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Tootal Gets A Lesson In Jazz From Trio Manouche

We caught up with Ducato and Simon from “Gypsy Jazz” outfit Trio Manouche, to learn all about the roots of this fascinating music, and how the look is just as important as the sound.

Tell us a little about Trio Manouche.

Simon: My background is Blues and Classical but as a songwriter and guitarist I became fascinated by the Jazz Manouche style, made popular by Django Reinhardt in the Thirties. I was really smitten by his talent and his technique. Luckily I met Ducato, or “The Professor”, a real authority on this style of music. He became my mentor and introduced me to a wealth of Manouche tradition and style.

Ducato: When I met Simon the trio already existed though musically I would say they were more Blues influenced, but we searched for a style that plays to all of our strengths. We forged a unique musical identity, though in all honesty Django was always the main guy. For us he is the Elvis Presley or Bob Marley of Jazz and Swing.

We write originals together, we interpret the standards, and sometimes we might bring some guest musicians in – whatever it takes to keep this real music alive.

Trio Manouche in the swing.

So what is ‘Manouche’?

Ducato: Manouche is a term for Romani people in France, who trace their family roots back to Germany, Italy or – like Django – Belgium. You might use it as a form of address, “Hey, Manouche!” Musically it was a marriage of the Gypsy guitar style and Swing Jazz popular in Paris between the wars.

Django was a unique guitar player, he had a dream. When he walked into a basement club and heard the violinist Stéphane Grappelli, the dream became a reality.

And how do you keep this music alive?

Ducato: As a trio we have a solid musical identity and because we are so comfortable with it we can go on diversions, add some variety. Sometimes it’s just for fun and other times it introduces a brand new influence. When we played in Cannes the film festival was on so we played Gypsy Jazz arrangements of James Bond themes.

Simon: We keep it intimate so you can hear the detail but we’ve added clarinet, or drums where required. Not many Gypsy Jazz outfits have singers but we recently worked with the wonderful Tina May. We’re not trying to make a pure artistic statement. People tell us “I don’t like Jazz but I like what you do!”

Trio Manouche putting on the style.

You have a strong image. How would you describe your style?

Simon: Well, we take pride in our image, and we want to do justice to the look as well as the music. It’s a little bit different; it is classy but not contrived. I think our image says we care about what we do.

Ducato: And it’s practical. If the occasion calls for a suit, a cravat, no problem as long as we can play and enjoy ourselves. But, yes, our clothes make a statement about us.

What’s next for Trio Manouche?

Simon: We’ve just finished a video and we have plans for some exciting new collaborations, but ultimately we want to spread the Manouche style to a much bigger audience.

And here is that new video.

Trio Manouche are playing: 12/8 – Green Note, London; 21/8 – 606 Club, London; 26/8 – Rye Jazz Festival, Rye, East Sussex; 24/9 – Le Quecumbar, London

You can find out more about Trio Manouche at www.triomanouche.co.uk

With thanks to Simon Harris, Ducato Piortrowski and Live Music International.