Archive for Romane

ShortRiffs — February 2017

Posted in Equipment, Music Business, Players, Playing, ShortRiffs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2017 by theguitarcave


Welcome to the February issue of ShortRiffs! This is the second consecutive month of the series and I think this idea is going to work out pretty well. There is no shortage of music news over the course of the average month and there is also the occasional personal item that I hope at least a few people out there will find interesting and/or informative. So, let’s get to it!


Unfortunately, the biggest news of the month is not good news — Guitar Icon and Certified Master Larry Coryell passed away in his sleep a few days ago at the age of 73. He had just played a couple of shows in New York City and was planning on having a pretty busy year of work according to this obituary/tribute in Guitar World. While he was known as the Godfather of Fusion, Coryell was comfortable playing any style and adapting the feeling and groove of all types of music into one seamless bag of awesomeness. His long and journeying career began in the 1960s and over the years he moved easily through rock, psychedelic, jazz, fusion, latin, classical and even operatic styles of music. He worked with such greats as Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, Ron Carter, Chet Baker and many others. Back in 2011 I shared in this post, Larry’s lesson on the Jazz minor scale and how he applied it in various situations within the standard Stella By Starlight. Since then this has been a popular post and if you have never seen it, I am sure it could add a dimension to your playing that you may not know existed. There are other lessons with Larry on YouTube and I’ve seen them all! Definitely worth the time spent. A brilliant artist and teacher and by all accounts a great guy too!
Travel well, Maestro!.


As I related last month a new piece of equipment I had just purchased, the Audio-Technica Pro70 mic, stopped working suddenly at a gig in December. Well the company has repaired and returned the mic and I played it at home for a few hours yesterday and no problem! I really like how it sounds and at some point will record a demo video. At the moment (See below) I live in a construction zone and it is almost impossible to sync up quiet time and guitar recording. That is why GuitarSong #6 is also delayed. Soon! Anyhow, the outside housing of the Pro70 had to be replaced so it was obviously faulty somehow. It does comes with a two year warranty so I hope I get some pain-free, great-sounding use out of it. HURRAH to Audio-Technica for a great job of customer service! Another set of videos that was real influential to me purchasing this is below — Romane and Stochelo Rosenberg playing back in the early 2000s. I just watched my disc of this performance again recently. I love these two guys together! Of course they could play through a tin cup/string combination and it would sound good, but I like they are using these mics! My friend and I play this tune (For Wes) together and it’s always a gas! Demanding to play at tempo, but great fun at the same time.


Speaking of Stochelo Rosenberg — in less than a month I will behold his awesomeness in person at Carnegie Hall. I am so psyched! I have been waiting a long time for this! The presentation, for Django a Gogo 2017, was organized by the great Stephane Wrembel and also includes Al Di Meola! This is going to be awesome! For people who want to go to guitar camp, there is almost a week of classes scheduled with a bunch of great players. Hopefully, all will go well so this will be an annual event. It looks like there are still a whole lot of seats available and while the weather on the East Coast has been verifiably wacky this year (it was just 60 degrees one day with almost a foot of snow the follow day) there aren’t any forecasts of impending big storms. So that’s good! You can all be sure there will be a review of the concert in next month’s ShortRiffs.


Eddie Van Halen made news as part of a program that gives disadvantaged kids musical instruments. In this clip he stresses the importance of music and having music education be a part of everyone’s schooling. I DEFINITELY AGREE! EVH donated 75 guitars from his personal collection to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which delivers almost 2,000 instruments to low-income schools every year. A great foundation and well done Mr. Van Halen!


