Band of gypsies

By Adam Skuse (That's Shanghai)
Updated: 2007-07-06 09:35

Gypsy jazz, made famous by legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt in the smoke-filled clubs of 1930s Paris, has journeyed east to Shanghai's French Concession. The enthusiastic messengers of this sound, San Franciscan Doug Martin and French guitarist Etienne Jeanne, hold court at HFZ Gourmet and Lounge and La Bella Café on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively, before an audience of foot-tapping and head-nodding fans.

The phrase 'Gypsy jazz' may not be immediately recognizable to many people, but its sound is. Played almost exclusively on stringed instruments, it's an up-tempo, lively sound with its roots in traditional Romany folk music. While a guitar lays down the driving rhythm of fast-changing triads, an intricate melody is played over the top, usually by another guitar or violin.

Gypsy jazz aficionado Doug Martin speaks of the wide appeal of the genre: "The style lends itself wonderfully to musicians and non-musicians. It's got a feel that anybody can get into; yet it's also complex so even musicians of a high caliber can find it truly stimulating and expressive."

Jeanne agrees that a big part of the music's appeal is the esprit de corps the music engenders. "There's a great connection between the musicians and the audience, especially as the city has a historic connection with jazz."

Indeed, the pair are often joined by guest musicians to play blistering versions of standards such as "I Got Rhythm", Reinhardt classics like "Djangology" and their own compositions. Erhu player Yao Minfei has also joined them on stage, bringing a distinctive Chinese flavor to the mix.

"I believe the melodies of Chinese folk music lend themselves very well to Gypsy music," says Martin. "After all, Gypsies have no borders and many Gypsies or nomadic people traveled east and west, so this music we label as 'Gypsy' has roots everywhere, not in one place."

Gypsy Jazz Friday Acoustic Guitar
Time: Every Friday 9pm
Location: La Bella Cafe, 127 Yongfu Lu, by Fuxing Lu
Tel: 021-6433 6381

Gypswing Manouch
Time: Every Thursday 8pm
Location: HFZ Gourmet & Lounge, 6-8F Red House Building, 35 Shanxi Nan Lu, by Julu Lu
Tel: 021-6255 3338


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