When gypsy jazz sashays through Langley next week, it certainly won’t be the first time. Since the debut of DjangoFest Northwest on Whidbey Island 19 years ago, it has blossomed into the premier annual gypsy jazz showcase of North America.
Spellbinding gypsy jazz performances are the stuff of legends among music lovers, but an equally enticing part of the five-day event is a chance to learn from the masters themselves in eclectic workshops open to the public.
A total of 19 workshops hold sway over musicians who come from across the globe to unlock the subtle secrets of subgenres such as gypsy swing, Dutch-style rhythm guitar, French gypsy, cabaret guitar, minor swing and hot club jazz. Following are some highlights of the hands-on learning opportunities, which also have a new twist for the more casual music aficionado.
Jeanne Juneau of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, which hosts DjangoFest NW every year, reveals that select Master Workshops taking place on the main WICA stage offer signups for “observer” status. For a considerably reduced price, those who purchase observer tickets can soak up the ambiance and watch attendees work through the approximately one-and-a-half-hour classes.
Following are some highlights of the 2019 DjangoFest workshops taking place from Thursday, Sept. 19 through Sunday, Sept. 22.
Christiaan van Hemert
Christiaan van Hemert, a premier violinist in the gypsy jazz scene and a frequent performer with the Rosenburg Trio, is slated for four different workshops at this year’s Django NW event in Langley, all taking place at Langley United Methodist Church on Anthes Avenue.
The “Dutch-style Rhythm Guitar” workshop focuses on rhythm guitar techniques by Dutch players such as Noushe and Stochelo Rosenburg and is recommended for all levels of players.
Additional opportunities to learn from van Hemert include the “Gypsy Jazz Violin Improv System” workshop and the “Right Hand Picking Technique” class, which explains the mechanics of muscle use, posture, precise movements and tension in the hands and body.
Taking things from the theoretical to the practical, attendees can sign up for “The van Hemert System Applied to Standards” workshop in which the techniques are applied to the well-known standard songs, “All of Me” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”
The Master Sessions
Taking the main stage at WICA on Camano Avenue, the Gismo Graf Trio leads a Master Class session at noon on Sunday, Sept. 22. Gismo Graf, the 26-year-old German gypsy swing star, is a leading guitarist known for his charisma and expertise in connecting gypsy jazz with swing, bossa nova, pop and his own innovative interpretations.
Joschi Graf, the father and mentor of Gismo Graf, leads his own “Rhythm Guitar” workshop on Friday at 10 a.m. at the Langley United Methodist Church. Along with the trio, he’ll perform on Sept. 20 at the DjangoFest Northwest House Concert, which includes food, wine and a limited-space private performance.
Performers and musicians Aurore Voilqué and Angelo Debarre will lead a Master Class in “French Gypsy” on the WICA stage at noon on Saturday, Sept. 21. Voilqué was born in the Alsace region of France and is now a master of the gypsy jazz genre. In addition to the workshop, she’ll perform on Friday night along with Angelo Debarre, Mathieu Chatelain, Claudius Dupont and The Christiaan Van Hemert Seattle Trio.
- To register for the workshops or buy tickets for DjangoFest NW performances, visit djangofest.com or wicaonline.org