The drain pipes on several blocks in my neighborhood have been replaced recently. The crews doing the work are total pros and they really do have what is a pretty large-scope operation down to a science, but it’s been a very noisy couple of months with frequent interruptions of heat and hot water. Hey, that’s New York! Supposedly these excavated pipes are almost one-hundred years old, but I dunno about that. They look like they are in pretty good shape to have been put in place in 1916. It is pretty amazing to think how much has happened with the world in the space of time that these pipes served their usefulness. For example, my girlfriend’s block is home to the boyhood address of notorious New York gangster and the Godfather of Organized Crime, Charles “Lucky” Luciano. He would’ve still been residing on the block as a teen when these pipes went in. According to legend he and one of his partners, Meyer Lansky, used to meet around the corner and hash out plans in DeRobertis Caffe, which sadly is now closed. Over the years there were other allegations and a few busts involving Mob activity at DeRobertis. How many canolis did they serve over the course of 110 years and how many gallons of stuff was carried through these pipes in roughly the same amount of time? Mind boggling! Incidentally, John Travolta has been around filming for the upcoming biopic on John Gotti, whose crew had a big presence in the neighborhood back in the late 70s and early 80s. John as the Dapper Don…never would’ve thought it.


Thanks to my friend and neighbor Tom, I was able to check out Jimmy Page…by Jimmy Page. ZOSO baby! As always, anything Jimmy Page puts together, especially if it has anything to do with Led Zeppelin, you know the final product is going to be fantastically well done! While I haven’t had time to read the whole thing yet, I did peruse several chapters and came to the conclusion that the book is great and the pictures alone are totally worth the price of admission! There are several pics that I had never seen before. Like this one:


There are a few of these coffee-table type books out there that I have had a chance to check out over the past month and I will be talking about and showing stuff from them in the future. hugoboss_pageLed Zeppelin was obviously a monstrously influential band that I have written about a few times over the years. I’ve also reviewed the Orange Album in the right column on the main page of the blog. As a matter of fact, the very first post on The Guitar Cave had Jimmy as the subject matter. He has definitely earned the title of Guitar Hero and all of the accolades that have come his way. If you were considering picking this book up, I would say Go For It! There are almost 300 reviews on Amazon and the book gets a perfect 5 star rating. That’s pretty impressive ladies and gentlemen!


Coming very soon GuitarSong #6 — Django Reinhardt’s version of Night and Day.

Arpeggios II

Posted in Education, Players, Playing with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by theguitarcave

Here’s another look at arpeggios and how you can use them to navigate yourself through some changes. Most of this, as in the first example I did, HERE, relates to what I’ve learned from playing Gypsy Jazz & Swing music, but you can apply the concepts to anything. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to tab these examples out like I did before, but I play most of them very slowly, so you should be able to pick up what I’m doing. If you can’t, download audacity and record all of them and slow them down even further. If you have trouble at the speed I’m playing, you’re probably just getting into this stuff, so it helps to hear it slow, play it slow and get your ear accustomed to what’s going on.

The video is pretty self-explanatory. All of these arps are over a typical 2-5-1 progression. You can find these throughout jazz and popular music songs and it’s very important to learn a whole lot of ways to navigate them well. It’s possible to use scales — you can use all of the notes of the “C” scale and just time them right so you are hitting the notes that correspond to the changing chords — or you can play a different scale or mode over each. I had originally planned to do some of that for this video, but time is a factor, so hopefully I can add to this soon. Gypsy-Jazz players use arpeggios or licks in a lot of these situations, so that’s what’s on this movie. I just realized the tuning in the video is a little bit flat so if you’re going to try and play along, take that into account

Segment one is just mean playing over a few simple examples of the chord progression — Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj. Of course this also means colored variations of those chords like Dmin9 — G7b9 — C6/9 etc, etc. There are a few sites in my links section which will show you the fingerings for these chords if they are unfamiliar.

Segment two is a Dmin run into a Ab half-diminished (diminished run to the C root. All of the Gypsy players use this A LOT and you should definitely try to work this thinking into your playing.

Segment three is a very “IN” sounding run that cycles over the chords. I play the progression right after and then play the run again. Do you hear how you can hear the chords without any backing track on the run. That is effective “outlining” and this is a very simple and solid type way to do that.

