I made this video on my iPhone on the evening of December 4, 2015 when I went to lift the spirits of Jimmy Luttrell, my guitar mentor. I have long regarded Jimmy as a musical genius and value him and his presence in my life. This video has over 3 million views now after I posted it on facebook! I have the video on my YouTube channel now. We are all wishing for the best outcome for Jimmy. I have heard from people on every continent! Europe, Asia, Great Britain, it’s quite remarkable the reach and power of music. Thank you, this has been a George Cole minute…
Written by Dylan Muhlberg, Grateful Web posting 7/20/2015
Bluegrass music is deeply integrated into American musical culture and roots. Yet bluegrass isn’t a pure form. It’s an amalgamation of many preceding styles and individual root systems. None have revealed more about the instrumental beginnings of bluegrass than David “Dawg” Grisman. His mandolin virtuosity was simply too adventurous to not stray from the vein of Kentucky-born grass. Grisman studied and embraced the music of French violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt whose Hot Club De France band was one of the earliest string instrument only jazz bands. Grisman blended bluegrass, various Latin styles, and European string folk establishing his own new hybrid, which he coined “Dawg Music.” Decades later, so many brilliant ensembles with dozens of live and studio recordings are testament to Grisman’s valiant musical legacy. We can learn much about the past from this oddly contemporary string fusion music. Grisman’s Quintet began performing around 1975 and has continued playing Dawg Music every since.
Grisman’s core static lineup since the early 1990s is built up of fierce flautist Matt Eakle and bassist Jim Kerwin, with percussionist/drummer George Marsh around for most of the ride. Newest to the group is Bay Area acoustic guitar wiz George Cole and completing Grisman’s sextet is fiddler Chad Manning. While the Sextet has performed steadily for years this July was Grisman’s first fully focused mini-tour with the Sextet since he established his strictly traditional institution David Grisman’s Bluegrass Experience. While this lineup has gained plenty of recognition with some supporting accolades, the “Quintet” (aka. Sextet) is the source of pure Dawg music, the form that Grisman is deeply revered for. California fans were in freak frenzy when Sonoma State University announced they would host a triple headliner bluegrass afternoon at their gorgeous Green Music Center. The woodwork in the double-balcony venue is stunning. The pew style seating in the hall carries a warmly classic vibe and the outdoor lawn seating behind is well graded for perfect sightlines from the far back. The lineup of artists is diverse and exciting. California live music junkies should put this country venue on their bucket list.
Last Sunday Sonoma State hosted Dawg Day Afternoon. Supporting acts included the legendary Del McCoury Band and The Earls of Leicester. McCoury’s career spans more than half a century. As lead vocalist and guitarist of Bill Mornoe’s Bluegrass Boys he broke onto the scene. Grisman has collaborated frequently with McCoury in the since the seventies. Del & Dawg is always a special occasion.
Earls of Lecister is a Flatt/Scruggs acknowledgment and brainchild of resonator guitarist Jerry Douglas. The all-star prototype experiment turned renowned touring act recreates the musicality of Foggy Mountain Boys, the quintessential classic bluegrass band. While their opening set was short and sweet, it was packed full of Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs staples such as “Till The End of the Worlds Rolls ‘Round,” and “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” The added bonus is the presence of Jerry Douglas’ howling Dobro licks and enchanting leadership. It’s been a few years since their first performance at Rockygrass in Lyons, Colorado and the Earls won’t be going anywhere.
Del McCoury Band’s exceptional follow up set felt soulful and purposed. Del’s legacy is so far spanning notwithstanding his exceedingly gifted family band of Robbie McCoury (banjo), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Alan Bartrum (upright bass). Del’s vocals were as strong as his early days collaborating with Grisman. Particularly outstanding was a shimmering a capella “Working On A Building,” and the obligatorily requested “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” They played a distinct rendition of “I Need More Time,” off of their newest album The Streets of Baltimore. It partnered enjoyably with the other classics. Del’s sincere affection and interaction with the crowd exposed the seventy six year old as a timeless artifact of bluegrass. His sons and nephew uphold the musical legacy with their individual talents and heartfelt vigor alongside Del.
