People, who love live music and like Swing in particular, will be in good hands with Gypsy Jazz. Smaller concerts impress with their casual and familial atmosphere. At larger events, the great technical skill of the musicians often dominates. What they all have in common is the pumping rhythm and the catchy melodies that put the crowd into dance mood, reverie and ecstasy.
For a long time this genre scraped a nicheness north of Hamburg. Young Kiel formations, such as The Gypsy Heartbeats, Django Galore and recently the Trio Douce Ambiance want to change that …
Something is happening in Kiel
In former times people had to travel long distances or wait for one of the rare concert dates in Schleswig-Holstein, to experience hand-made Gypsy Jazz. But recently several talented musicians have been playing the pubs and bars of Kiel and the surrounding area. From time to time you can find those events even in cafes and antique shops. Admission is usually free. They ask for a hat donation instead. However larger events are less common. Sometimes you can listen to Gypsy Jazz groups for example at the Forstbaumschule, KulturForum or at the Stattcafé. But there are some quite promising talents, who cultivate the Gypsy Jazz in a changing lineup.
Douce Ambiance from Kiel is a formation consisting of the contrabassist Finn Strothmann from Flensburg and the brothers Carlo und Eischly Krause. As German Sinti these two guys from Kiel are familiar with the authentic Gypsy Jazz since early childhood. A range of exceptional musicians in their family give them their musical heritage first-hand. Away from home the young trio has already shared the stage with the greats of the genre like last time at the Sinti Music Festival in Osnabrück mid-September 2018.
Meanwhile, more and more foreign Sinti musicians come to Kiel on a flying visit. For example, Gimanto Hoffmann from Bremen or Marcel Weiss from Hamburg. Barely arrived the guitars get tuned and they start playing. They play wherever they are and with anyone who can keep up with them.
The singer and guitarist Sacha Chan Yan is not a Sinto. However, he sometimes plays spontaneously with Sinto Silvano Weiss at places like Soto’s Bar. They mainly play Sinti swing in the style of Django Reinhardt. Chan Yan even plays a wide range of classics from rock to pop music.
Non-Sinti also take part in the Gypsy Jazzcombo Django Galore from Kiel.
Gypsy Jazz is a musical expression of the Manouche and Sinti of Central Europe, people who have lived and worked in the French and German speaking countries for more than 600 years.
In addition to the classic Sinti songs which have been handed down for centuries, Manouche from the French speaking world have interpreted jazz elements and jazz standards in their own way since the beginning of the 20th Century.
Although the legendary Django Reinhardt was not the only one who contributed to the development of this hitherto unique, independent European form of jazz, his influence as a solo guitarist is unsurpassed. After a fire accident in 1928 his ring finger and little finger of the left hand remained immobile. As a result, Reinhardt not only worked on alternative playing techniques, but also advanced to one of the fastest and most poetic instrumentalists of his time.
The challenging harmonies claim certain experience from the musicians, a lot of practice and a well-trained ear. Sinti descendants, who are surrounded by this music since early childhood, are at an advantage. However, instrumentalists of different backgrounds, who don´t have this cultural background, get into the genre with fascination. That´s why Gypsy Jazz is no longer a pure domain of Sinti or Manouche. Furthermore the musicians don´t hold on to the established standards. They are experimenting with other styles, such as “world music”, Latin or even Rap. Also, percussion or drums are used more often. Noteworthy are the already successful concerts and recordings with big band formations. And more and more women are increasingly dealing successfully with Gypsy Jazz. This is facilitated by a large repertoire of jazz standards, which are often played and heard gladly. Nevertheless, no concert is like the other. Especially with the intro and the end of a piece, the improvisational imagination and technique of the instrumentalists become important.
Maybe this article can inspire one or two to look around online and get into this music. On Youtube.com you will find for instance a large number of international but also regional artists. Who has acquired a taste for this should remember the names mentioned above to experience these talented people live occasionally. By the way, in Kiel and the surrounding area you can also book all the musicians mentioned above for private and corporate events. And maybe there will be enough music lovers in the region in the future to establish their own music festival, as it has been common in other German cities for many years …
Author/Images/Layout: Thørle Trovscile