Segment four uses a tritone substitution in place of the G7. The tritone of any not is it’s flatted 5th, which for G is Db. Moving chromatically from Dm to C, the not in the middle is, of course, Db, so if you play a Dm run into a Db run into C, no matter what the rhythm does, it will work. Cool eh?

Segment five is an open position Dm run into a G altered scale that is whole-toned in nature. It gives it a kind of weird impressionist kind of vibe or something. The whole-tone scale is another tool that Django Reinhardt, Romane and many GJ players use all of the time.

Segment six is a variation on segment five, making use of open strings and moving up the neck to end on the E note, which is the 3rd of “C.” It’s hip to try to end your runs on notes like the 3rd, the 5th, the 9th, or whatever sounds good for the situation or vibe you’re trying to get across. You don’t HAVE to end on the root note.

Segment seven contains a couple of runs that are similar to ones I’ve just explained only higher on the fretboard. The second one is a favorite lick in the style of Stochelo Rosenberg.

Segment eight contains two licks…it’s just going for it and having nice phrasing while playing on only a couple of strings.

The last two are just things I was doing on the fly and this is what YOU should do. Start making up your own. There are literally a million different ways to play over a figure like this and you can mix and match everything you know and whatever you come up with on the spot. Of course, you have to be able to do this in every key and when you get to that point, playing will be a whole lotta fun!


Posted in Players with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2011 by theguitarcave

Most people in the United States have never heard of Romane (Patrick Leguidecoq), a classically-trained, Gypsy-Jazz and Parisian-style guitarist of the highest caliber. Romane is totally suave…as in GQ You Can’t Touch This suave. He was actually the first modern Gypsy-Jazz player I became interested in after a friend laid the Ombre CD on me 10-12 years ago. The music was a revelation! I still love the CD and have acquired a bunch of Romane product since then, including the two CDs featured in the right column where he partners up with another GJ master, Stochelo Rosenberg. (Of course you gotta be really good if you are going to play with Stochelo) Not only can Romane play with the best of them, for my money he is easily one of the best writers of this style. He’s not a guy to do a CD with 6 Django Reinhardt covers on it even though he can burn or make his guitar sing on any song that is thrown his way. I wish he would play the East Coast in the near future. He is on the list of people I would really like to see. Here he is with Stochelo playing Stochelo’s Double Jeu.

What fired me up when I heard Romane is how the music— the outrageous chords, sophisticated runs and blistering picking— doesn’t sound like anything this country has ever produced. It’s Jazz, but it isn’t, and because of the acoustic WHOOMPH! the music never sounds like that laid back, noodling stuff that many people think of when someone says the dreaded J-Word. What makes Romane so suave is that he never sacrifices melody and good musical sense for relentless chops and “out” playing that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. You probably wouldn’t want to throw his music on at your next classic-rock barbeque, but it certainly works for many other settings and occasions. You would certainly get the attention of any musicians present because not only are the songs and playing awesome, the music ALWAYS swings. It’s the hallmark of the style and it’s an infectious thing for sure. Here’s Romane playing his composition, Swing for Ninine at the Samois Festival in 1994 with violin virtuoso Florin Niculescu.

There is a great variety of mood and intensity on Ombre and Acoustic Spirit. Romane can dazzle you with unbelievable stuff like Legendé, Gypsy Fire or the funky country twang-influenced Paris Nashville, and then cool you out with really mellow stuff like Selene or the every easy bolero, Monticello, which is built off of the following E7M9/13 chord. Give it a whirl on your axe and feel the magic. I can’t get enough of that sound. (The numbers are “open” “6th fret” “7th fret”. You can bar the “6” group with your first finger and play the “7” group with your 2nd finger as a bar or any combination of your remaining fingers).

