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A Gypsy Route Through Paris

Jazz was of course born in the United States. However, if you care to read the finer print, you will discover that something happened in the 1930s in Europe which was to revolutionise American jazz. In the gypsy camps on the outskirts of Paris – now the city’s 18th arrondissement – the young Django Reinhardt improvised a fusion of swing and traditional Eastern European music on his banjo. He taught himself, paying special attention to finger position, and inadvertently invented jazz manouche or gypsy jazz, a genre which elicits virtuosity in the playing and is pleasant on the ear.

Django lost two fingers on his left hand when his caravan caught fire, prompting him to develop an unusual way of playing the guitar. His original style, agility and speed at producing notes earned him the epithet of “father of gypsy jazz”. Together with the violinist, Stéphane Grappelli, he created the legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France, the first gypsy jazz club.

The Festival Django Reinhardt was first inaugurated a few years after his death. It was held at Samois-sur-Seine, 50 kilometres south of Paris, where he spent his final years and where he is buried. The 38th edition of the festival will be held from 6 to 9 July 2017 and, although last year it had to be moved to the Fontainebleau Chateau gardens – 50 kilometres from Paris and well connected by public transport – the original essence of the festival has survived intact. The venue is a place of pilgrimage for Django devotees and the world’s hub of gypsy jazz. This year’s lineup will see the likes of bassist Avishai Cohen, Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, the guitar virtuoso trio of Jean-Luc Ponty, Biréli Lagrène and Kyle Eastwood, Woody Allen’s pet gypsy jazz favourite, Stephane Wrembel and the Django Memories Project, made up of the prestigious musicians who produced the soundtrack of the recently premiered film, Django. But, at this festival the music overspills the stage – artists and devotees from across the globe hold jam sessions all over the fair grounds, beating out gypsy rhythms and reliving Django Reinhardt’s musicality.

If after that “authentic gypsy encampment” you are game for more, we have made the following selection from among the many gypsy jazz clubs Paris has to offer.

La Chope des Puces

This is unquestionably the temple of Django Reinhardt in Paris. The resident guitarist, Ninine Garcia, who hails from one of the top Parisian manouche families, leads the jam session every weekend from 12.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Located in the Marché aux Puces, guests share a table – to taste traditional French cuisine – in a very squashed vital space, among guitars, violins and photos hanging on the walls recalling the master. Tucked away in the back room is a guitar workshop and a manouche jazz school. A venue that oozes genuine charm! 122 rue des Rosiers, Saint-Ouen

MONK – La Taverne de Cluny

Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, MONK is a bar devoted to the world of beer. It boasts over 50 types of bottled beer, and 10 types of draught. But La Taverne de Cluny is also a jazz club. Every Thursday and Sunday, the small stage in this typically French bar, with upholstered little tables and chairs, fills up to the sound of top-notch gypsy jazz produced by such reputable artists as Christophe Brunard, Sébastien Giniaux and Samy Daussat, among others. A must-visit spot!  51, rue de la Harpe

Café Artistique l’Apostrophe

This small, cosy musical café located just a few metres from the Canal Saint-Martinin the 10th arrondissement provides live music from Wednesday to Saturday. Over the last four years, the programme has been featuring gypsy jazz concerts from 8.30 p.m. on Fridays. L’Apostrophe has been graced by all the leading lights of the Parisian manouche scene, as well as gypsy jazz guitarists from the United States, Britain and Brazil, among others. Albert Bello, Spain’s top gypsy jazz exponent and the director of Festival Django L’H, the only festival in Spain dedicated to Django Reinhardt, has also performed there. And, the first Thursday of each month sees a jazz jam with the vocals supplied by Barbie Camion. 23 rue de la Grange aux Belles

Aux Petits Joueurs

Aux Petits Joueurs is a restaurant in the 19th arrondissement, a bistro in the purest French style where you can taste salads with hot goat’s-milk cheese, cheese boards, duck confit, tarte tatin and crepes, to name just the ABC of French cuisine. The restaurant features a jazz concert, ranging from Latin music to gypsy jazz, each day of the week except Mondays – when it is closed. The venue has seen performances by the leading figures of this genre, notably Adrien Moignard, Sébastien Giniaux and Pierre Manetti, among many others. Tuesdays and Wednesdays feature jam sessions at which some artists invite others, and it all ends up in a full-blown manouche festival. 59 rue Mouzaïa

Les Idiots

A highly popular micro-bar, among other reasons for their reasonable prices – quite a feat in Paris – and their homemade meals. Located on the Boulevard de Ménilmontant, it is a favourite haunt amongbobos(from “bourgeois, bohemian”). A young, relaxed atmosphere frequented by veritable hordes of guests. The limited capacity does not deter them from hosting jazz sessions, led by guitarist Michael Gimenez and with the participation of various gypsy jazz artists, in a corner of the bar each Monday from 9 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. 115 boulevard de Ménilmontant

Book your Vueling to Paris and get into the swing of the gypsy jazz featured across the city.

Text by Teresa Vallbona

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