Deeply inspired and influenced by Django Reinhardt, the first European instrumentalist to make significant and lasting contributions to the jazz canon, the Sydney-born, Berlin-based violinist and composer Daniel Weltlinger released Souvenirs, a centenary tribute CD of the legendary Manouche composer and guitarist’s music, in 2011.
Koblenz, the second in a trilogy of recordings being sponsored by BNP Paribas in Australia, is a collection of Weltlinger’s compositions recounting a multi-layered storyline that further commemorates the life and times of Reinhardt and is an hommage to the Sinti and Roma people in Europe as well as the violinist’s own European family heritage. The recording pays particular tribute to the Reinhardt clan in Koblenz that he has developed strong ties with since beginning to annually visit Europe in 2004. Weltlinger is joined on the album by a core ensemble featuring his long-time collaborators, the brothers Ian and Nigel Date on guitars, and Thomas Wade on bass. In addition, an eclectic assortment of European and Australian musicians with whom the violinist has played over the years appear as guests including the acclaimed Koblenz-based Gypsy jazz guitarist Lulo Reinhardt (Django’s great- nephew); pianist Daniel Pliner; the Moscow-born multi-instrumentalist Edouard Bronson; the Baku, Azerbaijan-born trumpeter Vlad Khusid; the accordionists Marcello Maio and Zoran Todorovic; and the Flamenco guitarist Marc van Doornum.
ABOUT DANIEL WELTLINGER
Of French-Hungarian-Israeli family background, the Sydney-born, Berlin-based violinist and composer Daniel Weltlinger has been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike for his distinctive sound and improvisational approach to performing Gypsy swing, jazz, klezmer and experimental/free-improvised music. A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Weltlinger has performed and recorded in Australia, Europe, China, Morocco, the US and Israel with a wide range of artists and ensembles including, among others, the German-Gypsy guitarist Lulo Reinhardt; the Yiddish singer Karsten Troyke; the Polish-Australian singer Nadya Golski and her Balkan- Gypsy inspired 101 Candles Orkestra; the Australian multi-ARIA Award-winning Gyp- rock band Monsieur Camembert; the Argentinian bandoneonist JoaquÌn Amenabar; and the Israeli jazz band Swing de Gitanes. The violinist co-leads with long-time associate keyboardist Daniel Pliner his main projects - the bands Zohar’s Nigun and The Asthmatix that fuse Jewish themes and Kabbalistic-inspired improvisation within the contemporary frameworks of jazz and electronica/hip-hop. Both bands released debut albums in 2012 to rave reviews worldwide. Weltlinger also co-composes with producer Bruce Maginnis for the international production music library houses Audio Network and Fable and guest lectures at the Australian Institute of Music on Classical and Contemporary violin studies. Weltlinger is endorsed by the Danish microphone producer DPA, Scottish-based Skyinbow acoustic pickups, US-based Saga instruments and the Australian branch of French multinational bank BNP Paribas. The bank, along with the BNP Paribas Foundation in Paris, commissioned him in 2010 to record an album dedicated to the music of French-Gypsy composer and guitarist Django Reinhardt and is sponsoring him from 2014-2016.
DANIEL WELTLINGER DISCUSSES THE MUSIC ON “Koblenz”
I’ve been closely associated with many Sinti and Roma families for more than a decade, particularly the Reinhardt clan based in Koblenz in the Rhineland region of Germany. The title of this waltz, on which I used the lineup of two guitars, bass and violin, alludes as much to me (Australian-born of French/Hungarian/Israeli family background now based in Berlin) as to Django Reinhardt, the Sinti, Roma and other displaced peoples around the world. A Romanian feeling inspired by my parent's Hungarian/Polish Jewish and possible Romanian roots is combined with a French style Gypsy waltz similar to those developed by Django and other Manouche musicians who drew upon Eastern and Western sounds in their music. Another inspiration for this song was music I grew up with while listening to my grandfather play the violin.
2. (I Awake In) Liberchies
Liberchies is the village in southern Belgium where Django was born and 'I Awake' is a literal translation of his name in the Gypsy language Romani. I feature a Celtic feeling here because the music of this region of Belgium is predominantly Celtic in sound. There’s also a subtle underlying reference to the Anglo-Celtic-Indigenous musics I heard as a child in Australia which can most obviously be heard in the opening and closing phrases played by the violin and accordion that are in the style of a Romanian doina.
3. Musique Métisse (Sainte Maries de la Mer)
The music of the Sinti and Roma is a form of musique métisse, a rich melting pot of styles and influences born as a result of the nomadic travels of musicians through foreign lands far from their original homeland. Sainte Maries de la Mer refers to the town in southern France where many Sinti and Roma annually travel to worship the 'black Madonna' Saint Sarah. This piece is a cross between a Gypsy Kings/Manouche style bolero with elements of Flamenco, Manouche and Balkan music. It conjurs images of nomadic peoples from many lands and musical traditions sitting around campfires passionately pouring their hearts out into the night through their music. It’s the most specific tribute to the Sinti and Roma diaspora that I wrote for the album.
4. Bal Musette
This is an homage to Django and other musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who, in addition to other popular dances of the time, played waltzes referred to as “Bal Musette” in French dance halls. I’m also paying an underlying tribute to my grandfather who was part of the artistic scene of that era in France. Django's first gigs, while he was in his early teens, included regular engagements as an accompanist in these dance halls that were notorious for their often seedy and/or bohemian clientele. Many Manouche musicians were known to be ideal accompanists for these waltzes, often adding a dark 'Gypsy' touch to this style of music that first became popular in Paris in the 1880s.