When David Grisman Sextet took the stage after a brief intermission the audience quickly reassembled as a seemingly impromptu shred-and-respond unfolded onstage. It was clear from there that those in attendance were in for some deep and dirty Dawg music. Grisman’s chemistry with these versatile virtuosos was clear as his newest Sextet worked through the nuanced genre fusion of his original compositions. Dawg music makes it unnecessary to play the genre compartmentalization game. Flautist Matt Eakle drew roars of applause regularly though he was noticeably lower in the mix than the string instruments. Grisman noted particularly his longstanding friendship with drummer/percussionist George Marsh who is additionally a Professor of Music at Sonoma State. Chad Manning’s youthful flair and musical robustness triggered an equaled response in his elder band mates. A Dawg alumnus is synonymous to expertise. George Cole’s multifaceted techniques made him a tremendous fit to follow in the footsteps of past Quintet/Sextet guitarists such as Grant Gordy or Enrique Coria. He exhibited flair and ease scaling through the vast stylistic demands of Grisman’s originals.
The centerpiece of the Sextet’s set came with their newest composition entitled “Dawg’s Bounce,” for which he broke out a mini banjo. It was a tad Euro-swingy while equally campy with Eakle breaking out a kazoo as his instrument of choice. The novelty of seeing Grisman rip a mandolin-sized banjo was a rarity indeed. The finale of Grisman’s set saw every musician from The Earls of Leicester, Del McCoury Band and the Sextet out onstage at once. It was a mighty moment as the banjoists, mandolinists, guitarists, and fiddlers all joined in their given orchestral sections. The encore was testament to the flexibility of string music and the talents that Grisman had gathered for his Dawg Day Afternoon.
While Grisman’s touring schedule sees him mostly with the Bluegrass Experience, it’s another bright project worth the devotion. Del McCoury and the boys perform more frequently than most and can be caught extensively on tour. The Earls of Leicster will be at Lyons Colorado’s Rockygrass Festival this coming weekend alongside Grisman and McCoury in case you missed Dawg Day Afternoon. Thanks to all three bands and to Sonoma State University for hosting this monstrous string orgy, something that Northern California fans don’t get so regularly all on one bill.
A Recap (lots of firsts for yours truly)…
Last month was an outstanding month for me, musically and otherwise.
A great time was had bay all at our third annual Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival! It was four nights of music, full houses of people and some firsts for yours truly. The first night of the festival Hot Club of Cowtown kicked things off in fine texas fashion. The Cowtown show sold out the Freight and Salvage and HCoC brought the house down with their own concoction of Western Swing meets Gypsy jazz.
The next night of the festival I performed my first concert as the new guitarist for the David Grisman Sextet. Playing “Dawg’s” music is a dream come true for me. What a great band we are bringing to the masses starting right about… now! Jim Kerwin on Bass, Matt Eakle on Flute, George Marsh on drums and Chad Manning on violin. It’s a powerful and precise band of true professionals. I’m truly honored to be playing David Grisman’s music with him. I could not be more happy and excited to be a part his band. Stepping in the metaphorical footprints of some of the greatest guitarists of all time is a joyful and humbling experience. Tony Rice, Jerry Garcia, Mark O’Connor and Frank Vignola have all taken us for a ride in the David Grisman Sextet and now it’s my turn to show what I can do. How cool is that!
I also played my first concert as guitarist in Mark O’Connor’s “Hot Swing Trio” last month… I can assure you that playing those tunes at mind boggling tempos was an “out of body experience” and one I am looking forward to again in the spring.
Back to the festival! On Saturday December 28th the unbelievable Turtle Island Quartet played some of the most electrifying music that has ever graced the stage of the Freight and Salvage. How four guys can sound like an entire Orchestra is something I am going to ponder for quite awhile.
