The inventive European-styled jazz of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, co-founders in 1934 of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, is known today as ‘gypsy swing.’ The quintet, featuring the lead violin of Grappelli and the guitar of Reinhardt, had an unusual rhythm section composed of two rhythm guitars and string bass. The distinctive rhythms of the ensemble blended with the lyrical playing of Grappelli and Reinhardt to create an elegant but danceable sound, popular around the world in the 1930s.
Though Grappelli and Reinhardt were inspired by the American jazz recordings of guitarist Eddie Lang and violinist Joe Venuti, and also by the inescapable influence of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, the sound of their Quintette du Hot Club de France owed more to Jazz Manouche of 1920s Paris bistros than to any American jazz sound.
Jazz Manouche, literally ‘traveler jazz,’ was a Paris-based music style that evolved from the marriage of traditional Roma music with American jazz in the 1920s, and found its champions in violinist Stéphane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt. Recording with their Quintette du Hot Club de France, the duo invented their own brand of ‘gypsy swing’ that made them stars in the 1930s, and is still popular today in the music of revivalists like The Hot Club of San Francisco.
In his 75-year career the gracious violin maestro Stéphane Grappelli became one of the most-recorded artists in jazz. His wide-ranging musical journey included collaborations with a multitude of great artists from George Shearing to Gary Burton to Yehudi Menuhin.
This week on Riverwalk Jazz special guest band The Hot Club of San Francisco represents a steadily growing number of gypsy swing enthusiasts worldwide.
Hot Club violinist Evan Price who studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Berklee College of Music, grew up listening to Stéphane Grappelli's playing on LP reissues, and credits this experience with his passion for gypsy swing. Late in Grappelli’s life, Price had the opportunity of a lifetime to play with the jazz violin master.
Photo credit for home page teaser image: Hot Club of France. Photo courtesy of the Red Hot Jazz Archive.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2005