Sep 022013

CD cover-Pigalle44

Pigalle44-My Room

2013 Pigalle RecordsPersonnel;  Reinier Voet- solo guitar, Jelle van Tongeren-violin, Jan Brouwer-rhythm guitar, Jet Stevens-double bass

2013 Pigalle Records


Tracks; 1. La Cordonnìere,  2. Valse de L’ivresse, 3. Minor Swing,  4. My Room,  5. Swing 49,

6. Pour Joseph, 7. La Déesse, 8.Danse Norvégienne, 9. Bossa Boldini, 10. Abandon,

11. Songe d’automne,   12. Vamp, 13 Pèche à La Mouche

Reviewed by Barry Wahrhaftig

There’s a quick back-story to this review; I was jamming with some friends, [new and old], in the town square in Samois-Sur-Seine. I was there for the Django Reinhardt Festival last June.I had met some old friends, and we were jamming in front of Django’s house, [with some new friends from many lands]. A woman came out of another house, and asked us if we wanted to play for drinks and food at the Bakery in town, at the invitation of the Mayor. We of course said oui! I dubbed the group the ‘International House of Django Band,’ it included my pals Irene Ypenburg, Lou DePietro and singer/songwriter Andrea Carlson, and folks from Israel, France and Holland.

After many songs and beers, we took a break, and we heard some wonderful sounds coming from a nearby table.  So after a few songs, I figure out that the fellow playing lead is Reinier Voet, and the singer-guitarist is none other than Titi Bamberger, [AKA The unofficial ‘Mayor,’ Of Samoreau campgrounds]! * So after some introductions, and more rounds of beer and songs, Reinier gave me a copy of Pigalle44’s new CD. I enjoyed it greatly, playing it on the boom-box back at my room. [My apologies to Reinier for not reviewing it sooner, and thanks to Jan Brouwer for reminding me to ‘take care of business’]! BTW, his rhythm guitar playing is top-shelf, the band is super-tight,kudos to Jet Stevens, also!

The recording shows off some nice arranging chops by Reinier, and also violinist van Tongeren. The performances are very strong, and the selections are a nice balance of original material and standards. The CD starts off with a swinger penned by Voet called  ‘La cordonnìere,’  [The Cobbler]. The intro is a quick wink at Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze,’ [but with an added Bb on top the iconic E7#9], [that got my attention right away]!  The piece has more unexpected twists and turns than the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets of the old Latin Quarter of Paris. Nice solos by Voet and van Tongeren, and there’s a cool Gypsy folk dance like rit. and accelerando, towards the end. Even a piece as familiar as ‘Minor Swing,’ is re-imagined, starting with an off-beat reworking of the theme beginning on an F Major 7th chord. This isn’t the version you’ll hear at the Sunday jam! Voet and V.T. demonstrate their knowledge of Django and Grappelli’s recordings, with their own modern influences added. The additional sections, with their shifting tonal centers started to remind me  a bit of M.C. Escher’s famous paintings. [Just when you think you know where the cadence is , it shifts unexpectedly].

‘Swing 49,’ [another Voet original], begins with an out-of-tempo Phygrian-Flamenco, intro. It’s  followed by a swinging theme, with some interesting pedal point sections. Additional high points; the reworking of ‘Songe d’Automne,’ [a personal favorite], Voet’s unaccompanied playing on his original ‘Pour Joseph,’ and the vibe and playing on the lesser known [later] Reinhardt composition ‘Vamp.’  On the classic ‘Songe d’Automne,’ [Autumn daydream], they start out with a descending bit using Ebma7-Dma7 over a G Pedal to set up melody in Cminor. The main theme is re-harmonized, and the solo section has guitar and violin improvising  ‘alone together,’ if you will,  [without bass and rhythm guitar], in countrapuntal  fashion. Fapy Lafertin, would probably say this was all rather ‘clever,’ and I would agree, that’s a good word. We don’t say things are ‘clever,’ so much here, [or if you are English; 'brill,' or 'brilliant.'] ;-)

