Left – Les Doigts de l'Homme
Before last night, I didn't really know a lot about Gypsy Jazz music. What I did know, or thought I knew, were images invoked by Hollywood stereotyping at its best. This meant I arrived at the Brisbane Gypsy Jazz Festival expecting long hair, fiddles and a roaring campfire to dance around. Over the course of the next few hours I learnt a lot about the music which, yes, did involve some performers with longer hair and also some fiddles (sadly, and I presume because of OH&S, there was no campfire dancing) but also travels far beyond that initial, romantic gypsy image.
From first act Les Doigts de l'Homme, I learnt that Gypsy Jazz musicians can be funny, really and truly funny, and at the same time poignant and touchingly earnest. The quartet's music celebrated love, loss, life and the wandering plight of the gypsy, with three acoustic guitars ripping through raucous melodies and pausing intimately for moments of beautifully intricate quietness. Backed up by the ever-droll double bass their music drew the audience in from the first moment, letting up nearly two hours later with the audience cheering for the supreme talent and passion for music on display.
The second act Loulou Djine awed me with the power music has to communicate beyond language; for while their songs were sung in French, their stories were universal. A very different style of music to Les Doigts de l'Homme, Loulou Djine incorporated drums, electric guitars and violins, a clarinet and a piano accordion to back their energetic, bellowing vocals. As I sat and wished once more for flames to dance around, it was clear that their music was affecting many of the audience, with feet, heads, hands and hearts tapping along.
One more thing I learnt about Gypsy Jazz is that caffeine is always a welcome additive, with some of the lesser prepared audience members missing the end of the show as the musicians played late into the night. On hand to entertain the audience through the interval was DJ Tagada, whose mixes kept the high energy music pumping through the Brisbane Powerhouse and the audience keen for more.
I certainly wouldn't call myself a Gypsy Jazz expert – I do, though, feel qualified to recommend the Brisbane Gypsy Jazz Festival as a very fun, perhaps educational and definitely inspirational night out for anyone looking to engage in and celebrate a wonderful form of music.
Brisbane Powerhouse and French Gypsy Jazz Inc present
Brisbane Gypsy Jazz Festival 2012
Venue: Powerhouse Theatre
Dates: Wed 15 - Thu 16 Aug 2012
Tickets: $59 – $49