Lulo Reinhardt, currently in Australia as part of his world tour, is recognised as one of the world's foremost gypsy guitarists. Grand-nephew of jazz legend Django Reinhardt, and nephew of violin master Shnuckenack Reinhardt, Lulo's music combines Latin, jazz and gypsy swing with elements of flamenco, tango and bossa nova.

Lulo Reinhardt spoke to Australian Stage's Brad Syke.

Lulo ReinhardtAnecdotally, at least, it would seem hard to have a famous father. You have a monstrously iconic grand-uncle, in Django. Has that made life easier, harder, or both? Do you ever get tired of hearing his name?

It makes life easier because everyone knows Django Reinhardt. I don't have a problem with hearing Django because I have gypsy swing inside me.

Where does the musical resemblance (if there is one) between you and he start and finish?
Django developed gypsy swing, of course, but in his last years he started taking from different styles such as bebop & latin music. I feel my latin swing style is a further development. My music has become a combination of swing & latin, among other styles such as flamenco & African.

Is it Django that has most inspired and informed your career? If not, who? Who else?
Of course Django is my main inspiration. My father. My uncle Dawelie. My cousin Mike. The whole Reinhardt family. Later on, Paco De Lucia & the Gypsy Kings.

Two of your 5-piece world-touring band are Aussies. Who are they, how did you meet and what's so special about them?
Daniel Weltlinger, on violin, is from Sydney. I was performing at an exposition in Sydney in 2002 & met him. I've enjoyed playing with him ever since. We've played a lot, all around the world. He's a fine musician & we've always felt very comfortable playing together.

Sean Mackenzie, on piano, is also from Sydney. We met around the same time. We were recording an album for a German producer in Australia. Sean & I share an energy together that we both thrive on.

And the others?
Uli Kramer from Germany has been playing with me for 18 years on various projects. We're longtime friends.

Harald Becher, also from Germany, has been playing with me for 5 years on various projects.

The mould, apparently, wasn't thrown away when Django passed. He was almost inarguably the finest gypsy jazz guitarist that ever lived. You seem like a veritable reincarnation. Do you believe such things are possible? Do you believe in a musical gene?
No, I don't believe in reincarnation. Yes, I do believe in a musical gene. Music is strong in our family, but without talent & hard work those genes cannot serve you.

Of course, you've been restless: being possibly the greatest living gypsy guitarist of your own generation hasn't been enough. You've experimented with, and interpolated, numerous other influences. Tell us about those, if you would.
I'm not the greatest living guitarist: there are many & have been many. I'm well-known as a gypsy rhythm guitarist. Latin music has been a great inspiration for me. Flamenco, samba & bossa nova have played a major role in developing my style. I try to put everything into my music.

When did you first pick up a guitar? How did you learn? How would you characterise your relationship to the instrument?

I started playing at 5. I learnt from my father, Bawo. My father taught for the first 2 or 3 years. After, I started teaching myself. After my family, my music & the guitar are my life.

Can you go a day without playing?

No. Never.

You joined the Mike Reinhardt Sextet at 12. Tell us about that experience, and Mike. And about the numerous other incorrigibly musical Reinhardts besides.
Mike is the only person after Django who has the same energy as Django. The best right hand in the world. Noone can play like him. I played rhythm guitar & bass with him for more than 30 years. This is why my music is so rhythmical. My father also played with Mike for 20 years. After that I formed a band with my father & cousin called I Gitanos. We played Gypsy-goes-Latin. We sing in the language of the Gypsies: Romanes. The band was really famous in the 90s.

It would be remiss to talk to you only with regard to your playing. How important is composing to you?
Composing is most important to me as I wish to only play my music.

What can we expect, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Django's birth, this year?
After the Australian tour, as my gift to Django, I'll record a new album of original compositions.

Describe your achievements & aspirations for The Lulo Reinhardt Project.
I started my Latin project in 2002. I recorded Project Number 1 &, later, Project Number 2. In 2006, I met the boss of Saga Music, from San Francisco, at the Music Fair in Frankfurt. They were producing Django Reinhardt model guitars. I played the guitars. He asked me my name & straight away I was signed as an endorsee. Saga Music proposed to build my own signature guitar, of which I'm very proud. From this time my style changed again from purely Latin back to Gypsy Swing. Shortly after, I performed at the famous NAMM show in Los Angeles for Saga Music. I returned to Germany & recorded the first of my Latin Swing projects, with 12 original songs. Latin Swing was born.

Have you found any new sounds in Australia?
I love the music I make with my German & Australian friends. I'm a great fan of the music indigenous Australians create. So much so that in September I'll be traveling to the centre, to perform & work with indigenous Australians, with a final performance at Hermannsburg. It'll be recorded & presented as a documentary.

Lulo Reinhardt is currently touring throughout Australia. Further details»

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