Gypsy jazz musicians from around Puget Sound will celebrate Django Reinhardt’s 108th birthday with an evening of enchanting music. The party will be hosted by local gypsy jazz band Ranger and the ‘Re-Arrangers’, and will feature several guest appearances by jazz soloists and vocalists. According to violinist and bandleader Ranger Sciacca: “Our goal is to make this a really fun event, with tons of amazing musicians on a variety of instruments”. There is no cover charge, but donations will be accepted. This year, the party starts early, 7pm!
Ranger and the ‘Re-Arrangers’ evoke the spirit of a Paris cafe and the raucous energy of a Gypsy campsite with their version of Gypsy jazz.
Spearheading the band is RANGER SCIACCA, who began playing violin at the age of six. A chance encounter with a CD of violin jazz ignited Ranger’s interest in the music of Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. His mastery of his instrument and natural feel are impossible to miss in their contagious live shows. “At the heart of their sound is Ranger Sciacca’s sweet violin playing… his sense of melody and daring improvisations”. – World Rhythm Webzine
MICK NICHOLSON played bass for 11 years with the US Navy Band in Washington, D.C. He has toured extensively throughout the world, and has performed for three sitting presidents and countless heads of state.
Percussionist JEFFREY MOOSE was born in Mexico and raised in West Africa. He is loved by fans for his creative, high-energy percussion and playful vocal performances.
MIKE SCIACCA is Ranger’s father, and has been backing up Ranger on rhythm guitar for over 15 years. Ranger and Mike are descended from Sicilian immigrants, who played jazz in New York at the start of the 20th century.
Django was an itinerant Gypsy who earned international acclaim in the 1930’s. Many of his compositions became jazz classics and he is considered one of the top guitar soloists of all time. Duke Ellington referred to Django as “the most creative jazz musician to originate anywhere outside the United States.” Decades later, Jerry Garcia said “Even today, nobody has really come to the state that he was playing at…nobody plays with the whole fullness of expression that Django has.” Django passed away in 1953.
Jean “Django” Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani (Gypsy) encampments close to Paris, playing banjo, guitar and violin from an early age. At the age of 12, he received a banjo-guitar as a gift. He quickly learned to play, mimicking the fingerings of musicians he watched. By the age of 13, Reinhardt was able to make a living playing music. As a result, he received little formal education and acquired the rudiments of literacy only in adult life.
At the age of 18, Reinhardt was injured in a fire that ravaged the caravan he shared with Florine “Bella” Mayer, his first wife. They were very poor, and to supplement their income Bella made imitation flowers out of celluloid and paper. Consequently, their home was rich in highly flammable material. Returning from a performance late one night, Reinhardt apparently knocked over a candle on his way to bed. While his family and neighbours were quick to pull him to safety, he received first- and second-degree burns over half his body. His right leg was paralysed and the third and fourth fingers of his left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again and intended to amputate one of his legs. Reinhardt refused to have the surgery and left the hospital after a short time; he was able to walk within a year with the aid of a cane. His brother Joseph Reinhardt, an accomplished guitarist himself, bought Django a new guitar. With rehabilitation and practice he relearned his craft in a completely new way, even as his third and fourth fingers remained partially paralysed. He played all of his guitar solos with only two fingers, and used the two injured digits only for chord work.
Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.” Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages”
This event has become a favorite of Bainbridge Islanders, full of fun and reverence for a music that refuses to fade.
Impressive because not many people can play a fiddle so well, and comforting because it’s nice to know that there’s a community of musicians keeping an old, storied genre alive. – Alex Young