Swingin’ like a gypsy

1930s Paris comes to Victoria with Django Festival

Vancouver’s Van Django will be among the acts playing at the second annual Django Festival

Are you ready to party like it’s 1934?

That’s the year Django Reinhardt formed his Quintette du Hot Club de France and started to make his permanent mark in the world of jazz.

On Friday, Feb. 15 the spirit of Django will once again come alive as the White Eagle Hall (90 Dock St.) in James Bay is transformed into a 1930s Paris cabaret for Victoria’s second annual Django Festival.

“The cabarets of the ‘30s in Paris were legendary for a reason,” said Oliver Swain, renowned local musician and one of the organizers of the event. “We’re sort of recreating that.”

Django Reinhardt was a jazz guitarist, best known for his music stemming from French gypsy culture and for composing such standards as Minor Swing, Swing ‘42 and Djangology.

Respected in his own time, Reinhardt is now considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time, and legions of modern day musicians honour him through his style and his songs.

“I feel like there’s a massive revival in acoustic swing going on across North America and one of the hot spots is right here in Victoria,” Swain said.

Django Festival will feature some of the premier Djangologists in the region, including Reuben Weir, Gypsy Jazz Explorations with Chris Sartisohn, Vancouver’s premier Django band Van Django and all-star band Montage, comprised of Swain, Paul Dowd, Adam Dobres and featuring special guest Daniel Lapp.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Cameron Wilson, violin player with Van Django.

Van Django has been playing together for about 14 years and include in their repertoire Django standards, along with Django-inspired takes on everything from Beatles songs to 1950s TV theme songs.

“I think it’s just honest,” said Wilson on the joys of the music. “It’s just really energetic and there’s a bounce to it. I don’t know how to explain it. There’s an elegance but at the same time there’s a power to it.”

Last year’s event, held at Upstairs Cabaret, was a huge success that sold out early and featured some hot jazz.

“The dance floor was cooking, the bands were cooking, so we thought this is a great event,” Swain said. “You don’t need to be just a lover of the music of Django Reinhardt to enjoy this stuff.”

With a venue change this year, the event is being expanded. A chandelier-lit main floor will feature a stage, a large dancing area and café-style seating. Downstairs the musicians will be getting down to business with a improvisation-heavy jam session.

Downstairs will also feature an Unsworth Vineyards wine bar and The Whole Beast food. Upstairs beer from Hoyne brewery will be flowing and food from Pizzeria Prima Strada will be available.

Tickets are $22 advance and are available at Larsen Music, Lyle’s Place and Ditch Records.

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