The March Manouche Gypsy Jazz Festival in Menai Wales was packed out for the whole weekend, a bumper turnout for this excellent grass-roots event. Held over three days in picturesque Anglesey, it’s become a magnet for players and aficionados of Django Reinhardt and the Gypsy jazz guitar style. People started arriving on the Thursday with a ‘fringe’ festival running alongside the main event. As with all good Gypsy jazz events, jamming was encouraged at venues all over the town, some great ones going right into the wee hours every night.
Friday night’s main event was the superb Angelo Debarre from France, a huge legend on the international scene. Warming the crowd up nicely before Angelo were my friends Kourosh on guitar and Matt on violin with their band Latchespen. It all went down rather well, a great start to the weekend!
Saturday’s highlights included Duved Dunayevsky a great young player currently living in France who specialises in the pure 1930’s Django-style. Denis Chang from Canada, The Manouchetones from Liverpool featuring my buddies Micky and Karl also Paul Gregory again from Liverpool. All tasteful musicians and another superb day of music, workshops, jamming and socialising.
I had an easy job for the first two days as all my workshops and concert were on the Sunday. Saturday night went full party mode for many but I managed to get some sleep for the next day, well, just enough.
The first workshop was in the Botanical Gardens in Menai, I had a great crowd of about twenty guitarists with a violin and flute too. This was great fun and I had them all playing some of my ‘pompe’ rhythm tips and jamming in no time. Here’s a pic from this session.
Next up was my advanced players session at The Antelope right by the Menai Bridge, this was also one of the best jam venues, lots of space. Again, lots of fun, lots of playing. Here’s a shot from that workshop.
My concert slot was main stage mid-Sunday afternoon, happy to say it was rammed out. I had decided to separate the 75 minute set into two halves. During the first half I played with my good friend Roberto, he’s been learning from me for just over a year and is a monster! We played a classic two guitar traditional set, slightly different from the other artistes as we didn’t use a bass player for this.
For the second half, I kicked Roberto off and went more modern by inviting up the excellent young players Kourosh Kanani and Matt Holborn on guitar and violin respectively. Completing the line-up was another friend and festival mainstay, Greg Robley on double bass.
It was nice to mix things up a bit for the gig, I ended up getting Roberto back up for a full-on quintet finale. Amazingly I think Angelo was the only other player to do ‘Minor Swing’ in a concert for the weekend, so we ended with that famous Django pomper.
A great weekend as always, special super thanks to Stewart, Neil, Meg and the MM team for putting on a wonderful event. It’s popularity increases as the audience figures showed, nice time, lovely people and superb music!
Here’s my tutorial show reel video from a few years back demonstrating some of the techniques used in Gypsy jazz guitar. I teach from home with one or two hour sessions and offer discounted rates for a four-hour day session with break. I also teach internationally via the medium of Skype. Please contact me (details below), if you wish discuss any tutoring requirements or for any information regarding Gypsy jazz guitar lessons.
JONNY HEPBIR is available to hire for weddings, private parties, corporate functions and public events throughout the UK and abroad.
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