——————— 7 —
——————— 7 —
——————- 6 —–
——————- 6 —–
——————- 6 —–
————— 0 ———

Rhythms like boleros, waltzes, rhumbas, rhumba waltzes, bossas (bossa nova) all figure heavily in Gypsy Jazz and Romane’s catalog. They can be very difficult to play because they are usually done at pretty high-clip tempos. Because there is no improvisation to worry about (at least with the waltzes) they are a very good exercise for building up the picking technique and timing. Here is Romane with a very stylish jacket playing the well-known waltz, Mont. St. Genevieve.

So… like what you’re hearing so far? Intrigued? Already trying to learn Gypsy Jazz and hungry for more? Not interested in playing Gypsy Jazz but perhaps thinking some of those licks and runs are pretty cool? Well you could buy this DVD…it’s chock full of info and demonstration and even though Romane does not speak English, the DVD does have subtitles in three languages and a small booklet showing the important stuff. I think he either did two versions of this instructional DVD or there was extra footage because it is packaged under different names at a few different locations. As always, my advice is to buy any of this stuff from DJANGOBOOKS.COM if you are in the Americas or Asia and check with a comparable European dealer if you are in Europe or Africa. Some of the clips from this DVD are on You Tube, HERE. The embed option has been disabled so I can’t show them. This is not the whole DVD, but follow the You Tube links for the 3 chapters. The second set can be shown here but it has no subtitles. If you can follow along there is some more free learning to be had!

What I really like about Romane and all of the Gypsy players is that they are very generous with their knowledge and because they know so much, they are excellent teachers. The Acoustic Spirit CD shown above ships with the CD for listening and another CD that contains tabs and rhythm play-a-longs!! Who else does that? Seriously! And when I bought it at Virgin it was $14 or something. A total steal of a deal. If you are the ambitious sort you might want to add Romane’s L’Espirit Manouche to your collection. This awesome book contains every theoretical gem of an idea that you will ever need to be a pro guitar player in this style, or any style really. Though it offers no help with the very important picking technique, it does explore music theory and harmony in great detail while providing 14 of Romane’s songs as exercises and illustrations to the lessons. I do have to qualify this gushing with one criticism though and I really hate to do that but — There should have been a better translator brought on-board to help put Romane’s knowledge into English. The book is for an English audience and Romane has a virtual set of Encyclopedia Britannicas of musical knowledge in his brain. I am getting through it (a long off and on process) but there are sections that really try the patience of anyone attempting to figure out the major revelation that is supposed to be happening because the English phrasing just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it takes 2-3 goes or I skip the writing and just work on the songs. I’m still glad I bought the book and the more I learn from it and other sources, the more comfortable I am with it because I can ignore the writing and focus on the music.

Romane is at home in pretty much any situation as these last two clips illustrate. Above, he is playing with a big band on his really cool composition Opus De Clignancourt. In the midst of some great playing he breaks a string and hilarity ensues. The one below is from his new CD/DVD, Roots and Groove and features his composition, For Wes. There is a stripped-down duet of Romane doing this song with Stochelo on You Tube and the whole 35 minute show can be found on the Gypsy Jazz Masters CD/DVD that is reviewed at the top of the right column on my blog. Of course anything that Romane and Stochelo do is brilliant, but the Roots and Groove band turns this song into a whole other thing and it’s really smokin’ in my opinion. Romane is using a Stimer style pick-up which is a good move with the band he has with him in this situation. They are hot! The club is obviously really hot too…they are working up a sweat!

While Romane is always attempting new things, like many GJ artists he has a strong connection to TRADITION. His father was a very accomplished guitar player and so is his son, Richard Manetti. {HERE is a clip of father and son playing together…talk about bonding!} Aside from the familial, there is also a connection to the culture of the Manouche and the history of jazz, two branches of music and culture that have been intimately intertwined for the past 70+ years. It’s impossible for me to watch Romane, Stochelo or any of the others and not think that they create an environment that gets real close to the original guitar hero, Django Reinhardt and The Quintet of the Hot Club of France, or even people from a much earlier time who have propelled this musical lineage forward through many generations. I hear that in much of Romane’s music and while it is always interesting and sometimes thrilling to hear or see A TOTALLY NEW THING, there is something comfortable and life-sustaining in music and art that doesn’t disregard and pays homage to the vibrant sound and caravan spirit that has entertained people for generations.

