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date: 07 December 2019

Jazz Manouchefree

  • Siv B. Lie
  •  and Benjamin Givan

Jazz manouche, also known as ‘Gypsy jazz’, is a musical style based primarily on the 1930s recordings of French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910–53) with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Well-known 21st-century exponents include Biréli Lagrène, Stochelo Rosenberg, Angelo Debarre, Tchavolo Schmitt, and Adrien Moignard. The style characteristically features stringed instruments (primarily the acoustic steel-stringed guitar, violin, and double bass) in ensembles of between three and six musicians. Repertoire largely comprises American and French popular songs dating from the 1920s and 30s, such as ‘All of Me’, and tunes composed by Reinhardt, such as ‘Minor Swing’, ‘Nuages’, and ‘Django’s Tiger’. Performances consist of accompanying guitarists playing a duple-meter percussive chordal stroke called la pompe over a pizzicato walking bass line while soloists take turns improvising virtuosically on the harmonies of a cyclically repeating form, typically 32 bars long (see ex. 1). Improvised melodies often use techniques derived from Reinhardt’s recordings; eighth notes are swung and tempi vary considerably, sometimes exceeding 300 quarter notes per minute. Jazz manouche originated in the late 1960s, when music inspired by Django Reinhardt’s improvisations and repertoire began to be played in some Romani communities (the term ‘jazz manouche’ was never used during Reinhardt’s lifetime and did not gain currency until around the year 2000). Because Reinhardt and a number of notable jazz manouche performers have identified as Manouches or Sinti (subgroups of Romanies, or ‘Gypsies’ as they are known somewhat pejoratively), the style is often associated with Romani culture. Yet, contrary to popular belief, it exhibits few if any ethnically specific musical features. Jazz manouche is most popular in western Europe, where it is performed in cafés, clubs, concert venues, and festivals, some of which focus almost exclusively on the style; it has also gained popularity in the Americas, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere in the world via recordings and live performance. In addition to its robust consumer base, jazz manouche enjoys a thriving amateur performance scene; novice and intermediate players learn through lessons, instructional materials, and participation in jam sessions. Within some Manouche and Sinti communities, the style is transmitted intergenerationally through informal practice and performances at family gatherings. In France, jazz manouche has been claimed as both a symbol of Manouche identity and as an aspect of French patrimony, rendering it a multivalent and controversial expressive practice.

Jimmy Rosenberg, Frank Vignola, and Jon Burr, ‘The Sheik of Araby’ (Django Reinhardt NY Festival, Division One/Atlantic 83498-2), recorded Nov. or Dec., 2000, at 0:32.]

Bibliography

  • C. Delaunay: Django Reinhardt: Souvenirs (Paris, 1954; Eng. trans. 1961, as Django Reinhardt)
  • M.-C. Jalard: ‘Django et l’école tsigane du jazz’, Les Cahiers du Jazz, vol.1 (1959), 54–73
  • A. Awosusi, ed.: Die Musik der Sinti und Roma, ii: Der Sinti-Jazz (Heidelberg, 1997)
  • M. Lefort and S. Maeker: ‘Musik Deutscher Zigeuner’, Jazz Hot, vol.540 (1997), 18–25
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  • F. Charle: L’histoire des Guitares Selmer Maccaferri (Paris, 1999), http://www.lutherie.net/mario_fr.html
  • P. Williams: ‘Un héritage sans transmission: le jazz manouche’, Ethnologie Française, vol.30 (2000), 409–22
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  • J.-B. Tuzet: Django Reinhardt et le jazz manouche: ou les 100 ans du ‘jazz à la française’ (Paris, 2010)
  • B. Givan: ‘“Django’s Tiger”: from Jazz to Jazz Manouche’, Current Musicology, vol.98 (2014), 7–40
  • P. Andresz: ‘La musique des Manouches Sinti Alsaciens: le tournant des années 1970–1980’, Etudes Tsiganes, vols.54–5 (2015), 132–43
  • S.B. Lie: The Cultural Politics of Jazz Manouche and Romani Representation in France (diss., New York U., 2017)

Discography

  • Sinti, perf. Sinti featuring J. Rosenberg, Columbia 483745-2 (1996)
  • Gypsy Project, perf. B. Lagrène, Dreyfus Records 36626 (2001)
  • Miri Familia, perf. T. Schmitt, ATEMA Alsace (2001)

Filmography

  • Django Legacy, dir. J. Jeremy, Vestapol 13086 (1991)
  • Swing, dir. T. Gatlif, Mongrel Media (2002)
  • Les Fils du Vent, dir. B. Le Jean, Frémeaux & Associés 4024 (2012)