Arts and Entertainment

'Gypsy Jazz'

Pearl Django - Contributed photo
Pearl Django
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor

As is the case with any band, the Gypsy Jazz group Pearl Django had to come up with a new name for its latest recording.

Evidently, the boys in the band, with 10 critically acclaimed albums to their credit, decided not to think too hard about it.

They’ll have that new recording in tow, the numerically named “Eleven”, released in April by Modern Hot Records, when the Seattle-based quintet venture back to San Juan Island for a return engagement, Saturday, Sept. 22, at San Juan Community Theatre. With each performance, Django seems to collect another convert or two, or three.

Gary and Susan Sterner first fell for Django at an on-island show several years back. They’ve been unofficial “Pearl” ambassadors ever since.

“It’s like intimate Paris cafe music,” Gary says of the Django style. “The group is very unique. They often start with a standard tune, do a lot of ad-libbing in-between, and then end up back in time with the tune. It’s delightful.”

Like others, the Sterners are quick to point out that Django’s music, although in step with the day, harkens to an earlier era and is, in fact, somewhat of a living tribute to European jazz legend Jean “Django” Reinhardt and bandmate Stephane Grappelli, a French-Italian violinist. With their band, “The Quintet of the Hot Club of France”, Reinhardt and Grappelli blended American swing and acoustic jazz while playing Paris jazz clubs in the 1930s and ended up as pioneers of a new musical genre, gypsy jazz.

While the band has remained true to its musical roots, its lineup has changed over the years. Most notably, founding member Neil Andersson stepped aside two years ago to pursue music at a more leisurely pace and a new avocation, painting.

The band’s 2012 lineup features Michael Gray, violin; David Lange, accordion; Rick Leppanen, acoustic bass; and Troy Chapman and Ryan Hoffman, guitars.

Cut from the same musical cloth featured by the band since its inception, “Eleven” blends original tunes and adaptations of jazz standards, from the likes of Count Basie and Thelonius Monk, all spiced by the group’s distinctive toe-tapping, string-centered, rhythmic style of music.

The SJCT Box office is open Tues-Fri, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays, 2 p.m., and one hour prior to any show. For info, 378-3210, or


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