Summer’s Almost Gone

Posted in This and That with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by theguitarcave

Summer’s almost gone but it was a wild and wacky one here at THE GUITAR CAVE. Summer in The City is usually a blast and there’s lots to do…food, fireworks, playing guitar out in nature, Coney Island rides and all kinds of other stuff. It was brutally hot some days — reminded me of a trip to Mexico I took in July one year — the sun was really killin’. Other days were pretty mellow with a very nice breeze and bright blue skies. This year I had a friend visiting from Japan, trying to get away from a heavy situation there and it was a really good break for her and fun for us NYC people. Japan has still not recovered from the earthquake and tsunami from March and as of this writing the strongest typhoon in years has just hit the country. It was a big relief for Mami to come to NYC and spend a whole lot of days not having to worry about blackouts and the possibility of radiated food. Besides doing social stuff I gave Mami English lessons a few times a week and I was really good at it! She writes for TV and the video game market in Japan so she is really quick on the uptake for languages/writing and it was a lot of fun putting the lessons together and watching her gain the confidence to go out and tackle NYC on her own. By the end of her visit she was going out of town on shopping trips! I also think doing that helped keep me focused on language and writing, not that this blog is going to make Thomas Pynchon nervous or keep j k Rowling up at night. I am really happy with how the blog has come together and I’m also happy with some of the improvements in my guitar playing, which I think have come about because this blog keeps me focused. There is a cache of new articles and other things in the works for the the future and I’d like to thank all of my readers for visiting. I am rapidly closing in on 1,000 views, which is nothing compared to many blogs, I know. But it takes some time to build a project like this and THE GUITAR CAVE is a very topic-specific place. The response to what I’ve done with it so far has been really great and I’m looking forward to getting it going again. The fact that I’m getting daily SPAM means the site is generating enough interest to capture the attention of people looking to flog a whole lot of crap nobody wants. SUCCESS! The article on Cab City Combo was one of the most viewed ever and after posting I had to take a few weeks off to refocus and re-energize.

One of the reasons I took some time off is that NYC has had it’s own violent and unpredictable natural events over the past month: record-breaking rains, an earthquake and Hurricane Irene. It’s pretty intense living through disaster-type situations — all of the frantic preparations, news bulletins, anticipation and then riding out whatever comes along. It brought to mind THE FOLLOWING SONG and a band I hadn’t thought of in years. You don’t get anymore 70s ROCK than REO Speedwagon and for a time their guitar player, Gary Richrath, was a regular feature in guitar/music magazines of the day. They were never a huge favorite of mine but they did have a few pretty rippin’ albums before they went all Top 40. (I used this version of the song because lead singer Kevin Cronin likes to do 20 minute song intros)

Personally, I think the winter storm from last December, which I ended up driving through en route back to the city, was a whole lot worse than Hurricane Irene and the local government was completely unprepared. It was definitely fun the next day if you were one of the lucky ones that made it home and didn’t have to go anywhere, but people actually died in the storm and from the subsequent inability of the Emergency Services to get to people who needed help. Mayor Bloomberg and Co. were determined not to get caught with their proverbial pants down again so the city was on full-alert for a couple of days before Hurricane Irene hit. It’s kind of weird being in that situation knowing something that could really mess you up is closing in hour by hour and the local and national media is completely thrilled for any kind of disaster. It wasn’t really scary but I don’t live by a river and close proximity to water is not a good thing in a hurricane. Considering that the Monday before Irene I had just returned from the gym and was finishing a shower when I noticed all of my furniture shaking…BANG!! Earthquake. Holy Crap! We never have earthquakes. It wasn’t a big one, and I’ve felt them before but it’s not common or expected. Just another thing to roll with. The Friday after the earthquake and day before the Hurricane all of the stores were completely mobbed as you can tell from the pic of the line at Trader Joe’s. Mami was really lucky that she flew back to Japan right before the Hurricane blew into town, but, as it turns out, Japan has had it’s own massive storms over the last few weeks so like Wez said in The Road WarriorYou! You can run but you can’t hide.

