The gipsy swing, also called jazz manouche or hot jazz, is still a family affair to a certain extent – which is also indicated by another commonly used term: Sinti Swing. As a mobile ethnic group, the Sinti have always cultivated their own culture. Django Reinhardt became her musical progenitor, who created the only original European style of early jazz with the guitar swing of his “Hot Club de France”. Many Sinti emulate and follow his example; The gipsy swing has been handed down from generation to generation in the families without any notes – most Sinti Swingers are self-taught and intuitive musicians.
One of the largest and most productive families is the Weiss family. Numerous outstanding hot jazz musicians are descended from them, perhaps the most famous being guitarist Traubeli Weiss, who died in 2012. David and his cousin Danino Weiss also learned from him, their uncle, and yet, like many Sinti musicians of their generation, i.e. the now 20 to 30-year-olds, they broke new ground. If only because they did not choose guitar or violin, the classical lead instruments of Gipsy Swing, but David chose the accordion and Danino the piano. On these instruments they grew up with a wider range of jazz right from the start. So, it is no coincidence that their new, second album is called “The New Gipsy Sound”.
Also, because the instrumentation of their quartet is untypical. Their companions are no Sinti, but Peter Cudek, one of the most versed and variable bassists of the Southern German scene, and Guido May, an internationally renowned drummer, who is particularly at home in the heavy groove and who has been involved in the legacy of James Brown as drummer of Pee Wee Ellis for many years. On their debut album “Violets For Your Furs”, released two years ago, David and Danino Weiss turned their attention mainly to classical American jazz, as the title song popularized by Frank Sinatra already indicated. The album featured pieces by the Count Basie saxophonist Frank Foster, John Green and Erroll Garner, with Austrian jazz drummer Bernd Reiter, percussionist Biboul Darouiche – known for the Afro-Jazz of his band Bantu Soleil – and distant Hamburg relative Giovanni Jeffrey Weiss, who with his extremely successful band Django Deluxe, twice decorated with the Echo Jazz award, are themselves breaking new ground in hot jazz.
Now, on “The New Gipsy Sound” it’s mainly back to France. Joseph Cosma’s “Clair De Lune” is swirled around with melancholic accordion and piano lines just as idiosyncratically as Charles Aznavour’s “J’aime Paris au mois de Mai”, here accelerated in a hard-hot swing. Michel Legrand’s “Watch What Happens” breathes the flair of great Parisian jazz galas of the fifties, and once there is also a side trip to the old Hot Club, with Django Reinhardt’s “Douce Ambience” – although the classic comes along in a dewy fresh, modern swing version. In addition, there are exquisite trouvailles such as Hildegard Knef’s anthem “Für mich solls rote Rosen regnen” right at the beginning and the languishing “Wonderful You” by the now unfortunately almost forgotten Easy Listening King Peter Nero. And of course, there are also compositions of the two band leaders, such as the dynamic “Gipsy Keys”, whose harmonies almost remind of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, or “Sourire”, which is enriched with Latin rhythms.
Not a revolution, but an evolution is what the two of them present here with their quartet, but one that takes the family genre to completely new shores. “Of course, in the end we always come back to the music that Django and our uncle played,” David and Danino say. But influences from chanson and Latin or elements of classical jazz catapult them into the present. “The New Gipsy Sound” is a fusion of the Gipsy tradition with new melodies and grooves. This is also reflected in the exquisite selection of guests, who make the album not only a summit meeting of the most innovative Gipsy Swing interpreters, but also an all-star meeting of jazz.
At the beginning as well as at the end, the casual solos of the vibraphonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid can be heard, one of the world’s best representatives of his profession, who played with Chet Baker for six years and afterwards with many German, Eastern European and American greats and is equally at home in North American jazz as in South American and Afro-Caribbean soundscapes. Alexander Haas, the bassist of their debut album, who has also made a name for himself with salon jazz of all kinds, is featured on two tracks; drummer Xaver Hellmeier, a young savage from the South German jazz scene, is also represented twice. But above all, three musicians are on board who will make every Gipsy Swing fan click his tongue. Hono Winterstein is a legend as a rhythm guitarist, not only in Jazz Manouche, but also as an accompanist of Patricia Kaas. And then there are the two guitarists who are regarded as the actual heirs to the throne of Django Reinhardt: rather traditionally the Dutch Sinto Stochelo Rosenberg, who with his Rosenberg Trio is the epitome of a classic gypsy swing formation and who already doubled Django in the film. Finally, a modern successor is Biréli Lagrène, who may have mastered Reinhardt’s technique more virtuosically than anyone else, but who has also risen to become an acclaimed guitarist in other styles – starting in 1986 when he joined bassist Jaco Pastorius and later other fusion greats such as Stanley Clarke and Mike Stern.
The recordings made in various sessions put a smile on the lips of Gipsy Swing fans as well as classic jazz lovers or the friends of jazzy chansons. A bow to the Sinti tradition with all means of jazz in instrumental perfection – that is “The New Gipsy Sound”.