That gypsy sound on Granville Island

Django’s Jewels at the Backstage Lounge, 10/5/18

Photos by Vincente Biancardi da Camara

Dimmed lights, a small crowd and a good view. That was the setting for a night of gypsy jazz at the Backstage Lounge on Friday, Oct. 5, hosted by the Vancouver quartet Django’s Jewels.

Django’s Jewels play venues all over B.C., bringing back that easy-going sound of when jazz had not yet gone big-band. It fits the atmosphere – the small rooms and personal crowds that are a staple for jazz musicians all over the world.

The band, comprised of Aaron Loewen and Lukáš Hyrman on guitar and Juan Pablo González on stand-up bass, were joined by violinist Clara Rose, a stand-in for the regular fiddler, Cam Boyce.

Photos by Vincente Biancardi da Camara

For someone who knows what to listen for, the Jewels delivered over two hours’ worth of sounds that could have come straight out of a 1930’s bar in Paris. There were those hyper-fast arpeggios, those sliding transitions, the constant rhythm of that walking bass, that odd, experimental note in the middle of a solo … everything we associate with that classic Django style.

The fact is though, the slick benches of the Backstage Lounge were populated by little more than a dozen people in the audience, a reminder that jazz is a hard scene to break open. Not that it bothers the Jewels too much.

“Once you’re playing, you’re not really thinking about the audience at all. And there’s always lights in your eyes, so you can’t see,” Loewen, who the rest of the band jokingly refer to as ‘the king of Okanagan swing,’ told Vancouver Weekly. 

The band were all into gypsy jazz even before they formed up.

“Django is the best,” said Hyrman. “It’s more accessible than a lot of the modern jazz.”

“It’s party music,” added González and Rose, explaining the difference between gypsy jazz and the more traditional American jazz.

Photos by Vincente Biancardi da Camara

You can test a band’s mustard when, at the end of their set, a large inebriated group enters the venue and starts demanding ‘one more song.’ So the night ended with an improvised and heartfelt rendition of the gypsy jazz classic “All of Me.”

For those who didn’t make it last night, Django’s Jewels are set to play at Woodstove Festival in Cumberland, B.C., Nov. 2 – 4. Rose will also be on stage, but this time with her other band, The Burying Ground.