Born over a century ago in Belgium, a Romani gypsy named Django Reinhardt took an American art form and turned it on it’s ear. Touted as the first European jazz master, Reinhardt pioneered a blend of American jazz and gypsy campfire music, and rose to fame in pre-war Paris with his Quintette du Hot Club de France. The new style quickly jumped to U.S. shores and inspired not only American jazz musicians, but generations of country artists from Bob Wills to Chet Atkins.
While there aren’t many musicians of gypsy descent involved in the U.S., a cultish love of Gypsy jazz prevails and most major cities have their own enclave of Django aficionados. St. Louis is no different, and at the center of this group is the St. Louis Gypsy Jazz Jam.
The group meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Stone Spiral Coffee House Art Gallery, located at 2506 Sutton Boulevard in Maplewood. Since 2012, guitarist Paul Davis has been hosting these bi-monthly gatherings, and recently moved the group to the new space adjacent to Stone Spiral. Davis is also an organizer for the St. Louis Gypsy Jazz Festival, held in the Central West End in October.
A long list of top guitarists in the area have attended these sessions, as well as musicians playing violins, trumpets, clarinets, accordions, mandolins and vibes, to name a few. The structure is simple; all participants sit in a giant circle, a song is called, tempo is established and everyone plays. Those inclined to take a solo are welcome, while others may pass, opting to provide background for the other musicians.
Books containing repertoire for the jam are provided, but players should bring their own music stand. Musicians of all genres and skill levels are invited to attend. Listeners are welcome to bring their beverage to the art space and enjoy an extremely spirited performance, free of charge.
For more information about Gypsy Jazz in St. Louis visit www.facebook.com/STLgypsyjazzjam.
Stone Spiral Gallery
2506 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood MO 63143