Christine-Tassan-et-les-Imposteures photo by Sylviane Robini.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts,
Considered North America’s premier gypsy jazz festival, DjangoFest Northwest was conceived in 2000 by the late Nicholas Lehr, fueled by his vision to bring great European gypsy jazz music to the United States. Lehr had attended the annual Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois-sur-Seine, the small town in north-central France where the iconic musician once lived. Transformed by this experience Lehr brought his aspiration to life by launching DjangoFest NW in Langley, attracting thousands of fans to this scenic locale on South Whidbey Island.
Originally a two-day event, the festival has evolved into a highly anticipated celebration of the life and music of Django Reinhardt, one of Europe’s most iconic and significant guitarists and composers. Having blossomed into a five-day event in late September, the festival lineup offers a spectrum of the genre’s biggest names.
Seattle’s own Pearl Django and The Hot Club of Troy fire up the festivities on Wednesday evening. Celebrating 25 years of infectious rhythm and unmistakable swing, Pearl Django has garnered a devoted and enthusiastic following and just recently released their 14th CD. Thursday’s concert features The Hot Club of San Francisco, invoking music from the 1930s and the small, smoky jazz clubs of Paris. They showcase the Grammy Awardwinning violinist Evan Price, keeping historic music fresh and alive. Joining them on stage is Whidbey Island native Eric Vanderbilt-Matthews on clarinet and saxophone.
Friday promises more highlights with the dazzling guitarist Richard Smith, a highly respected performer with a myriad of concerts across the globe. Having collaborated with musical giants Tommy Emmanuel, Eric Clapton, Albert Lee, Dave Peacock, Martin Taylor, Smith shows off his magic together with multi-instrumentalist Rory Hoffman and his unique guitar sound.
Hailing from Germany, Gismo Graf is a rising star of gypsy swing who owns his place among the world’s leading guitarists. Graf is accompanied by his father and mentor Joschi Graf on rhythm guitar, and Joel Locher on the double bass. They share Friday’s Benefit House Concert with the great Dutch double bassist Simon Planting, DjangoFest NW’s Artistic Director. French violinist Aurore Voilqué, jazz master Angelo Debarre, Mathieu Chatelain, Claudius Dupont and The Christiaan Van Hemert Seattle Trio light up the DFNW Mainstage in the evening.
On Saturday virtuoso fiddler Jason Anick and his trio create their own brand of acoustic music with traditional instrumentation spinning earcatching melodies. Sharing the stage is award-winning accordionist and educator Dallas Vietty, a highly soughtafter accordionist performing jazz and swing in the United States today. The Greg Ruby 6 performs the compositions and arrangements of swing guitar legend Oscar Alemán.
Concluding the festival, Christine Tassan et les Imposteures, the fabulous Canadian band of four display their fireworks of boundless creativity. The all-woman quartet reinvents this timeless music while integrating new ideas and influences with originality and flair. They are joined by Samuel Farthing, regarded as one of the finest young up-and-coming gypsy jazz guitarists. The show includes the Nick Lehr Memorial DJAM with performances by the DFNW 2019 artists.
The festival throws more riches into the musical mix. Workshops offer something for music enthusiasts of all interest and skill levels: soloing tips for beginners, hand picking techniques, advanced gypsy rhythms, just to name a few. Nightly jam sessions at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds & Events Center Campgrounds round out each festival day.
Participants inclined to immerse themselves in the full experience of DjangoFest NW, including late-night mingling, music-making, fire circles, and camping are encouraged to camp at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds & Events Center Campgrounds. –Marianne Gonterman
For more details and to purchase tickets, visit djangofest.com.