By Herman te Loo

Ornette Coleman once said: ‘The evolution observed in music is almost a biological fact, comparable to the slow transition from childhood into adulthood. Do you know but one great jazz musician who historically seen isn’t an apprentice?’ The mark of all great musicians in jazz history is their sense of tradition and progress. Stagnation is the death of jazz, and who would want dead music?

Guitarist Reinier Voet sees his role in gypsy jazz in the same perspective. He doesn’t hide the fact that he is a great admirer of Django Reinhardt, but the founder ofthe genre has been dead for over halfa century. And ifhe would have been alive today, he definitely wouldn’t have stopped at the music he had been making in either 1937, 1947 or 1953. He was a restless seeker for new directions on the road he had been taking. Reinier Voet has taken over from him, and has incorporated all of his knowledge of and love for jazz of the intermediate decades, as well as his European roots, into the music of his band Pigalle44.

Reinier Voet on his Di Mauro gypsy jazz guitar
Reinier Voet on his Di Mauro gypsy jazz guitar

The starting point for Voet and his comrades (rhythm guitarist Jan Brouwer and bassist Jet Stevens) is the power of expression of a strong melody or a carefully constructed improvisation. One well-placed note can say more than endless strings of notes without a head or a tail. Music needs to communicate, to convey passion and emotion, tell a clear and exciting story. And that is what Pigalle44 is all about. You can hear it in the catchy compositions the leader writes himself, but also in the band’s highly individual interpretations of (lesser known) standards and highlights from the jazz repertoire.

Pigalle44 also greatly values internal communication, which shows from the various musical partnerships the trio has entered into
over the years. Accordionist Gert Wantenaar has recorded two CDs with the band, and provides the French Connection: influences from the musette and chanson traditions.
Violinist Jelle van Tongeren is cast in the same mould as Reinier Voet: he has an enormous respect for the Hot Club de France tradition, but for him, too, jazz has more to offer than Stéphane Grappelli alone.

Gypsy jazz for the 21st century