The Chicago gypsy jazz scene

Chicago has a fantastic gypsy jazz scene -- one of the best in the U.S -- but until now, there hasn't been a good collection of Chicago-specific gypsy jazz information. Here's my stab at it.

Additions? Corrections? Please contact me!

Last updated: April 9, 2014

Chicago gypsy jazz bands

(Bands that I know the most about are first, ending with bands whom I only know about by stumbling upon their web pages. Otherwise, these are in no particular order.)

Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan
Alfonso's the big player on the scene. His band plays at the Green Mill each Wednesday night from 9 to 1 and has been doing so for several years now. Check out their site for an updated gig list.

Hot Club Thing
My band, with David Moulthrop.

lePercolateur

Swang Gypsy Jazz

Viper's Dream

Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project Not quite gypsy jazz per se, but well worth checking out, particularly for the cimbalom player Nicolae Feraru.

Swing Hakim
Rami Gabriel's band, which mixes gypsy jazz with classical Arabic music.

The Hot Club of Chicago
These guys are in the burbs but make it into the city from time to time.

Rhythm Futur

The Uptown Strings

The Gipsy Trio

The Hot Club du Chicago

The Ten Cats (possibly disbanded?)

Eyes Manouche

Slaughtertown String Band

Meeting musicians

Show up to a gig and chat up the band, and you'll meet lots of people quickly. Another great way to meet musicians (guitar players especially) is to take my class at the Old Town School (see below).

Also, join the Chicago gypsy jazz musicians Facebook group! We announce jams and gigs on there, along with other various chatting.

Jams

There used to be a weekly jam at the Ten Cat; it had a bunch of regulars (some of which formed a band called the Ten Cats in honor of the bar/jam) and that visiting guitarists would stop by. Sadly, this no longer happens, although some Chicago gypsy jazzers occasionally meet there at the spur of the moment.

If you feel like organizing another a regular jam, let me know, and I'll post it here and do my best to get the word out.

Festivals

Chicago Gypsy Jazz Festival: We've got an annual gypsy jazz festival, usually in October. Alfonso Ponticelli organizes this and does a great job getting high-quality bands to Chicago. In 2010, Ensemble Zaiti came from Paris. In 2009, Gonzalo Bergara came from Los Angeles. Keep an eye on the Swing Gitan site around September/October for the annual announcement and schedule.

Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival: This is a short daytrip away, in Madison, Wisconsin. They actually do a couple of festivals a year, including a midwinter one.

Gypsy-jazz-friendly venues

Tidbits

Guitar class: We're have a formal gypsy jazz guitar class here, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Check out the "Django-style guitar" classes (level 1 and 2), taught by yours truly. I also teach a "Django Ensemble" class, which is basically a facilitated jam and great way to expand your repertoire. At least one of these three classes runs during each cycle of Old Town classes.

Guitar lessons: Alfonso Ponticelli gives private lessons (contact him through his site), as does David Moulthrop (themoul@gmail.com).

Buying gypsy jazz strings and guitars: Here in Chicago, we're lucky to have the only (?) storefront in the U.S. devoted to gypsy jazz: Caravan Guitars, at 4754 N. Rockwell St. Definitely stop by for the best selection in town (and one of the best selections in the world, frankly!). Besides that, Different Strummer usually carries Argentines. As for guitars, aside from Caravan Guitars, these places have been known to carry gypsy jazz guitars: Different Strummer, Andy's Music, Hogeye Music (Evanston).

Buying gypsy jazz picks: Caravan Guitars is the place to go. Different Strummer may also have some.

Buying gypsy jazz CDs: Jazz Record Mart carries CDs by the more well-known artists in the genre, such as Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Bireli Lagrene and Jimmy Rosenberg. Different Strummer has a small selection. Caravan Guitars has a good selection.

Recording: Lito Manlucu owns a recording studio on the Northwest Side that specializes in recording gypsy jazz.