I’d give this very close to five out of five stars. Great performances, by all. The interplay between van Tongeren and Voet really make this recording quite special. Voet plays his 1979 Di Mauro Model Jazz 2, on all but one cut, and he’s one of those players [like Dorado, Angelo, Stochelo etc.], where everything he does sounds wonderful; chords, solos, melodies, etc. The mark of a great player, like any Jazz Giant, is they can affect you with just their sound and touch on the instrument. [My only wish is one that I voice often; a guest vocal or two, or even an additional guest instrumentalist would be cool, even on a few tracks. Always nice for a vocal, I think, but that’s just me]. It would be really cool if Reinier would consider publishing some of his arrangements and compositions, [hint, hint]! Support these fine folks by buying the CD, go to their shows, etc. This is our near sacred duty, to share the sacraments, if you will.

High marks for cover layout and detailed liner notes, including a mini-review by Michael Dregni.  They used a Kick-starter like deal to fund the project, and also thanked Christo Rupenthal of DjangoShirts fame,  Visit Reinier’s page to hear samples of the tracks, and order the CD, etc;

* Titi Bamberger will be touring the US Sept-Oct 2013, including stops in Chicago, NYC, and a gig on Oct 6, in Philly with the Hot Club of Philadelphia. See his Face Book page for info. I’ll post details for his Phila area show here;


Apr 242013

Over the years I have found that it is really common that people don’t know how to play the end of Django’s composition ‘Troublant Bolero’. This is a simplified/altered version of what we find performed by Django on “Integrale Django Reinhardt – Volume 18, Disc 1″, but I think it works well in general. It is a good starting point but I must say this is not exactly the way Django played it, but it is close. It still revolves around the low E, A, and higher E bass notes.


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Mar 082012

In response to a recent correspondence, I thought I would chime in again here at about the importance of composing phrases through various chord progressions. This was something that I did a lot of while studying jazz in college, and it greatly improved my playing.

The phrases can be of any length, but it is good to start with 4 and 8 bar phrases; since most songs utilize phrases of these lengths in their structure. The best place to start is the trusted II – V – I progression. So in the key of C, you would compose phrases for 1 bar of D min, 1 bar of G7, and 2 bars of C major. With regard to jazz as an art form as well as an intellectual endeavor, there are two really effective ways to play “through” the changes. The leading tone, as well as common tone, approaches.

The leading tone approach emphasizes the key notes of each chord (the 3rd’s and 7th’s), and the common tone approach emphasizes notes common to both chords. So for D minor the leading tones are F and C, for G7 they are B and F, and for C major, E and B. So a leading tone “line” could be composed emphasizing the 7th of D minor (the note C), to the 3rd of G7 (the note B), followed by a common tone approach of staying on the note B (the 7th of C Major).

The next approach involves rhythmic vitality in your compositional/improvisational ideas. Play your ideas all over the neck in 8ths notes, then 16th notes, then in triplets (a la the Rosenbergs and Angelo Debarre).

All this really is another way of learning vocabulary, just like transcribing. The only difference is, is that you are composing your own ideas and not taking them from someone else. Transcribing is good to get an idea about what to play as a point of reference, but actually composing your own phrases is a good exercise in learning to create great melodies; which should be the aim of all improvisers.

Email me if you have any questions!

Marcelo Damon

Oct 042011

I usually wouldn’t take the time to post about something as common sense as what picks to use, as the majority of gypsy jazzers use the Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick. However, I recently stumbled upon and decided to give them a try. Initially I bought a trimus shape pick at a 1.5 mm thickness, and found it too thin for the likes of playing like Django and company. So I contacted Matthew Goins, the owner and proprietor of Blue Chip Picks and asked him to make me a 2.5 mm gypsy jazz pick. He enthusiastically responded and had my pick back to me in a few short days.

The Pros: Amazing texture and feel, very little pick noise, super slick surface which leads to a very rapid release from the strings, and last but not least, it is super durable. I played for 4 solid hours on it, and it did not show the slightest sign of wear.

