This year’s Felicja Blumental Festival is chock-full of musical nuggets
wherever you look in the six-day program, which takes place at the Tel
Aviv Museum between May 10 and May 15. As expected, much of the program
is classical-based, but there is plenty of top-class entertainment
available from other areas too.
While Blumental – an acclaimed
classical pianist in Poland before going on to even greater renown in
her adopted home of Brazil and, later, the rest of the Western world –
may not have indulged in the genre, one presumes she would not have
objected to the inclusion of gypsy jazz in the festival named after
her, which started eight years after her death.
assumes she would have had even less opposition to a guitarist by the
name of Reinhardt featuring in the festival lineup.
Reinhardt in question goes by the given name of Lulo, rather than his
legendary grandfather Django, the level of artistry will be consummate.
The 48-year-old, German-born Reinhardt, who will perform on May 12
along with the Israeli trio Swing de Gitanes, is certainly a worthy
heir to his illustrious ancestor’s musicianship, but he had to make a
difficult career choice as a young man.
“I was about to become
a professional soccer player when I was in my early twenties, for my
local team TuS Koblenz,” he explains, “but they said that I couldn’t
play music if I played soccer for them.”
The decision was made on both practical and artistic grounds.
can’t tell a musician to stop playing music; but also, back in the
early Eighties, playing for a second division team wasn’t a living.”
Reinhardt had been taught to play the guitar at the age of only five
and began performing professionally with his father’s band, the Mike
Reinhardt Sextet, just seven years later, he was well into his musical
career before making any impression on the Koblenz soccer pitch.
he opted to play a six-string guitar full time rather than playing for
a second-string soccer team, Reinhardt has thrown himself into the
musical fray with gusto. The only one of his siblings to become a
professional musician, Reinhardt has continued to perform regularly
with his dad and, over the years, has spread his musical net into other
areas. He cofounded the acclaimed Django Reinhardt and the
Heartbreakers group and, together with Mike and cousin Dege, founded
the I Gitanos gypsy swing band.
The entertainment world is
littered with the offspring of icons who find the family name a heavy
burden to bear and, it must be said, the nomenclature sometimes
overshadows the talent of the second and third generations. Happily, in
Reinhardt’s case, that particular theory does not hold water. He is a
polished guitarist, even though he says he is not a true gypsy jazz
“I can play rhythm guitar okay, but I am not a
genuine solo guitarist in this genre. When I play solo you hear other
things, other influences, in what I do. I add flamenco, Latin and other
colors. It’s a totally new style, not swing, I use a lot of flamenco
technique too.” Reinhardt Project No. 1 album duly incorporates a wide
range of styles, from samba to flamenco with latin jazz, bossa, rumba.
And, naturally, gypsy swing is also in there. A second equally diverse
album is due out later this year.
Reinhardt feels completely comfortable with his more eclectic approach
and believes his granddad – who died at the age of only 43, almost 10
years before Reinhardt was born – would have applauded.
“I’m sure Django would have liked it. Since he came on the scene, there
have been thousands of gypsy guitar players who have copied him. So I
play Django tunes, but I also do my own songs.
“I can’t follow in his footsteps. You have to be your own person, be a
musician in your own right. That’s probably part of the reason why I
started looking around outside the gypsy guitar field.”
In recent years, Reinhardt’s quest for new musical vistas has taken him
across the world to gain different hands-on cultural experiences. “I
lived in Algiers for a year and played desert music there,” he says,
“and I now go to Australia every year to play. That’s a wonderful
Reinhardt’s Australia forays, in fact, have several ethnic facets to
them. For a start, when Down Under, he often plays with a Jewish
violinist, which brings him closer to Eastern European musical idioms;
and there have been some synergies with an oud player too.
The latter was a surprisingly familiar experience for him. “Oud players
use exactly the same technique as gypsy guitarists,” Reinhardt
explains. “It may be surprising, but that’s the way it really is.”
Then there is the Gypsies in the Desert project, which brings him into
contact with the wide open spaces of Australia, as well with the
“I will doing Gypsies in the Desert in September,” he continues. “I
have an incredible time there. There are workshops and night walks,
singing and playing, and then I do a concert for 3,000 aborigines.
There will be a film crew there in September making a documentary, so
everyone will be able to get an idea of what goes on there.”
One of the aspects of his famous grandfather’s work with which
Reinhardt has had to contend is the white-hot speed with which Django
worked his way across and around his strings and fretboard – despite a
digit deficit. When Django was a youngster, his caravan caught fire and
he came out of the incident with two paralyzed fingers, so he adapted
his playing style to be able to produce all the chords he needed with
only two fingers of his left hand.
Even though – happily – his grandson has the use of all his fingers,
Reinhardt insists he is not trying to emulate his grandfather’s
“You can have 10 fingers and still not play like Django. No one can
play like him. Anyway, I don’t like competitions. There are all those
guitarists out there trying to play faster and have the best technique.
“I can play fast, but I do my own music. I want to have fun with other
guitar players. Some musicians try to compete and show off all their
stuff, and they don’t respect the other musicians. If I’m not having
fun with the other players, there’s no point to it all.
“And, don’t forget, you have to put your heart into your music. That makes all the difference.”
For more information: www.blumentalfestival.com
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