Archive for the 'Jazz Manouche' Category

Hommage à Di Mauro

December 5, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Here is a website dedicated to Di Mauro guitars (and here are a bunch of Di Mauros, all sold, unfortunately). Di Mauros are often mentioned alongside classical original “gypsy guitars” like Selmer, Busato and Favino, but usually ranked a little below these (which is reflected in their considerably more accessible prices).

Many contemporary manouche players have played Di Mauro guitars, for example, Moreno Winterstein. And they were a favorite of French pop singers from the 1950s and until rather recently (e.g., Sascha Distel, Henri Salvador). These guitars — and their three builders: brothers Joseph and Antoine Di Mauro and Antoine’s son Joseph–certainly deserve a site. This one has been put together by (the younger) Joseph’s daugther, Dorothy.

My favorite Di Mauro is the delicious Special Chorus, probably Di Mauro’s best known design, and imitated in recent time by Dell’ Arte with their Swing 42. Pat Metheny is the proud owner of one of these (or at least he was in 1982). offers this beauty, which is identical to the 1942 Special Chorus in the “museum” section of the site (and apparently built by Antoine Di Mauro).

UPDATE: Have you ever speculated about the nature of Sacha Distel’s “premiere guitare“? Turns out it was a Di Mauro.

René Mailhes

June 26, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Although I much admire the playing of Stochelo Rosenberg, Moreno, Tchavolo Schmitt et al., I am growing a bit tired of the standard gypsy jazz instrumental set-up — that is, two guitars and a bass, possibly supplemented with a violin or an accordeon. And, yes, Minor Swing, Sweet Georgia Brown, I Can’t Give You Anything …. etc. etc. are surely great melodies … but ..

I guess I like jazz manouche the best when it oversteps the boundaries, as is sometimes the case with Birelli, Angelo Debarre, and Patrick Saussois. There are, of course, also those gypsy players who have never really adhered to the fixed (and tired?) format, such as Christian Escoudé and René Mailhes. Mailhes is, I believe, out of the the famous Malha clan (Gusti Malha) and is today in his 70s. He has done at least three CDs, only one of which (forthcoming in July on French “Iris”) is currently available. Mailhes is a fabulous, melodic player with a strong influence of free jazz. Here is a youtube clip with him, playing his 175.

The Stimer Pickup

March 8, 2008

Nicolai Foss

I am one of those who admire Django Reinhardt’s post-war electric work. Of course, most people admire everything that Django did, but it is my impression that there is a general tendency to prefer the early Django (1934-1939) to the later Djangos and particularly the electrified Django. I think Django achieved a fantastic and unique mastery of the electric instrument. Perhaps he, unlike Christian, was too un-idiomatic, because very few players have tried explicitly to emulate his sound (this also goes for those many post-Django players who fit a Stimer pickup to their SelMac). That sound was produced by either an electric epiphone or a Selmer equipped with a Stimer pick-up, and a small tube amp (I have no idea about which kind).

It is claimed, and it may be correct, that the Stimer(s) was a copy of the DeArmond pickup that originated in the early 1940s. However, even considerable experimentation with a SelMac clone, my DeArmond FHC, and a small tube amp has never made me capable of reproducing Django’s electric sound. The sound may (also) lie in the difference between the Stimer and the DeArmond. I have, unfortunately, never had occasion to try a Stimer, but would surely love to.

Here is a brief review of the Stimer ST48. They are produced today by the famous luthier Maurice Dupont. The Twelfth Fret sells them. So does Note that there are (at least) two Stimer pickups, the ST48 and the more unusual model ST51, which fits the grand bouche SelMacs (also made by Dupont)Here are some pics of Mondine Garcia with the ST48 fitted the gypsy way.

Castellucia f-hole SelMac

March 5, 2008

Nicolai Foss

The DiMauro “Chorus” model (here; scroll down) is a beautiful and famous hybrid between the f-hole archtop and the SelMac. I had no idea that Parisian builder Castellucia had produced a somewhat similar hybrid guitar. Here it is. It is more akin to a traditional jazz guitar than the DiMauro relative; notice the Epi tailpiece and the more conventional f-holes. Palmguitars also has a Castellucia f-hole (and they had a DiMauro “Chorus”).

New Dregni Book

March 3, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Michel Dregni has a new book forthcoming (April), Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing. However, it does seem pretty similar to his earlier book, Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend. It will probably be discussed on one of the gypsy jazz fora and I need to learn about the differences between the books before I order the new one.

Django’s Epi

February 29, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Though usually associated with the SelMac, his main instrument, Django Reinhardt played many other guitars during his career, including a Gretsch Synchromatic, a Gibson L5, and an Epiphone Zephyr. Django played the archtops during US tour in 1946, but apparently only the Zephyr went back to France with him. Here is the story of Django’s Epi #3442.

Apropos: Are any of the O&M readers able to identify those Django recordings where he is playing the Zephyr and those where he is playing his Selmer with the Stimer pick-up?

Cleanest SelMac I Ever Saw

February 26, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Here. The auction is over, and it is not clear whether the guitar was sold. The “Sofort Kaufen” price of 11,500 Euros doesn’t strike me as excessive at all (this one, much less clean, is still on offer for 20, 000 Euros) . Perhaps the guitar was traded outside of ebay.

Gypsy Guitars on French Ebay

December 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

French ebay continuously has about half a dozen potentially interesting gypsy guitars on offer. At the moment there is a very pretty Favino (pere) with a starting price of 4,000 Euros. Not exactly low, but something between 4 and 5k Euros is probably the right price for this guitar. There are also a couple of DiMauros (here and here), both with the characteristic DiMauro soundhole, plus that 20k Euros Selmer and various recent Selmac clones (here is the entire offering).


December 5, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Gypsy guitars built by Busato are often mentioned as a part of the “holy trinity” of gypsy guitars, i.e., Selmer, Favino and Busato — but mentioned in that order. I have had occasion to try out a few Busatos and Favinos (no Selmers so far), and I like the Busatos I have tried more than the Favinos (they are more “woody”). Here is what I think is an excellent Busato offer at French ebay. Compared to a Favino, and certainly a Selmer, the quoted pay now price is very low.

Here is Danish Busato-player, Henrik Larsen with his band Gypsymania.

Gypsy Waltzes on YouTube

October 16, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I am a great admirer of the “gypsy waltzes” written by Baro and Matelot Ferret, Tchan Tchou Vidal, Pattotte Bousquet, and, closer to our time, Fapy Lafertin, Moreno, Stochelo Rosenberg and Dorado (and of course Tony Murena, Gus Viseur and Jo Privat on a rather different instrument). There are plenty of nice examples of les valses manouches on YouTube. Here are the most famous ones.

It is appropriate to begin with La Minch Valse, here in a classic version with Matelot and Boulou from Samois. Here is the great Stephane Wrembel performing his version of Montaigne St. Genevieve, ascribed to Django (although I suspect that the real composer is Matelot). This is Bousquet’s version. Amazing!! Here is Baro’s great “Swing Valse”. And here is Tony Murena’s beautiful “Indifference.” Apropos Murena, the most beautiful waltz of them all IMHO is his “Passion.” Of course, there are lots of versions of La Gitane. Strangely, nobody has posted one of the earliest and most beautiful gypsy waltzes, Gusti Malha’s Valse de Niglos.