We are often asked what kind of music we play. Like all musicians, we are influenced by a great many styles and players. However the sound and much of our repertoire is inspired by and drawn from a few main sources; Gypsy Jazz, Bal Musette, Chanson Française, American Swing and Latin popular songs.
Gypsy Swing: American Jazz captured the imagination of the Europe, particularly France, during the early part of the 20th century. Many famous American Jazz musicians found enthusiastic audiences in Europe while many European musicians incorporated the new sounds of Jazz into their music. Gypsy Swing, sometimes called String Swing, is Swing played with a rhythm section of guitars and bass, rather than the traditional drums and bass of American Jazz. The best known of Gypsy Swing players was Django Reinhardt (1910-1953). Django Reinhardt, a Manouche Gypsy, was a prolific composer and a phenomenal guitarist. His compositions make up the bulk of standards in the Gypsy Swing genre today and his unorthodox technique (due to the fact that he lost the use of two fingers of his left hand in a fire) has defined the sound of Gypsy Jazz. “Nuages”, “Djangology”, “Douce Ambiance” “Swing 42” are some of the Reinhardt standards that you will find in the typical Gypsy Jazz repertoire. There are many groups playing this music worldwide and Gypsy Jazz has continued to grow and change through the influences of musicians, both Gypsy and non-Gypsy, worldwide.
The music of the "bal musette" or dance halls was a mélange of waltzes, polkas, paso-dobles and mazurkas, with the fox-trot added during World War I and swing during World War II. Waltzes were extremely popular and dominated much of the Bal Musette repertoire to the extent that sometimes modern players use the word “Musette” to refer to the waltzes from this tradition. The music and its chief instrument, the accordion, was brought to Paris by immigrant rural folks seeking work.
The accordionists came from France, Belgium, and especially Italy, borrowing styles from their home countries as well as the Spanish, the gypsies and Americans. Edith Piaf began her career in the bal musette, and she pays tribute to the form and the musicians in one of her best-known songs, "L'accordioniste."
Though Bal Musette and Jazz were not originally thought to be an appropriate mix by dancers and club-owners, it turned out that many of the finest players in Paris were gigging one night in a swing ensemble, and the next night playing for a Bal Musette. In time, pieces from the two repertoires began sneaking into the others' sets, and by the 1940's, it was common to hear the two styles intermixed throughout the course of an evening.
This music is very appealing, evoking as it does the romantic cafes, sidewalks and dance halls of Paris. It's instantly recognizable, with its minor keys that speak of an underlying sadness, coupled with jaunty melodies and sporty playing styles that reveal the resilience of the human spirit.
Chanson Française literally means “French Song” though the term has come to refer to a certain style of song, usually quite melodically complex, in which the words address life's hardships and joys; love, romance, pain, disappointment, heartbreak and celebration. Finding its roots in the songs of the traveling troubadours in the middle ages, Chanson Française is always finding new voices and forms that keep it as alive today as ever.
Perhaps the best known chanteuse in this style of music was Edith Piaf. However there are many other celebrated artists in this genre such as Mistinguette, Frehel, Jacques Brel and Charles Trenet to name a few. The drama and beauty of Chanson Française continues to enchant audiences worldwide, regardless of whether they speak French or not!
From the dawn of the 20th century until today, American Swing Jazz has had a profound influence on music and musicians everywhere. From small combos such as Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five to the big bands of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman the vibrant and energetic sounds of Swing Jazz have inspired dancers and captured the hearts of listeners. Swing Jazz is a music that provides a venue for exploration, improvisation and virtuosity on the part of the players (including singers) while at the same time is appealing to listeners and dancers alike because of its exciting rhythms and melodic beauty. Certainly, the influence of Jazz and Jazz musicians on modern music cannot be underestimated.