I wish I’d had a camera on hand last year when I witnessed Sami Arefin’s first encounter with the legendary Serge Krief. I later found out that Krief is one of Sami’s idols, as he is for so many players of this style. So one can only imagine how good it felt for this young American to be jamming with Serge on the portico between Northrop and Gillett—especially at the end of a tune or two, when Krief nodded approvingly at Sami’s playing and gave him a hearty thumbs up. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.
Sami has come by that pat on the back honestly. He started attending Django Camp while still a music student at Towson State and—I’m going to go out on a limb here—fast became the resident expert on Gypsy jazz within that music department.
That would be some 7 years ago and since then Sami has steadily developed into a skillful player of jazz manouche. He’s also been a big help at this event. In 2014 we asked him to prepare a series of “get ready for Django in June” videos specifically geared toward newcomers to the style. (You’ll find all those here.) That same year he and Brad Brose got together to capture this novel medley:
For a couple of years Sami was our good-will ambassador to slow jammers and newcomers. In that capacity he has corresponded, counselled and jammed with countless newcomers to Django in June, helping them find their way and their peeps as they’ve gotten accustomed to both this genre and this event. Although he won’t be officially serving in that capacity this year, you can still count on him for friendly and well-informed support should you need it.
Sami gigs most often these days as a member of both the Hot Club of Baltimore and Ultrafaux. The folks associated with those groups (especially one Michael Joseph Harris) have pretty much single-handedly brought serious Gypsy jazz to Charm City via their performances and the jams they host. Here’s Sami stretching out with Ultrafaux on a tune you may know. You go, hon!