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Friday, August 10, 2007

LastNight: Django Reinhardt stylist John Jorgenson at the Freight

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2007 at 8:33 AM


So ASD digs Django Reinhardt, mostly because of the name - Django, Django! - but also because his guitar work is insane. Anyways, John Jorgenson -- who played Django across from Charlize Theron hit the Frieght last night, and ASD's Ty Callister was there. So what happened, Ty? -d2

John Jorgenson

August 9, 2007

Freight & Salvage Coffee House

Better Than: Looking into a crystal ball.

Download: Awesomely dorky video of the man himself.

Honestly, when I set out to see John Jorgenson’s gypsy jazz show, I had hoped I might see some sexy gypsy ladies there. You know, gold hoop earrings, some weird medallion necklace draped over her exaggerated bust, and maybe a crystal ball that she would instruct me to stare into. I’d be surrounded by gypsy ladies. I’d be a gypsy pimp.

But alas, I had to watch a group of amazing musicians instead! (It’s okay, I’ve heard the only sexy nomadic ladies around here cost more than a $25 Jorgenson ticket).

Jorgenson and his quintet conjured a hypnotic form of Django Reinhardt-inspired jazz inside the cozy, community-oriented Freight & Salvage Coffee House (which is nestled in a residential neighborhood in Berkeley). The main feature proved to be Jorgenson’s multi-instrumental prowess (guitar, clarinet, and various stringed thingamajigs), Stephan Dudash’s five-string viola, and some stellar oatmeal cookies at intermission.

The sound was an open bazaar of Middle Eastern, Romanian, and American jazz influences. Some of Jorgenson’s song titles capture the essence of his style—“G-Funk,” “Ghost Dance,” and “Swingapore.”

And don’t worry, there was more than just oatmeal cookies at intermission. There was a regular bake sale smorgasbord—coffee, brownies, and my personal favorite, little Dixie cups full of peanuts and pretzels (just like they used to give out at snack time in daycare). The audience ate it up.

John Jorgenson and company didn’t let their technical mastery obfuscate their composition. Jorgenson is fast enough to have spun his hand up and down the guitar like a man caressing his lover with an electric eggbeater. And it’s easy for shows like this to turn into a whole symphony of speedy kitchen appliances (egg beaters, blenders, food processors and the like) where you see a whole lot of rapid musicians’ hands buzzing and whirring until their brow is dripping and their fingers are bleeding and they drench the stage and audience with blood and sweat, but very little music comes out.

But no. Not John Jorgenson. His songs have a danceable bounce and an orchestral sense of melody. It’s technically impressive but musically catchy. Not to mention, he has this dorky instructional guitar book and DVD. But to reclaim his coolness, Jorgenson portrayed Django Reinhardt in the 2004 movie Head in the Clouds, alongside Charlize Theron, a gypsy-status babe. This guy is the real gypsy pimp.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I really wanted to see some sexy gypsy ladies.

Random Detail: This was in a residential neighborhood, so there were some totally gypsy cats stalking around.

By the way: Check out his band mate, Gonzalo Bergara

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David Downs


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