On Sunday December 29th I played my first show with the new George Cole Quintet. Special guest David Grisman brought his “A” game to the table and blew people’s minds with his fierce and unmistakeable artistry. To hear “Dawg” play on Sheila’s Waltz was the coolest thing and a real highlight for the band and me. Mads Tolling on violin is much more than just our very own modern day Paganini, his sound and approach to the violin might be rooted in the past but the sound is so modern it plays tricks with the mind… at least it did with my mind! On clarinet Sheldon Brown‘s melody’s and lines created a musical palette that I cannot wait to sample again, the guy is simply the best in the business at this time and I had no idea how much I missed Clarinet since the great Jim Rothermel passed away a couple of years back. Kaeli Earle as always charmed the crowd and made quite a few new friends with her wonderful vocals and bass work. Last but not least is my good friend and partner in six-string crime the fantastic Javier Jimenez from Madrid Spain. Let me tell everybody that was not there at the fest a thing or two about Javi’s guitar playing, the guy is fantastic! I have heard them all but Javi is really one to watch and listen for!
So thanks to everybody that came to this wonderful festival and we look forward to seeing you all again next year. It might have been a lot of work but well worth it and so much musical fun!
As for me I am excited to hit the road with my new group. I am really looking forward to playing guitar for David Grisman and am really stoked about my new partnership with Eastman Guitars http://www.eastmanguitars.com/.
That’s all for now and frankly I think that’s more than enough as I need to go practice etc… Take care!
Bay Area arts news, Dec. 12
He was a rocker, whose associates includedJoe Walsh and Chris Isaak and who taught Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong from a tender age. Then he went to hear Bireli Lagrene, the dazzling French Gypsy guitarist dubbed the heir apparent to his illustrious Romany predecessor, Django Reinhardt, atYoshi’s a decade ago.
“It had such an effect on me I couldn’t talk for a day and half. He was so good, and the music so fresh – to hear it live – I was left wondering and weeping,” Cole says. Equipoise regained, he immediately sold his electric guitars, amps and “gadgets” and purchased a 1934 Selmer D-hole steel string guitar of the sort master Reinhardt played in the originalHot Club of France with fiddler Stephane Grappelli (Wikipedia’s Selmer guitar entry has a photo of boyish Cole playing the instrument).
“I had a new purpose,” says Cole, 59, talking by handless cell the other morning while motoring to a rehearsal at the Petaluma home of the great mandolinist David Grisman, with whom Cole performs for the first time next month during the Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, which Cole directs. Turtle Island Quartet and Hot Club of Cowtown are also on the bill.
On Wednesday, Cole returns to Yoshi’s with his band for the second annual “Holiday for Swingers” show, serving up a mix of seasonal tunes by Vince Guaraldi and the MJQ, “White Christmas,” “The One That Got Away” and Edith Piaf‘s well-roasted French chestnut “La Vie en Rose.”
“They’re both aces. It’s a lot of firepower,” Cole says.
As a kid growing up in Richmond, Cole dreamed of playing in a Beatles-like pop band. Instead, he found himself playing the funky music of James Brown and the Ohio Players with his African American neighbors. He cut his teeth playing rock ‘n’ roll in honky-tonky joints like the Top Hat Club in Vallejo and Mi Piaci Pizza in Pinole.
“I’m a musical mongrel,” says Cole, who never expected to specialize in the music of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. “I always liked the music my parents listened to. Now I’m out of the closet about it.”
For more information, go to www.yoshis.com.
Jesse Hamlin is a freelance writer. E-mail: email@example.com
I’m honored to be the curator and director of the annual Esprit de Django et Stéphane Festival held each January at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Django and Stéphane… here’s excerpts from Wikipedia about two incredible survivors, artists, and musicians.