NYC was incredibly lucky this time around compared to other sections of the country, especially sections of New Jersey, upstate New York, Vermont and parts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. These areas were hit really hard and still haven’t come back and won’t for some time. One interesting musician-type story is former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach, who lost a whole lot of stuff in the wake of the storm.

In the 2 decades I have lived in this home, there has never been a single drop of water in the basement or anywhere else in the structure. Now Irene has overflowed the reservoir adjacent to my house. The surging waters have snapped the bridge in half next to my house & sent the bridge straight into my garage, knocking the house off of its foundation.

The basement that has been dry for over 2 decades is now overflowing with water & I am not even allowed to start pumping the water out due to fears of electrocution. Original Skid Row & KISS fans, I have bad news for you. Gone are irreplaceable items, such as my KISS Gargoyles from the 1979 tour. KISS pinball machine. Skid Row master tapes, video & audio, concerts, master tapes from Oh Say Can You Scream etc. Boxes & boxes of one of a kind Skid Row memorabilia, from the first tour to our last, all stuff I collected on the road that no one else had. I had a library in the basement with every single magazine that had Skid Row on the cover. This library took up a big part of the basement. All of this is lost now. We will salvage what we can of course. But how I wish there was a reason to do a box set or something before Hurricane Irene hit. Nobody cared. Now it’s too late. Don’t know what you got till it’s gone, indeed.

While there were some downed trees in the neighborhood, the area around THE GUITAR CAVE was spared any serious damage. The day the storm hit was my very good friend Ozzy’s birthday and I made Artisanal (haha) Pizza… Mmmm ZA! Looks pretty good don’t it? I learned how to make pizza a long time ago but hadn’t put one together for a long time. Almost EVERYTHING was closed by noon in NYC that day and our neighborhood was completely dead except for some bars being open. There was nothing on the TV except team coverage of the hurricane and that got really old after about an hour. After dinner was over we went to the street below her apartment and watched the rain. There were a whole lot of people walking around without umbrellas and rain gear bellowing at the top of their lungs. It was pretty weird…It’s just rain you screwheads, gee whiz. In the aftermath it was kind of funny and dumb that people were complaining that some of the local hardware stores would not take returns on the emergency items people bought prior to the storm. HELLO! Why would you think they would? “Oh the hurricane wasn’t bad and the power didn’t go off so I don’t need these batteries and candles.” People can be really silly sometimes.

So now it’s a new month with 4 days of rain in the forecast, another hurricane to the south and definite uncertainty ahead. But that’s ok. I’m totally re-energized and ready to get back at it. Coming soon are the previously promised posts on Letch Patrol, more on Chris Spedding, a more in-depth look at the Schertler David Amplifier and also a profile on one of my favorite Gypsy Jazz players, Romane. Coming this week is a look at what happened at Gibson guitars and why you might want to pay attention to that story and all of the details surrounding it. Thanks again for all of your support!


Mami Shiraishi
Ozzy Inoue
The Guitar Cave

Stochelo Rosenberg

Posted in Players with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by theguitarcave

Stochelo Rosenberg

Stochelo Rosenberg is one of the top Gypsy Jazz guitar players of the day and is also certainly one of my favorites. He embodies everything one thinks of when considering a guitar player in this style of music; brilliant rhythm and timing, ferocious soloing abilities, great compositional qualities and an endless stream of musical ideas with which to improvise. He comes from a very musical family and learned from his father and uncles, and his two cousins, Nonnie (bass) and Nous’che (rhythm guitar master) are the other members of The Rosenberg Trio. Based in the Netherlands TRT are probably, along with Bireli Lagrene, most responsible for the popularity of Gypsy Jazz today. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other great players who are popular, especially in Europe, but TRT have established themselves world-wide as premier ambassadors of this style of music.