Louis Armstrong had an enormous influence on Django and other musicians of the 1920s and 1930s and this track is dedicated to the legendary trumpeter and his contributions to the early history of jazz. The calypso feel references his and jazz’s New Orleans/French/Caribbean roots and the violin, which is reduced to mostly an accompanying role, plays a section in the style of the old cafe salon orchestras and recordings of that era. Only in the last repeated chorus does the violin begin to 'rag' along with the trumpet (Vladimir Khusid) and clarinet (Edouard Bronson) whose interplay recalls the Dixieland/Buddy Bolden style popularized by Armstrong and other pioneering jazz instrumentalists and composers.
I wrote this as an homage to Django's most famous musical collaborator, the violinist Stephane Grappelli, and to one of the most significant string jazz ensembles of all time, the Hot Club of France. Ian Date helped subtly reharmonize the chords to capture the vintage feeling of the 1930s. On this track I added Cameron Jones on rhythm guitar along with Nigel Date so that the formation was the 'classic' lineup of 3 guitars, bass and violin. My grandfather lived in France in the 1920s and 1930s and when he met Grappelli in Sydney in 1998 they learned they knew many of the same people from that period. So this track is also a tribute to my grandfather whose violin sound, which was not all that far off from Grappelli's, deeply inspired me from a very young age.
7. Dark Clouds
This title refers to Django's 1940 hit “Nuages” (Clouds) that was an unofficial French resistance song in W.W. II. Grappelli and Django were separated during these years as they had been touring in England when the war broke out as Grappelli opted to stay in England while Django insisted on returning to France. The overtones of the Holocaust that took the lives of millions of Jews, Sinti, Roma, Slavs and many others, and the senseless destruction that took place across Europe and around the world is the overriding theme of this track. I added a fourth guitar played by Ben Pannucci along with Ian, Nigel and Cameron as an allusion to slow heartbeats in unison (the rhythm playing in Gypsy-Swing/Manouche music is often compared to the sound of the heartbeat). Edouard Bronson states the melody on clarinet before playing a heartbreaking 'doina' over thundering tremolos provided by the guitars, violin and viola played by Heather Lloyd. This morphs into a slow, almost funereal melody accompanied by dense string harmonies provided by the violin and viola. At the end of the track the melody is repeated by the clarinet accompanied by string tremolos and the composition deliberately does not resolve…just as there was no resolution at the end of that horrible conflict.
8. The Maestro
One of the greatest ironies of Django's career happened during his war years in France: He became a superstar. Although he was a handicapped Manouche Gypsy (he had a deformed left hand burned in a caravan fire when he was 18 years old) and while he was officially classified as a cripple by the Vichy government and their overlords in Germany, he was paradoxically openly admired by many prominent Nazis. “The Maestro” alludes to both Django's compositional and creative prowess during this period as well as the irony of his stardom during these dark times. The track features the largest lineup on the album: the 4 guitar players from “Dark Clouds,” bass and violin as well as piano (Daniel Pliner), sax (Ross Harrington), trombone (Mike Raper) and trumpet (Sam Golding). It’s a very lively and far more harmonically adventurous and through composed work than the previous songs which starts with a horn exchange between sax and trumpet that leads into the melody played by the sax in a sultry Lester Young-type style, a reference to the more modern direction jazz began to take during this period which was spearheaded in part by Django.
This song is primarily about the neglect Django experienced after W.W. II when the swing music so popular during the 1930s and 1940s was replaced by bebop and his style was suddenly no longer in vogue. While writing I imagined someone slowly pacing up and down with nowhere to go which is the picture I’m trying to paint with the music. The violin provides the refrain of the melody - sweet and classical sounding, almost remote - and the track ends with a short violin cadenza that, as with “Dark Clouds,” is harmonically unresolved. Django died in 1953 at age 43 in Samois sur Seine and while he composed and recorded much music, his influence on jazz was cut short and never fully appreciated until decades after his passing.
10. Bale Boldo
Romani for 'Revival,” “Bale Bodo” is my tribute to the Sinti/Manouche tradition Django left in his wake after his death in 1953 and the global revival his music enjoys today. In addition to being a fairly typical, dark, minor key, Gypsy-style romp, it also contains some modern elements and unexpected chord changes. Ian Date helped me realize the harmonic potential of this composition which begins with a challenging passage played in unison by violin and piano followed by the driving melody and a traditional- style violin solo that combines subtle elements of more modern jazz. Pianist Daniel Pliner solos after me and Ian Date follows him with a short guitar solo over a section with a Charleston feel. This leads back into a refrain of the melody with an endng in the style of a Hungarian czardas. This track is also a kind of 'musique métisse' as it combines elements of modern jazz with the Sinti-swing tradition and swing jazz with traditional Central European folk music.
The album’s title track—a spontaneous duet with guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, Django’s great-nephew who is a dear friend and long-time collaborator — was recorded on Lulo’s laptop computer on a balcony at his former apartment in the Koblenz suburb of Horchheim. If one listens carefully, one can even hear the birds of Koblenz in the background. This track is about me and my connection to Koblenz, about Lulo and his family (particularly his late father Bawo who was always incredibly kind to me and passed away suddenly in 2013) and also about the history of Koblenz and the Rheinland region. It is most importantly, as is the entire album, dedicated to the Reinhardt family in Koblenz with which I am very close. This is a melancholy, peaceful and beautiful melody that alludes to the natural environment of Koblenz which is flanked by two major rivers - the Rhine and the Moselle - whose colors inspired the album art and it is surrounded by high hills, vineyards and forests along with many medieval ruins. The melody references “The Maestro” in the 'B' part, a light hearted tip of the hat to Django and his heritage.
For more information contact MFA - Mitchell Feldman Associates.