In 2017 we will give special—and long-overdue—attention to one of the sub-genres that sets jazz manouche apart from our home grown variety: that of the swing musette or swing valse. That tradition is inextricably linked to the accordion, on which it was developed by the likes of Gus Viseur, Jo Privat and Tony Murena. To help us in this project we have invited someone who has made a life-long study of these traditions and whose own improvisations and compositions are by now part of future generations’ curriculum, Marcel Loeffler.
Speaking of generations, Michael Dregni’s Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing opens with an admittedly and inevitably incomplete “Gypsy Jazz Family Tree”. The third generation of artists on it are those who came into prominence in the years between the mid-1970’s and the end of the ’90’s. Among them you will find the guitarist Mandino Reinhardt and accordionist Marcel Loeffler, both of the Strasbourg region in northwestern France. Reinhardt and Loeffler worked together regularly for two decades, first as members of the group Sweet Chorus in the 1980’s, then Note Manouche. Here’s the opening cut, Complices, from the latter group’s self-titled 1999 release. Composition credits are shared by the two longtime compagnons de route.
Like so many of the best musicians who have visited Django in June over the years, Loeffler is an artist of wide-ranging tastes and abilities. We have invited him, however, not so much for the reach of his branches but for the depth of his roots. Born into a manouche family in 1956, he was introduced to this music by his guitarist father, took up accordion at 5, and was performing by the age of 8. “It was at that time,” he reports, “that I started listening to the great jazz accordionists like Gus Viseur and Art Van Damme. I spent sleepless nights trying to imitate them.” I leave it to you to decide how that project went. Here’s Loeffler playing Viseur’s, “Soir de Dispute”, from his 2010 tribute to that towering figure of French accordion, Around Gus.
Stray beyond the limits of Marcel’s work with Mandino Reinhardt and you find him consistently keeping the best of Gypsy jazz company. On one recording alone, Loeffler’s 2007 release, “Homage”, we count among his invited guests Dino Mehrstein, Yorgui Loeffler, David Reinhardt and violinist Costel Nitescu. His work with Bireli Lagrene has been extensive, including the latter’s participation on Loeffler’s 2005 release, Source Manouche. Here the duo brings us up to date on a Bireli composition that couldn’t go back much further. It provided the first track on Bireli’s first album, Routes to Django: “Fiso Place.”