When Django Reinhardt died at Fontainebleau, near Paris, onMay 16, 1953, he left behind not only a rich treasure trove of countlessrecordings. but also a special style - a way of playing the guitar and jazzwhich only in later generations became known as \Gypsy Swing."
In Paris at the beginning of the 1930s, Reinhardt and hiscongenial partner, the violinist Stephane Grappelli, made the only considerableEuropean contribution to the development of jazz. Even beyond the totalframework which they created, both musicians came to be regarded as thequintessential representatives of their instruments - Grappelli of the violin,and Reinhardt of the guitar - and this reputation endures up to the presentday.
Gypsy Swing is genuine European jazz and probably the onlystyle which has not originated in the motherland of jazz, the United States ofAmerica. All previous styles (New Orleans, Chicago/Dixieland, Swing) and alllater forms (Bebop, Hardbop, Cool, Free, etc.) started out from America toconquer the world. The "Quintet du Hot Club de France" originally consisted ofstringed instruments only. Besides the two main protagonists Grappelli andReinhardt, two rhythm) guitarists and a double-bass player formed part of thegroup. They played the jazz hits of the day as well as their own veryexpressive pieces, all of which have become an integral part of the great GypsySwing songbook. This start-up formation of three guitars, double-bass, andviolin was soon to undergo various and successful changes. Reinhardt, andGrapelli would later link up with percussionists, pianists, saxophonists,clarinetists, and others.
After Reinhardt's death the original formula was furthercomplemented, changed and enlarged. It was above all the gypsies of centralEurope who adapted Grapelli's and Reinhardt's style to their own tradition, andthus combined the existing formswith the music of eastern Europe: Musette and Swing Valse. During the 1980s and1990s another musical colour was added when elements of Samba and Bossa wereincorporated into Gypsy Swing.
The group "Harmonious Wail" is, for the time being, the lastrepresentative of a long and colourful tradition. As the Americans would say:"It's all there" - pieces from the Great American Songbook which were alreadyplayed by Grappelli and Reinhardt (After You've Gone, Limehouse Blues, Sheik ofAraby), music with eastern European roots (Dark Eyes, Czardas von Monti, TwoGuitars), Musette and Swing Valse (Swing Gitan, Valse Samois), with Minor Swingpossibly the most well-known Gypsy Swing standard, and with Ball Game a titlefrom the American folk tradition as yet another broadening of style. MaggieDelaney 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 withtheir virtuosity and originality. The sound of the group is immediatelyrecognizable and in its own genre it is absolutely unique. It demonstrates thatReinhardt's and Grappelli's Swing remains alive in ever new forms ofexpression. Harmonious Wail is the best example of this renewal. Enjoy!