Gypsy jazz, where guitar is king
November, 2019 — “Gypsy jazz is honest music.” says Andy Page, guitarist and headliner for this month’s Premiere Thursday show. “It’s acoustic qualities attracted me. It’s basically down to you and your bandmates. There’s no hiding behind anything.”
Andy admits the term gypsy jazz is sometimes problematic. “It’s basically a European version of jazz,” he tells us. When asked, he agrees it might have a little bit of a folksy sound, as the instrumentation is based on guitar and violin. But the repertoire is American jazz. Django Reinhardt, the originator of gypsy jazz, might have been creating a unique sound, “but he was playing Louis Armstrong tunes.”
Andy Page plays all kinds of jazz, often alongside brother Zack on bass. But high on his list of favorites is this style. “I discovered this style when I moved to Charlotte in 1999,” tells Andy. He responded to a flyer posted by Scott Wise in a guitar center asking for people to play with, and Scot single handedly introduced Andy to gypsy jazz. Turns out Scott Wise was a regional authority on the style.
Also turns out most guitarists come across Django at some point. B B King, Willy Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Jimmy Page, and Led Zeppelin all reference Django. In guitar, it is a defining subgenre, because the guitar has the lead. The general public often looks to saxophone and drums to be the drivers in jazz. With this style, Andy and the guitar get the opportunity to shine.
While Andy Page teaches at Appalachian State, he admits he loves performing. His personal goal is to maintain a mix of musicianship, repertoire, and musical projects. “It might sound corny, but I like making music for people and making them happy.” Even Andy’s number one piece of advise for students is consistent: get out and play with new people in the community. “Participate in the community music scene. School is important, but so much learning happens off campus.”
Sounds like good advice for listeners as well. Get out there and experience all kinds of live music. You’ll probably learn something. This month, in the JAZZ ROOM, we think you might learn to love gypsy jazz.