Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dig this Django festival

By Adam Warner

This month, Jalopy gets into the swing of things.  

The classic country and bluegrass venue honors swing-jazz legend, Django Reinhardt, with its third annual Djangology Festival starting on Oct. 15.

Reinhardt died over 50 years ago, but his legacy lives on in dozens of jazz lovers who will populate the festival schedule, highlighted by Franglais, the gypsy jazz band out of Park Slope.

“I was introduced to Django in music school and quickly became obsessed,” said Ben Wood, Franglais rhythm guitarist and organizer of the event. “The often fast-paced tempo is captivating and complex, but still accessible. I proposed the idea for a Django festival to Geoff and Lynette Wiley at Jalopy and the rest is history.”

Also playing are some of the biggest names in gypsy jazz today, including Stephane Wrembel, Jack Soref, Hot Club Thing, Hot Club of Hell’s Kitchen, and Blue Plate Special, among others.

“As you might imagine, getting a chance to see so many professional musicians play this music doesn’t happen all that often,” said Wood, adding that Django’s style not only attracts curious locals, but gypsy jazz fans from all over the country.

Reinhardt, a Roma raised on the outskirts of Paris, suffered severe burns to his body, including his playing hand, after a fire erupted in his caravan when he was 18. He eventually conquered his physical limitations, reinventing the way he played his instrument to fit his needs. In the process he became one of the most revered guitarists of all time.

The gypsy jazz form, which usually includes a violin, bass, and two guitars, is the perfect fit for Jalopy’s vaudeville interior. 

“A lit-up swing band on a little stage with curtains — this music is exactly what Jalopy was made for,” said Jalopy co-owner Geoff Wiley.

Djangology Festival at Jalopy [315 Columbia St. between Hamilton Avenue and Woodhull Street in Red Hook, (718) 395-3214], Oct. 15-16 at 8 pm. Tickets $20 ($35 for the weekend). For info, visit


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