Grappelli was born in France at Paris’ Hôpital Larboisière, and was christened with the name Stéfano. His Italian father, marquess Ernesto Grappelli, was born in Alatri, Lazio, and his French mother, Anna Emilie Hanoque, was from St-Omer. Ernesto was a scholar who taught Italian, sold translations, and wrote articles for local journals.Stéfano’s mother died when he was four, leaving his father to care for him. Though he was living in France whenWorld War I broke out, Ernesto was still an Italian citizen, and was drafted to fight in 1914. Ernesto had written an article about dancer Isadora Duncan during his time as a journalist, and turned to her when he needed someone to care for his son. Stéfano enrolled in Duncan’s dance school at the age of six, and it was here that he learned to love French Impressionist music. With the war encroaching, Duncan was forced to flee the country and turn over her château to be used as a military hospital. Ernesto, having nowhere else to turn to, entrusted Stéfano to a Catholic orphanage. Grappelli is quoted “I look back at it as an abominable memory…The Place was supposed to be under the eye of the government, but the government looked elsewhere. We slept on the floor, and often were without food. There were many times when I had to fight for a crust of bread,” and claimed that he once tried eating flies as a means of easing his hunger. Stéfano stayed at the orphanage until his father returned from the war in 1918 and brought him to live in an apartment in Barbès. Ernesto was sickened by all things Italian after serving his time in the military, so, on July 28, 1919, he brought Stéfano to city hall, pulled two witnesses off the street, and had his son nationalized as a Frenchman. Stéfano was changed to Stéphane.
Stéphane began playing the violin at age 12 after his father pawned his suit to buy him a three-quarter size violin. Ernesto sent his son to proper violin lessons, but Stéphane preferred to learn on his own. Grappelli said that ““My first lessons were in the streets, watching how other violinists played…The first violinist that I saw play was at the Barbès métro station, sheltered under the overhead metro tracks. When I asked how one should play, he exploded in laugher. I left, completely humiliated with my violin under my arm.” After learning independently for a brief period of time, Ernesto enrolled Stéphane at the Conservatoire de Paris on December 31, 1920 where he would learn music theory, ear-training, and solfeggio; Stéphane graduated in 1923 with a second-tier medal.
At the age of 15, Grappelli began busking full-time to support himself financially. Grappelli’s playing caught the attention of an elderly violinist who invited him to accompany silent films in the pit orchestra at the Théâtre Gaument. Stéphane played here for six hours every day over the course of a two-year period. During orchestra breaks, Grappelli would visit a local brasserie, Le Boudon, where he would listen to songs from an American proto-jukebox. It was here that Grappelli was first introduced to jazz music. Stéphane was playing in the orchestra at the Ambassador in 1928 when Paul Whiteman headlined with Joe Venuti. Jazz violinists were rare, and, though Venuti played mainly commercial jazz themes and seldom improvised, Grappelli was intrigued by his bowing when he played Louis Armstrong‘s “Dinah.”This led Stéphane to begin developing his own jazz-influenced play style.
Grappelli was living with a classically trained violinist named Michel Warlop, and, while Warlop admired Stéphane’s jazzy playing, Grappelli envied Warlop’s income.After experimenting with piano, he gave up violin, choosing simplicity, new sound, and paid gigs over familiarity. Stéphane began playing piano in a big band led by a musician who went by the name of Grégor. After a night of drinking in 1929, Grégor learned that Grappelli had originally played violin. Grégor borrowed a violin and had Stéphane improvise over “Dinah.” Grégor was delighted by Grappelli’s jazz playing, and insisted that he begin playing violin once more.
In 1930, Grégor ran into financial trouble and was involved in a deadly automobile accident that forced him to flee to South America to avoid arrest. Grégor’s band reunified as a true jazz ensemble under the leadership of pianist Alain Romans and saxophonist Ekyan. It was while playing with this band that Stéphane first metDjango Reinhardt in 1931. Django told Grappelli that he was looking for a violinist such as himself to play with, and invited him to play at the caravan he was living in. Though the two played for hours that afternoon, their commitments to their respective bands prevented them from pursuing a career together. Three years later, in 1934, the two encountered each other at Claridge’s, and it was then that their partnership truly began. Pierre Nourry, the secretary of the Hot Club de France invited Reinhardt and Grappelli to form the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Joseph Reinhardt and Roger Chaput joining Django on guitar, and Louis Vola on bass.
Jean “Django” Reinhardt was born 23 January 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, into a family of Manouche Romani descent. His father’s name was Jean Eugene Weiss, but he used the alias “Jean-Baptiste Reinhard” on the birth certificate to hide from French military conscription. His mother, Laurence Reinhardt, was a dancer. The birth certificate mentions: « Jean Reinhart, son of Jean Baptiste Reinhart, artist, and Laurence Reinhart, housewife, domiciled in Paris ». Reinhardt’s nickname “Django”, in the Romani language, means “I awake.” Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani (Gypsy) encampments close to Paris, playing banjo, guitar and violin from an early age. His family made cane furniture for a living, but included several keen amateur musicians.
