December 2017

The Sounds of Nomads

Gypsy jazz is a style that emerged in the 1930s from a combination of styles from all around the world.

If you read our article on gypsy jazz from the December issue of Music Alive!, you know that it can be difficult to narrow the genre down to any one description. From just studying the genre’s development through the life of its founder, Django Reinhardt, it becomes clear that this jazz subgenre could have only come to be through its creator’s unique interpretation of his many particular influences.

Some of Reinhardt’s most prominent influences included early swing era jazz, traditional Gypsy music, impressionist music, and classical. Listen to examples below of Reinhardt’s influences, then listen to one of his most popular compositions—and see if you hear any traces.

Louis Armstrong – “Blue Turning Grey Over You”

This selection by Louis Armstrong is a newer recording of a song he recorded in the 1930s, around the time when Reinhardt discovered jazz.

“Jelem, jelem” – Romani Anthem

Here is an example of the kind of traditional Gypsy music that Reinhardt likely grew up listening to.

Claude Debussy – Claire de Lune

Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune is one of the most popular and surviving examples of impressionist music. Here’s a live performance by 1940s and ’50s media personality Victor Borge.

Django Reinhardt – “Jattendrai Swing”

Can you hear any remnants of Reinhardt’s influences, whether in specific technique, sound, or his improvisation ideas?