Guitarist John Jorgenson, who has won Grammies for best country instrumental, the rock guitarist known as a founder of the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, the sideman who spent 6 years in Elton John’s band and who is one of the main movers in the worldwide resurrection of gypsy jazz, returns with his brilliant gypsy jazz/acoustic string fusion quintet to the Mainstay in Rock Hall, Maryland on Friday, January 13, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. Information and advance ticket sales are available at the Mainstay’s website https://www.mainstayrockhall.org and reservations can also be made by calling 410-639-9133.
The John Jorgenson Quintet, formed in 2004 for the release of “Franco-American Swing,” is unique – no other band led by a “guitar god” works as this tight an ensemble mixing Django-inspired originals with so many other influences. They enthrall both the most discerning guitar aficionado and the casual music fan.
The group’s style has been called “Gypsy Jazz” after the dynamic string-driven swing created by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in 1930s Paris, but Jorgenson’s compositions draw in elements from Latin, Romanian, Classical, Rock and Greek music, so “21st Century World Music” might be a more apt description.
The John Jorgenson Quintet is the only American act to ever headline the prestigious Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival in France, and has been featured at other “Djangofests” in the US, UK, Germany and Canada. For the films “Gattica” and “Head in the Clouds” Jorgenson was tapped to recreate Django’s music, and in the latter he even appeared onscreen as Django with stars Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz.
John Jorgenson is known for his blistering guitar and mandolin licks, his delightful clarinet solos and his mastery of a broad musical palette. In addition to guitar, he shines on mandolin, mandocello, Dobro, pedal steel, piano, upright bass, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. He has earned a reputation as a world-class musician, as evidenced by his collaborations with Earl Scruggs, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Dylan and as a founding member of the Desert Rose Band and The Hellecasters.
Current band members playing alongside Jorgenson are: jazz violinist Jason Anick, one of the youngest instructors at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Downbeat Magazine called Anick “a rising star in the world of jazz violin and mandolin,”
Max O’Rourke is a composer, arranger, and jazz guitarist and the winner of the 2015 Saga Djangofest Award for outstanding young musicianship in the genre of gypsy jazz.
Simon Planting is a Dutch bassist well-known and respected in the gypsy-jazz community, joined John Jorgenson Quintet in 2009 and has performed in concerts and festivals around the world.
Rick Reed is a veteran percussionist, renowned for his intricate brushwork and swinging drive, who caught the attention of Grammy winner Shelby Lynne, who chose him for her “Tears, Lies and Alibis” album. He has also performed and recorded with award-winning banjo player Alison Brown, blues/slide guitar master Rick Vito, Ray Davies of the Kinks, and, UK singer-songwriter Clive Gregson.
Musical legends like Elton John, Earl Scruggs and Duane Eddy along with fellow guitarists such as Tommy Emmanuel, Peter Frampton and Brad Paisley all sing Jorgenson’s praises, newspapers from Maui to DC call him things like “international guitar sensation” and even the New York Times gushes ” … perhaps the best jazz guitarist alive.”
Jorgenson himself would rather talk about the music. A prodigy who was playing piano at 5, and guitar at 12 found himself at Disneyland in the 1970s, performing on the pavement, honing his skills as an instrumentalist, playing in three Disneyland house bands by day and moonlighting in a new wave band. As he sought to learn more about the bluegrass and jazz styles he was playing at Disneyland, he discovered the music of Django Reinhardt and a lifelong passion for Gypsy Jazz.
In an interview with the Boston Globe Jorgenson said, “I heard it and I went crazy. I call it getting bitten. I’ve seen it happen to a number of people, very often guitarists who are already skilled. In my mind, Django was the first guitar hero. He was leading his own band, doing flashy single-note solos right out there in front. You can see his influence everywhere.”
Jorgenson went on to becoming a founding member with Chris Hillman of the Desert Rose Band and while with them he racked up three Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards as “Guitarist of the Year”. He then joined forces with Will Ray and Jerry Donahue in the early ’90s to form a trio called The Hellecasters and out of the box, their debut album, Return of the Hellecasters (1993), won Guitar Player Magazine’s “Album of the Year” and “Country Album of the Year” awards. He toured with Elton John’s band for 6 years but he never lost his fascination for the fiery gypsy swing music that came out of Paris in the 1930s.
“I discovered Gypsy jazz in 1979 and played it a bit in the early to mid-’80s,” Jorgenson said. “At the time, there really wasn’t really any kind of scene for the music, so I couldn’t see playing it as a career. But then there was a shift. While I was working with Elton John and doing a lot of session work, a shift came from the Internet that allowed people with specific musical interests to connect with each other. Then people realized they weren’t the only ones who were fond of this music. They banded together and started having festivals while guitar companies started building instruments that were affordable replicas of the old French guitars. So that became a sort of sign to me… I started doing my own compositions to fill out the concert programs, and audiences responded as much to them as they did to the traditional Gypsy jazz tunes.”
“I never expected to be able to make this my career,” Jorgenson stresses. “But what’s happened with the advent of the Internet, is that it’s become very easy for people to get hold of each other or to get information—and there are a lot more Django fans than anyone thought.”
The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall, MD and the surrounding region. It is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Wine, beer, sodas and snacks are available at the bar.
The Mainstay is supported by ticket sales, fundraising including donations from friends and audience members and an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.
For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website https://www.mainstayrockhall.org.
Upcoming Mainstay performances include:
Jan. 13 The John Jorgenson Quintet
Jan. 16 Mainstay Monday: Sam Guthridge on banjo substitutes as host
Jan. 23 Mainstay Monday: Host Joe Holt on piano welcomes Chuck Redd on vibes
Jan. 28 Mainstay Monday on Saturday Night
Jan. 30 Mainstay Monday: Host Joe Holt on piano welcomes The Washington College Jazz Ensemble