Discovering the Joy of Gypsy Jazz
June 2022 — We swing into the heat of summer this June with the swing of hot house jazz, “jazz manouche”, today known better as gypsy jazz.
The style evolved in twentieth century Paris, and is often attributed to the legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Born into the Romani clan “Manouche”, Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953) was part of a nomadic culture filled with a melee of music. While the exact origins of the Romani still today remain theoretical, they evolved from a persecuted peoples pushed from place to place to a people whose traditions embraced freedom of expression and a lack of physical boundaries. Fitting with that lifestyle, their occupations often included traders, tinkers, and entertainers.
Reinhardt grew up on the outskirts of Paris, surrounded by music and a natural mixing of cultures. His mother was a dancer and his father reportedly a pianist in a family band. Reinhardt got is first banjo/guitar at age 12 and began making a living at age 15 busking in cafes.
Meanwhile, the city life of Paris in WWI had been subdued by the impacts of bombardment, rationing, and a devastating flu epidemic. When war was over in the 1920s, the city emerged hungry for diversion and embraced an exotic musical form called jazz. Musicians, expatriates, avant-garde artists, flappers, and socialites converged on the clubs and cabarets.
Reinhardt had been living a hand-to-mouth existence occasionally playing at small clubs, until his introduction to American jazz by an acquaintance. The experience triggered a vision of becoming a jazz professional, he began interpreting the genre into his own musical style, and jazz manouche, or gypsy jazz, was born.
This month’s JAZZ ROOM headliner, Tatiana Eva-Marie, comes straight from this French and gypsy cultural heritage. Tatiana Eva-Marie was born in a musical family to film composer Louis Crelier and classical violinist Anca Maria. She grew up in a “bohemian and eclectic musical atmosphere” and started her career in entertainment at age 4.
“Music is a very important part of everyday life in my culture, it’s a way to stay alive and sensitive no matter what hardships you encounter. In that aspect I think it is very similar to jazz.” Tatiana believes there are strong parallels to the hardships we are experiencing today, and a need for the “insolent joy” expressed through the driving swing of gypsy jazz, creating a resurgent interest in this music.
“I know how music can change people’s lives, help them, soothe them, inspire them, give them courage. I am very happy to be a part of such a powerful natural force.”
Called “the gypsy jazz warbler” by the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as “One of the best young singers around,” Tatiana Eva-Marie’s music is described as buoyant, heartfelt, highly talented and simply fun. In addition to her own originals, she enjoys bringing new life to the 1920s Paris jazz repertoire that is unknown “and gorgeous”. She has several albums and LPs, including her most recent 2021 releases “I Double Dare You” and “April in Paris”.
This week, hear more about gypsy jazz directly from Tatiana Eva-Marie in a free pre-performance discussion, Friday at noon at the Stage Door Theater or tune in to JazzArts Charlotte’s YouTube channel for the livestream. More…
Join us at the JAZZ ROOM June 9 & 10 for internationally known gypsy jazz vocalist Tatiana Eva-Marie and her quartet. More…
More about Tatiana Eva-Marie from her website.
Interview with Quail Bell Magazine, 2014.
Interview with BK Live, June 2017.
Other sources: PlacesinFrance.com; Smithsonian; Wikipedia; Britannica; Newworldencyclopedia.org.