Stochelo has said many times that he learned to play by copying the great Django Reinhardt and it shows. While he has certainly expanded himself beyond being a mere imitator, he is very adept at capturing the vibe, ambiance and approach that Django pioneered. I’m sure there isn’t a Django side that Stochlo hasn’t internalized and you could probably wake him up in the middle of the night, force out onto his lawn, give him a guitar and make him play any of them, and he would be able to do it. Blindfolded. In 30 degree weather. Once again, almost all of the really great players in this style start at a very early age and grow up in a community where there is always music, and musical elders who can provide all of the assistance necessary to become a great musician. That isn’t everything though, as with any artist, the drive, discipline and will must be there in order to progress to the point of greatness. Aside from that determination, I find there are five important attributes found in all of the great players.

Stochelo quote

1. Tremendous picking skills — In order to play hyper-virtuoso lines on an acoustic guitar, one must be able to pick (or finger style if you are Paco De Lucia/Sylvain Luc) like a demon. This isn’t something haphazard—THERE ARE RULES. Classical guitar players spend a great deal of time in their early developmental stages just getting the right-hand (if they are right-handed guitar players) into an automated system of where to go and what to do—when. So it is with Gypsy Jazz. They do not just alternate pick their way through the songs but use the “rest stroke” technique combined with extra down strokes and alternate picking depending on the type of line they are playing. While there is not a long list of “what do I do here” moves, there are a few that are specific and must be practiced intensely for a significant amount of time in order to play at blinding tempos with a good tone. While many people are capable of playing fast, playing with good tone is very difficult and of course depends on other factors including guitar, strings, weather conditions etc. But using the rest stroke actually turns the pick into a “small hammer” (Romane) which gives Gypsy Jazz players volume, great tone, and a very percussive effect when picking.

2. Ninja Fretboard Knowledge There is no doubt about it — you must know where everything is on the neck and I mean KNOW — the same way you can find your way from your bed to the bathroom in the pitch dark middle of the night, drunk out of your mind with your hands tied behind your back and headphones on. Joe Pass stressed the importance of this because you can always play faster, better, and easier if you know where you want to go next. Using the above bathroom metaphor, imagine if you didn’t know or weren’t entirely sure where your bathroom was, but you really had to go and there were 400 people in your house at the time. That’s kind of what it’s like to play Gypsy Jazz in front of people. But if the route to the bathroom is completely internalized, and you have alternate routes—in case of fire, plumbing failure, a crowd, or just to impress people, that’s even better. I have already posted on how knowing how arpeggios relate to the chords you are playing against and playing with 2 fingers can simplify the fretboard so you can play in a variety of positions all over the neck. It is also helpful in breaking out of the “box-position” thing that many people do. Stochelo can play runs from the 1st position to the 5th(12-15 fret) at 150 miles an hour. Once you learn how to tie all of the arpeggios together, while you may not be playing at that speed, you certainly will have increased your knowledge of the fretboard and how your notes relate to the music. This means not just the OBVIOUS notes, but all of the not so obvious notes that work if they are played and phrased correctly (chord/note substitutions). Mainstream jazz players are very adept at this and some have genius qualities in how they improvise on the fly in performance. Gypsy jazz musicians are likewise very adept at this and the thinking behind it is simultaneously very complex, but simplified to the point where it is almost instinctive. People have asked Bireli Lagrene questions like “what do you play over dominant chords?” and he will reply “what is a dominant chord?”. Of course he knows what it is and how it functions. What he is saying is that all of the naming conventions and the “this is what I do here” ideas don’t matter.