Reinhardt was attracted to music at an early age, playing the violin at first. 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. His first known recordings (in 1928) were of him playing the banjo. During this period he was influenced by two older gypsy musicians, banjoist Gusti Mahla and guitarist Jean “Poulette” Castro. By age 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 age 18 in Saint-Ouen, Seine-Saint-Denis, Reinhardt was injured in a fire which 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 fourth and fifth 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 fourth and fifth 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.
The years between 1929 and 1933 were formative for Reinhardt. One development was his abandonment of the banjo-guitar in favour of the guitar. He also first heard American jazz during this period, when a man called Emile Savitry played him a number of records from his collection: he was particularly impressed with Louis Armstrong, whom he called “my brother”. Shortly afterwards he made the acquaintance of a young violinist with very similar musical interests—Stéphane Grappelli. In the absence of paid work in their radical new music, the two would jam together, along with a loose circle of other musicians. Finally, Reinhardt would acquire his first Selmer guitar in the mid-1930s. The volume and expressiveness of the instrument were to become an integral part of his style.
Reinhardt and Grappelli
In 1934, Hot Club de France secretary Pierre Nourry invited Reinhardt and Parisian violinist Stéphane Grappelli to form the “Quintette du Hot Club de France” with Reinhardt’s brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitar, and Louis Vola on bass.Occasionally Chaput was replaced by Reinhardt’s best friend and fellow Gypsy Pierre “Baro” Ferret. Vocalist Freddy Taylorparticipated in a few songs, such as “Georgia On My Mind” and “Nagasaki“. Jean Sablon was the first singer to record with Django, (more than 30 songs from 1933). They also used their guitars for percussive sounds, as they had no true percussion section. The Quintette du Hot Club de France (in some of its versions at least) was one of the few well-known jazz ensembles composed only of stringed instruments.
In Paris on 14 March 1933, Reinhardt recorded two takes each of “Parce-que je vous aime” and “Si, j’aime Suzy”, vocal numbers with lots of guitar fills and guitar support, using three guitarists along with an accordion lead, violin, and bass. In August of the following year recordings were also made with more than one guitar (Joseph Reinhardt, Roger Chaput, and Django), including the first recording by the Quintette. In both years, it should be noted, the great majority of their recordings featured a wide variety of horns, often in multiples, piano, and other instruments. Nonetheless, the all-string format is the one most often adopted by emulators of the Hot Club sound.
Reinhardt also played and recorded with many American jazz musicians such as Adelaide Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart (who later stayed in Paris), and participated in a jam-session and radio performance with Louis Armstrong. Later in his career he played with Dizzy Gillespie in France. Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France used the Selmer Maccaferri, the first commercially available guitars with a cutaway and later with an aluminium-reinforced neck. In 1937, American jazz singer Adelaide Hall opened a nightclub in Montmartre with her husband Bert Hicks, naming it ‘La Grosse Pomme.’ She entertained there nightly and hired the Quintette du Hot Club de France as one of the house bands at the club. Also in the neighborhood was the artistic salonR-26, at which Reinhardt and Grappelli performed regularly as they further developed their unique musical style.
Headed to Santa Ynez early on Saturday… performing at an event to benefit Santa Ynez Valley Charter School. Surprise request to back up
Loggins & Messina on a little tune called “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. That’ll be after we wow the room with some Gypsy-jazz and Uptown Swing! On Sunday we’ll be rolling into the Sculpterra Winery to perform a set for Songwriter’s At Play. Planning on making a warm day HOT with great music, good people…
Headed to Santa Ynez early on Saturday… performing at an event to benefit Santa Ynez Valley Charter School. Surprise request to back up
Loggins and Messina
It’s been a long time coming and now I have a new site. Check it out… the calendar with upcoming dates, sign up for the newsletter, find out about booking a show.