I got a chance to see the Quintet of the Hot Club of San Francisco
at the weekend. These guys play so-called gypsy jazz and are modeled after the Quintette du Hot Club du France
(the famous band with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli who played in the 1930’s and 1940’s). This San Francisco version are pretty faithful to the style – all acoustic – a lead guitar, a violin, two rhythm guitars, and a double bass. They played lots of the old Reinhardt and Grappelli material along with a few modern ones.
They were excellent – the lead guitarist Paul Mehring was just a wonder to behold, however, when you think that Django played all this stuff with only three fingers on his left hand, then that is even more remarkable.
Interesting guitars that they all had too – apparently the favored instrument for this type of music is something called a Maccaferri
(played by Django himself) and made back in the 30’s and 40’s by the Selmer company. You can buy an original Maccaferri for $17,000 here
, though its had a few changes in its long life.
Mr Maccaferri the designer of these instruments had an interesting life too – originally a luthier, then a classical guitarist of some renown and then after his performing career came to an early end he became creative with plastics making plastic saxophone reeds, and then a plastic guitar (not as something cheap, but as a serious quality instrument). At the time of his death he was working on a plastic violin. Somehow these plastic instruments never really caught on – I wonder why – check them out