Monday, December 06, 2010

Django Lives - The Best Gypsy Jazz in Paris

Well, I admit that a little bit of Gypsy Jazz guitar in Paris goes a long way for me. Maybe it's because I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the Gypsy jazz in the Paris venues and concert halls and cafes and bars and street corners and ack!!.... really it is possible all over Paris to hear 'iffy' players hacking through the legacy of Django Reinhardt.  But a few places still do it well....

 Jazz Manouche, a la Django Reinhardt,  is indeed all over the place in the city, but to be honest, it generally sits at around the 'ok' to 'really not ok' level of talent.  Not that I don't love the actual sound when it works, but it's pretty rare to see someone recapture anything like the level of virtuosity & just plain fun of Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the '30's. (Alright, perhaps no one will ever equal Reinhardt's virtuoso power on the guitar).   I made a special trip to see Django's grandson play his variety of Gypsy jazz guitar, and it was somewhere around the 'ok' level. Maybe the problem is that when a band is trying to imitate this incredible sound that we all have in our ears, they always come up short.

But all gripes aside, one amazing and fun place to see this style of playing in Paris is La Chope des Puces in the north of the city. It's a great combination: an incredibly quirky neighbourhood that also just happens to be the Paris center for bargain shopping & antiques (the largest flea market in the world!)

& a traditional zinc cafe with (actual) gypsy guitarists who are obviously having a great time entertaining the crowd. They're really fine players who capture the style while putting on their own personal touch. I can happily while away the afternoon in this cafe.

The café is a shrine to Hot Jazz and Django--walls covered with photos, mementos & posters and no bandstand to speak of--guitarists perch where there's room. The bar isn't big, you're really in the players' laps as you cluster around the zinc counter.  The place recently had a 're-do' so it is now a bit spacier (and pricier) than it was, but it still holds the same feeling.

To check out La Chope head for the last stop on line 4: metro Porte de Clignancourt on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Follow the crowds for a five minute walk past the wall of Paris (ie the huge elevated highway that rings the city). Once you're in the madness of the flea market head up to 122 rue des Rosiers (NOT the rue des Rosiers in the centre of Paris).

And, if you're not quite like me and want to delve more deeply into the world of Jazz Manouche then plan your trip for June and attend the official Festival Django Reinhardt 


Jeff Jackson said...

I discuss Django's history and the history of Parisian jazz in the 1920s and 1930s in my book "Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris."

Anonymous said...

Hi, I usually go à la Taverne de Cluny to listen to good jazz manouche for free. Check it out! Great jam session on Sundays night. Franc