debarre. Non-Roma “gypsy-style” guitarists have also followed in Django’s footsteps, among them John Jorgeson and Stéphane Wrembel. In the Footsteps of Django showcases some of the latest beneficiaries of the Django legacy.
But listen to recordings of Django compositions such as Minor Swing, Daphne, or Nuages. Watch a film fragment of Django playing on YouTube. How is it possible to approach the magic of those fantastic fingers?
In 1985, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia declared in Frets Magazine: "Even today, nobody has really come into the state that he was playing at. As good as players are, they haven't gotten to where he is. There's a lot of guys that play fast and a lot of guys that play clean, and the guitar has come a long way as far as speed and clarity go, but nobody plays with the whole fullness of expression that Django has. I mean, the combination of incredible speed--all the speed you could possibly want--but also the theme of every note (having) a specific personality. You don't hear it. I really haven't heard it anywhere but with Django."
More information and tickets for the October 6 performance of In the Footsteps of Django are available through Kalakoa Entertainment.
For more on Django Reinhart and a lot of videos check out this site.
Audrey Coleman is a journalist, educator, and passionate explorer of traditional and world music. She is a graduate student in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Riverside.