The Cons: Due to the fact that the stock material that these picks are made out of the picks are quite expensive. However, since they wear out so slowly (much slower than the Wegen at $25), and the fact that they have a faster release with much less pick noise, they are the logical, more musical choice. For a 1.5 mm pick, it is $35. For a 2.0 mm pick it is $50, and for a 2.5 mm (like I use, and what the Wegen Gypsy Jazz pick is), is $75. Matthew puts a speed bevel on all sides as well, so depending on the shape you buy, you would actually have 3 picking edges (like having 3 picks in one).

There are many shapes to choose from. I use the “TD” series with speed bevels, as it is most like the Wegen gypsy jazz pick. It is an amazing pick, and I am glad that I acquired it. It makes playing cleaner, more articulate, faster, and much easier.

Give them a look at:

Tell Matthew Marcelo sent you!

Jul 232011

This is my first post, and I didn’t have to rack my brain too long to think of something to share with all you gypsy jazz enthusiasts; something of the utmost importance in playing gypsy jazz:

Economy of motion in both hands while playing.

Having seen and/or played with Angelo, Bireli, Stochelo, Andreas, and countless other “masters” of this genre I realized that to successfully play this music, there are essentially 2 mountains to overcome:

A. Mastery of technique

B. Mastery of improvisational vocabulary

This post covers both points. To develop the kind of technique that the aforementioned masters possess, I recommend a 3-fold approach.

#1. Daily technique exercises – Exercises that include scales, 3 octave arpeggios for all main 5 arpeggio types with their applicable extensions (b5th, #5th, 7th, 9th, b9th, #9th, 11th, #11th, 13th, b13th):

- Major, Minor, Dominant, Diminished, and Augmented

- Now to overcome Mountain #1, I recommend something that classical guitarists call the “minimal movement principle”. It basically states that you employ the smallest amount of movement and muscular tension in both of your hands while playing. So to be successful in the application of this principle you have to audit yourself while playing and make the appropriate changes to fall in line with it. Basically, you have to determine, from the musculature of your fingers, and the action of your guitar how much movement and pressure are necessary to produce the most authentic and pleasing sound when you both pick and fret the notes you are playing. I have seen, for example, Stochelo burn through a tune while smoking a cancer stick and smiling (he was super relaxed to say the least) and I could barely see his pick hand moving while he was playing. I mean, it moved, but very minimally. When I saw Bireli play his fretting and picking hands moved with such minimalism he was able to pull off some rather amazing things (we all know this of course).

I have some excerpts for picking exercises from the book that I wrote a few years ago. If you want them, just send me a message.

Caveat – ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS USE A METRONOME for this portion of your practice regime.

#2. Transcribe Django’s Solos note-for-note and try to capture all the nuances of phrasing, attack, dynamics, etc. Utilize this list of great solos by Django if you were wondering which ones to do. By studying Django’s solos first, you build the same foundation of vocabulary and improvisational ideas that the modern masters have; as they ALL studied Django from their early years. Additionally, because Django’s technique was so incredible, you too, after having mastered several of his solos, will develop great technique, in addition to his unique sense of time, phrasing, and note choice (vocabulary)

#3. Transcribe the modern master’s solos – Do this only AFTER you have spent a considerable amount of time with Django’s solos. I say this is because Django is the most melodic gyspy jazz player who ever lived. The modern masters are great, no doubt, but they are not Django. Several modern masters come really close, such as Angelo, and Stochelo (his newer stuff anyway). Additionally, the modern masters solos are, most of the time, harder to play than Django’s stuff, as they all involve all 4 fingers at tempos Django rarely played at. If you spend a lot of time with Django, then these modern players solos are a bit more approachable then if you came at them with no Django foundation. Always use a program that can digitally slow down the solo (I use Amazing Slow Downer) and progressively increase the tempo on this solo (a couple of percentage points per day) until you can play it at 110% speed or greater. By playing it faster, you are really getting it under your fingers! This is what Stochelo does with Django’s solos (listen to his solos on Caravan). He always played them faster than Django did, most of the time.