3. Awesome Bag of Tricks and Licks Guitar and guitar playing has changed, evolved and expanded in scope since the days of Django Reinhardt. Though he was a total master and his playing and compositions sound fresh and modern today, there are more tools for performing and recording and a wider range of influences and styles a guitar player can call upon to achieve his or her dreams. Many jazz and Gypsy Jazz players employ licks and theory from other styles, the blues for example. Stochelo Rosenberg has a wide variety of blues licks at his disposal and the great thing about a blues lick, like your basic arpeggio; you can alter it by changing a few of the notes, the timing or the phrasing to play something that ranges from similar to completely different—over the same phrase or somewhere else in the song. Blues players do this all of the time and jazz players usually build on simple blues lines and chord patterns to make them more complex. He also has modern-sounding licks and some that are based in the style of Paco de Lucia and other flamenco players, and is obviously a fan of flamenco music. He also has a really, really cool vibrato technique. It can be very subtle, mysterious and soft on ballads and very sustaining on more uptempo songs. Personally, I think he has some of the best acoustic vibrato going and that combined with a very strong and stylish ability to bend notes effectively has a lot to do with why he has a very signature sound .

4. Compositional Approach to Playing and Improvising Ultimately, the goal is to be able to construct solos and improvisations that stand on their own as pieces of music. That doesn’t sound controversial, but each person will have different criteria for what constitutes a musical statement. What I like about Stochelo’s playing is the energy and phrasing; he is the Eddie Van Halen of modern gypsy jazz. The speed and fluidity of his lines, all of which make perfect musical sense when slowed down, combined with his great sense of timing and rhythm make for a very exciting musical statement. He is also capable of playing very emotional ballads and has a very good sense of feel that one can find in great jazz, blues and popular music players. Because he also composes his own music, some of it very popular and well-known, like For Sephora*, Gipsy Summer, Double Jeu, Last Minute Swing, Made for Isaac and many others including various waltzes and solo improvisation pieces, there is always a beautiful (my favorite word) ATMOSPHERE to his playing. This doesn’t have to be a fast lick or a complicated theoretical part. In the long run it comes down to playing the perfect part for every measure in the song. Time, focused practice, experience, imagination and thinking of the music (yours or a cover/standard) conceptually will eventually result in an infinite amount of options at your disposal and the ability to make use of the right one at the right time.

5. Excellent Rhythm and Timing While I’ve listed this at number 5, it could just as easily be the most important aspect of playing to focus on, especially if you are a player who doesn’t play with others very much or does not practice with a metronome or along with recorded music. Having a good sense of time is so important and it is definitely something I have to continuously work at. When playing a “chop-heavy” style like gypsy jazz or metal, the difference between someone who can shred really beautiful and powerful lines, and someone who is just wanking away on scales or arpeggios, is usually defined by how the lines are phrased and timed. All of the gypsy jazz pros advocate practicing with a metronome and creating lines with a sense of feeling, dynamics and emotion. While playing along with recorded music is good, it’s also important, in order to develop good improvising skills, to practice your routine (arps, lines, licks, comping, rhythm guitar) with a metronome so you are imbued with a strong sense of where and how to place notes and chords against a beat. This isn’t as easy as it sounds unless you are already very accomplished. You can play very well alone, and then get together with a rhythm section and in front of people and find out just how lacking your skills are. Some people need that awareness to force them to focus on this aspect and I count myself as one of those people. The good thing is that even after just a few weeks playing with a metronome every day and learning to relax when you are playing, you will see definite improvement.

* This is a great version of For Sephora. It looks to me like Stochelo has a little bit of trouble getting started, but by the final chorus he has even gotten a smile and a nod from Nous’che, the rhythm player, who has seen Stochelo do this song a million times. I hear some Al Di Meola stylings in this solo (Mediterranean Sundance). Do you?

A Guitar Master soundchecking/warming up

Stochelo now has his own Online Academy and I would encourage anyone interested in playing Gypsy Jazz to take the free tour and see what they have to offer. Living in the internet age is amazing because you can study with a guy you would never be able to hang with one on one. He is a very in-demand performer and, of course, many people would love to be his students.

1. Interview with Stochelo Rosenberg. Stochelo Rosenberg Part 1. 2005. Page 127.