Gypsy Jazz Trio at Mississippi Pizza
help is a four-letter word
it wrong to want to help? There's that phrase: I was only trying
to help! Thing is, when people are "only trying to help,"
it's usually unsolicited. And maybe that's the problem.
But it seems like a dangerous road to walk down, because
when you offer help only to those who ask, then all the timorous
grannies of the world will stand on the corner frightened
to cross the street for the rest of their days.
And kittens will forever end up in trees. See, kittens
can't speak, so they can't ask for help.
For one reason or the other, Aural Report is often in the position
of championing the underdog, reviewing those acts that few know
about, that few see. Helping out, I suppose. After all, which musician
couldn't benefit from some free publicity?
But maybe they don't need help; I don't know.
The Gypsy Jazz Trio look a little light as I saunter into the music
room at the Mississippi Pizza Pub a great place to enjoy
acoustic music with your two buddies, pizza and beer. The Gypsy
Jazz Trio, though, consists tonight of just two buddies with guitars
struggling with the P.A. system. We later learn that the bass player
Sitting under unique cloth and ceramic relief sculptures, I'm charmed
by the trio; they struggle with broken strings, spill their wine
and, for the most part, play in front of seven people.
But play they do, working up sweats though sitting almost stock-still
in their chairs. Dang it, they deserve this review! They need to
sit down with me over a pint and answer some questions, because
I'm curious and I want the world to understand.
Gypsy music: as the trio does it, brisk bouncing rhythms in old-world
harmonies with ebullient melodies burbling over the top. I wonder
if often-frenzied gypsy music moved through Acadia into what we
now call bluegrass music?
mind: "Sweet and Lowdown," Allen's 1999 gypsy-jazz
The faster it gets the trio certainly should sweat; the faster
it gets I grin, my eye twitches. For some folks it may bring to
mind the Woody Allen movie, "Sweet and Lowdown." For most
folks it may bring to mind nothing.
I want to know why one would choose this type of music. Clearly
there's no money in something that obviously takes a lot of effort.
Do the guys have other bands, to make it "pencil out"?
I want to know how one person fell into playing rhythm and the
other lead. My theory is that the rhythm guy is the nuts and bolts,
day-to-day guy, while the other is the "big picture" dude.
The former, practical; the latter, fiery.
One keeps the business going, the other inspires it.
My eye starts twitching during a nice, brief coda of harmonic grace
notes. I wonder if these types write their own tunes, or if they
play only standards. I know some of the requests offered by their
musician friend in the audience and recognize the tune "All
Of Me." But it seems like a good question, because wouldn't
it be cool if there were young kids bringing this tradition into
They're just questions, after all. At the end of their hour-and-a-half
set, I'd love just five minutes to throw out these few queries.
I ask rhythm-guy Jon Thor Williams if he has a few minutes to answer
some quick questions. Five minutes? Two? A minute and a half?
Well, his girlfriend is waiting and he has to take four seconds
to lift his guitar case off the stage. As a former rock bassist,
I'm severely envious of a break-down agenda that negligible.
Reinhardt: the original jazz gypsy died in 1953.
I do find out that Jon follows his path because he likes klezmer
and Romanian music, that the trio is playing Tuesday nights from
5:30 (read: 6:00) to 7:30 p.m. at Mississippi Pizza for at least
the next few weeks, that they may be switching to Fridays. I also
learn quickly that they've been playing indoors for just a few weeks
as they've been cutting their teeth busking on the streets of Portland.
I suppose I could press my point and wait for the girlfriends to
be tended to, the guitar cases to be set in the corner. But I'm
working nine-and-a-half-hour days lately; I don't think five minutes
are too much to ask for.
Regardless, the Gypsy Jazz Trio is worth a look and I really do
recommend you check them out.
After all, I'm only trying to help.