By carefully following these 3 steps, utilizing the minimal movement principle, and being patient with your progress (Rome wasn’t built in a day!) I believe a rank beginner can achieve some measurable success. It worked for me! I transcribed all the time, initially with Django’s solos, then moved on to Stochelo, and Jimmy. Now I am working on Angelo and Bireli (my 2 favorite players in this genre). Just be patient and mindful of your movement; eliminating any extraneous movement and/or pressure from both of your hands.


Email me if you have any questions!


Marcelo Damon

Jul 102011

I went through the entire Integrale Django collection and I wrote down all the significant solos that Django made. What I mean by significant is “longer than 30 seconds”. This list doesn’t include songs where Django played only a small solo or part and it doesn’t include songs where he only played rhythm.  (My favorites are marked with an asterisk.)

Air Mail Special, Vol19 CD1
All Of Me, Vol 10 CD2
Anniversary Song, Vol18 CD2, Vol14 CD1
Appel Direct, Vol8 CD1
Babik, Vol13 CD2
Belleville, Vol 15 CD1(Tchavalo licks), Vol12 CD2, Vol12 CD1
Blue Drag, Vol3 CD1
Blues Claire, Vol14 CD1, Vol12 CD1*
Bricktop, Vol17 CD2
China Boy, Vol4 CD1
Clair de Lune, Vol 13 CD2
Coquette, Vol13 CD1
Daphne, Vol7 CD2, Vol6 CD1, Vol16 CD1*, Vol17 CD1
Dark Eyes, Vol14 CD2, Vol 10 CD2
Dinah, Vol15 CD2*
Djangology, Vol3 CD2, Vol17 CD1
Djangos Tiger, Vol12 CD1*
Douce Ambience, Vol12 CD1
Feerie, Vol14 CD2
Fleur de Ennui, Vol12 CD1
HCQ Strut, Vol9 CD1, 
How High The Moon, Vol17 CD2, Vol15 CD2, Vol 13 CD2
Hungaria, Vol9 CD1, Vol8 CD2, Vol11 CD1
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love Baby, Vol17 CD2, Vol 15 CD1, Vol12 CD1
I Love You, Vol15 CD2
I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight, Vol9 CD1, Vol8 CD2
I’ll See You In My Dreams, Vol9 CD1
J’Attendrai, Vol7 CD2
Just One Of Those Things, Vol14 CD2*
Mabel, Vol6 CD2
Melodie au Crepescule, Vol15 CD1
Micro, Vol17 CD2
Minor Blues, Vol 16 CD2, Vol 13 CD2, Vol 15 CD2
Minor Swing, Vol6 CD2(1st version), Vol14 CD2(2nd version), 
         Vol17 CD1(3rd version), Vol16 CD2(3rd version alt), 
         Vol18 CD2(4th version)
My Melancholy Baby, Vol9 CD1, Vol8 CD2, Vol8 CD1
My Sweet, Vol7 CD2
Nuages, Vol18 CD1
R Vingt-Six, Vol13 CD2
Red, Red, Ride, Vol13 CD1
Rhythm Futur, Vol 14 CD2, Vol 10 CD1
September Song, Vol14 CD1
Seule cd Soir, Vol11 CD2
Sheik Of Araby, Vol5 CD2(chromatic embellishments)
Stockholm, Vol9 CD1, Vol11 CD1
Stompin’ At Decca, Vol7 CD2
Sweet Georgia Brown, Vol7 CD1, Vol18 CD2
Swing 42, Vol11 CD1
Swing 48, Vol14 CD1
Swing Dynamique, Vol14 CD2
Swing39, Vol8 CD2, Vol 14 CD2
Swingin With Django, Vol6 CD2(melody only)
Swingtime In Springtime, Vol13 CD1
Tiger Rag, Vol16 CD1(fastest Django playing)
Troublant Bolero, Vol18 CD1(with cool ending)
Twelfth Year, Vol8 CD2
Ultrafox, Vol3 CD1
Vipers Dream, Vol14 CD1
Webster, Vol17 CD2
When Day Is Done, Vol5 CD2
 Posted by at 7:17 PM on July 10, 2011
Jun 282011

