One of the progenitors of Pearl Django will pluck his last string during a farewell concert later this month in the town that has taken on gypsy jazz as its municipal sound.
Troy Chapman, a guitarist for Pearl Django for the past decade, is leaving after six years with the stalwart band that has performed at locales across the country for two decades. His last performance with the renowned Seattle-area band is set for Saturday, Jan. 30 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.
“The only thing I’m stepping away from is driving into Seattle,” he said with a laugh over a latte in a Langley cafe, which he referred to as his second office.
Since relocating to Langley 15 years ago, after first discovering the city while performing during the annual DjangoFest Northwest, the commute to play with the band became worse. He was looking for more time to devote to his other musical commitments as the frontman of The Hot Club of Troy, The Troy Chapman Group and a guitarist for Island Consort.
“The idea of driving into Seattle at this point sends shivers up my spine,” Chapman, 56, laughed. He said he tallied the tours and shows and calculated the hours spent in a car to equal 416 24-hour days over the past six years.
“My back is shot and I definitely have high blood pressure,” he added.
All of the touring and performances took their toll. Chapman said the long, late-night drives just became too much these days. He recalled once playing on the Olympic Peninsula, then having to catch the Kingston-Edmonds ferry, drive to Mukilteo, and catch another ferry to Clinton, before driving home. At best, that’s a four-hour commute. Playing with Pearl Django wasn’t like being on tour with The Rolling Stones; there were no chartered buses with bunks and luxury restrooms. More often than not, it was Chapman or one of the other members in their own van or car and a lot of late nights.
One of the Pearl Django founders said he understood Chapman’s reasons for leaving.
“He made all of the gigs and all of the rehearsals for five years,” Pearl Django founder and violinist Michael Gray said in a phone interview while visiting Chapman in Langley to promote their upcoming concert. “I hate to think of what the ferry costs were. He’s nodding his head and he’s got his hand out.”
“To do an Olympia gig on a Friday night, he’s gotta leave here at noon,” Gray added. “He’s gotta go through every rush hour — Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Fort Lewis, and Olympia.”
Gray first invited Chapman to join years ago through an email. The two musicians had known each other for years in the Puget Sound gypsy jazz arena, a small group passionate for the music founded and named after Django Reinhardt and mainstream popularized in Woody Allen films.
Chapman brought his European-influenced style to the band that was inspired by the European father of their music, Django Reinhardt.
“Troy brought his own guitar style, which I think is much more gypsy-like, much more European,” Gray said. “To my ear, he really listened to the records a lot and based his style on more of the Euro approach.”
Pearl Django was happy to have him on board, and together they entertained thousands of people at concerts and festivals across the United States.
Here at their home state, having a few days or a week to perform at Seattle’s Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley was one of Chapman’s highlight moments. He recalled playing on stage with Bucky Pizzarelli, one of his guitar idols and in his top five list of living guitarists he’d want to perform alongside. For those unfamiliar with Pizzarelli, it’d be a bit like getting to sing with Aretha Franklin or have a catch with Joe DiMaggio.
“It was the greatest musical experience ever,” he said. “He’s not Django, but Django’s dead.”
The everyday parts of being in a successful, adored band that played well together, jived musically and enjoyed one another’s company took the cake for Chapman.
“I’m going to miss hanging out with those guys.”
A professional musician for most of his life, Chapman will continue performing and recording. In fact, he said he hopes to do even more of both once his time with Pearl Django ends. His next performance outside of Pearl Django will be with pianist Gary Way on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 14 at Ott & Murphy Wines in Langley.
“If people think they’re sick of me now, just wait,” Chapman laughed.
Farewell to Troy Chapman
A farewell concert for Pearl Django member Troy Chapman of Langley is set to rock and soothe souls Saturday, Jan. 30 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
The show will include two sets, one with singer Gail Pettis and one comprised of Chapman’s original compositions. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.
Chapman will perform for the final time as a Pearl Django member alongside new guitarist Tim Lerch and returning founder Neil Andersson.
Tickets cost $22.50 and may be purchased online at http://tickets.wicaonline.com or by calling the WICA box office at 360-221-8268 or 1-800-638-7631 or visiting the box office at 565 Camano Ave., Langley between 1 and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and two hours before the show.