About this Recording
76056-2 - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - Harmonious Wail: Gypsy Swing
English  German 

Gypsy swing

Gypsy swing


When Django Reinhardt died at Fontainebleau, near Paris, on May 16, 1953, he left behind not only a rich treasure trove of countless recordings. but also a special style – a way of playing the guitar and jazz which only in later generations became known as “Gypsy Swing.”


In Paris at the beginning of the 1930s, Reinhardt and his congenial partner, the violinist Stephane Grappelli, made the only considerable European contribution to the development of jazz. Even beyond the total framework which they created, both musicians came to be    regarded as the quintessential representatives of their instruments – Grappelli of the violin, and Reinhardt of the guitar – and this reputation endures up to the present day.


Gypsy Swing is genuine European jazz and probably the only style which has not originated in the motherland of jazz, the United States of America. All previous styles (New Orleans, Chicago/Dixieland, Swing) and all later forms (Bebop, Hardbop, Cool, Free, etc.) started out from America to conquer the world. The “Quintet du Hot Club de France” originally consisted of stringed instruments only. Besides the two main protagonists Grappelli and Reinhardt, two rhythm) guitarists and a double-bass player formed part of the group. They played the jazz hits of the day as well as their own very expressive pieces, all of which have become an integral part of the great Gypsy Swing songbook. This start-up formation of three guitars, double-bass, and violin was soon to undergo various and successful changes. Reinhardt, and Grapelli would later link up with percussionists, pianists, saxophonists, clarinetists, and others.


After Reinhardt’s death the original formula was further complemented, changed and enlarged. It was above all the gypsies of central Europe who adapted Grapelli’s and Reinhardt’s style to their own tradition, and thus combined the  existing forms with the music of eastern Europe: Musette and Swing Valse. During the 1980s and 1990s another musical colour was added when elements of Samba and Bossa were incorporated into Gypsy Swing.


The group “Harmonious Wail” is, for the time being, the last representative of a long and colourful tradition. As the Americans would say: “It’s all there” – pieces from the Great American Songbook which were already played by Grappelli and Reinhardt (After You’ve Gone, Limehouse Blues, Sheik of Araby), music with eastern European roots (Dark Eyes, Czardas von Monti, Two Guitars), Musette and Swing Valse (Swing Gitan, Valse Samois), with Minor Swing possibly the most well-known Gypsy Swing standard, and with Ball Game a title from the American folk tradition as yet another broadening of style. Maggie Delaney and Sims Potthoff-Delaney have long been combining Gypsy Swing and the        expressive means of Bluegrass with great success.


Harmonious Wail have succeeded in enriching Gypsy Swing with their virtuosity and originality. The sound of the group is immediately recognizable and in its own genre it is absolutely unique. It demonstrates that Reinhardt’s and Grappelli’s Swing remains alive in ever new forms of expression. Harmonious Wail is the best example of this renewal. Enjoy!


Bernhard Gierstl     



Close the window