I decided to repost this blog article with a tiny revision. This entry is to highlight something I have finally realized to be true: that Rhythm Futur is a very important song to learn in order to start building ability to play manouche style jazz.
In particular, the importance of the Dominant 7th lick in that song is high:


Here is another G7 variation of it that I practice:


And another variation (G7):


And another variation I use (G7 inspired from the song MSG):


Some loose ends I got from the Dennis Chang DVD (E7 then D7):


And something from Gonzalo Bergara’s very helpful lesson book:


After working on these ideas you can explore further. Since we know that Bm6=E9=G#m7b5 , we know that we can play a Bm6 or a G#m7b5 arpeggio over the E7 to create a E9 flavor. You should practice this idea as well as learning the raw E9 arpeggio. You can extend this idea further with octave stacking patterns based on the E6/9 arpeggio.

Jun 082011

One of my favorite songs to play in a jam scenerio is Cesar Swing because the chord grille is short enough that it doesn’t drag on. Also, the melody and progression are interesting and they keep things exciting. This is a great song to practice following a chord progression because its both unique and simple. The most significant version of this song is on the album Yochka by Moreno.

I search far and wide through YouTube to find a gem of an example, couldn’t find one, and then I found this fantastic clip from a great lesson book called “Sammy Daussat and David Reinhardt Methode de Guitare Manouche“, a French DVD that I highly recommend. Well respected players teaching a very hip song :

(more below)

Now, if you are ready to practice this song, I have pulled a few practice materials out…. Continue reading »

Feb 092011


Arpeggios are the building blocks of a good jazz vocabulary if you want to play in the pocket. Django used them all the time and they are an integral part of Gypsy jazz.  Paul Mehling’s 4th video lesson is devoted to teaching the basic arpeggios in several different positions and includes excellent tips for connecting arpeggios in different positions.  While advanced players probably won’t find much new information here, beginner and intermediate Gypsy jazz guitarists will benefit greatly from this 70 minute lesson.  Paul moves effortlessly through the octaves on his Dupont MD-20 and with some practice, you will be able to do so as well.

The video is available from many sources online, but I suggest buying it from Paul directly at  Django’s style of improvisation was once referred to as “ornamented arpeggios”.  Before ornamenting them, one must know where the arpeggios are. Paul’s fine video will show you.



 Posted by at 11:26 AM on February 9, 2011
Feb 072011

Paul Mehling, the leader of the Hot Club of San Francisco is known to many as the Godfather of Gypsy jazz in the United States. And for good reason. When Gypsy jazz was on very few musician’s radar screens, Paul was bringing Django influenced music to the world with his own interpretation of the music of Django Reinhardt.  In addition to being an inveterate performer of this music, Paul has also been a respected music educator. He has released four video lessons.  Pick Power! is the third in the series. This video lesson is well worth the $29.95 price of admission for beginning and intermediate Gypsy jazz students. Some advanced players will also find value. The lesson is a series of exercises designed to build right hand strength and control which are necessary to properly play Gypsy jazz.  Combined with “Gypsy Picking” by Michael Horowitz, Pick Power! can help the student of Gypsy jazz develop the idiomatic picking style that is used by many, if not most, of the Gypsy jazz greats. It is a 90 minute lesson and is available from and other sites, but I strongly recommend ordering it directly from Paul himself at
Pickpower.jpgHaving played a few gigs with Paul, I can assure all who read this that he is a master mucisian and a nice guy to boot.  With Pick Power!, Paul has shared his secrets to changing his picking from an American style to the powerful picking style used by the Gypsy greats like Stochelo Rosenberg and Bireli Lagrene. Perhaps Paul’s secrets can unlock your potential as well. One warning though, a bit of work on your part will be necessary (Paul recommends at least 30 minutes a day). Just watching this well produced video lesson alone won’t change a thing!

 Posted by at 7:43 AM on February 7, 2011