Gypsy Jazzers Take Over Albuquerque
Producer John Sandlin gives us the lowdown on the low-down sounds of his Django Festival
The New Mexico Django Festival returns to Albuquerque in its fourth, nearly annual edition after a layoff in 2009 in deference to the imploded economy. Producer John Sandlin, perhaps best known hereabouts as the rakishly handsome, devilishly talented guitarist for Le Chat Lunatique, has once again put together a stellar lineup, including up-and-coming international acts as well as local favorites like Zoltan Orkestar, The Hot Club of Santa Fe and Django Rhythm Meat Grinder. For four days, they’ll all pay homage to the Belgian whiz-kid guitarist Django Reinhardt, who put a unique gypsy spin on swing.
Like any self-respecting roué, Sandlin’s fully awake only after dark, but he made a special effort to provide coherent comments in a morning interview, filling us in on the festival’s 2010 offerings.
So are the rumors true that Django Reinhardt appears to you in your dreams and makes recommendations about whom to book for the festival?
[After a pause.] Well, perhaps. Or maybe it could be Stéphane Grappelli—I don’t know.
Well, how do you find these people?
The first year I organized it, I did a lot of searching and came across the Hot Club of Phoenix and Mango Fan Django, from Colorado Springs. We’ve had them back twice now, so they’re New Mexico Django Festival regulars. Then, there’s Swing from Paris—
They’re actually from Britain, aren’t they?
Are they trying to confuse me?
They’re trying to confuse everybody. The luthier for the guitars I play and endorse [ Manouche Guitars] is the bassist in that group. So that’s how I know them.
What about your headliner, the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet?
He’s a well-known name in the Django world—an up-and-coming kind of dude from Argentina originally, but out of L.A. now. We had a chance to share a stage at the Colorado Django Festival a couple of years ago, and he was hanging out with the likes of Robin Nolan and John Jorgenson and playing just as well or better. Super nice guy, and he’s got a fantastic quartet with a great horn player.
The Shoestring Trio doesn’t technically exist, as far as I can tell. I mean, no website.
I know. I’ve been trying to get them on that. But they consist of Michael Papillo—he’s a fantastic bass player. ... He plays with Jessica Fichot. We did a co-bill with her and got to meet him and Antoine Salem, the guitarist. Then, when Le Chat Lunatique did our little rail trip out to L.A. and played a few gigs, we got to hang out with him more, and he told us about his Django trio, with bass, guitar and reeds.
Yeah, the reed player, Robby Marshall, has some impressive credits on his résumé—Bobby McFerrin, Wayne Shorter, Nancy Wilson. ... Now, I guess you’re expecting everyone to have a really good time Friday night because you’ve got a recovery breakfast scheduled at Winning Coffee on Saturday morning.
Two years ago, Sandy Timmerman from Winning and the q-Staff group offered food, breakfast—for all the Django artists to come in and have a free breakfast—and it kind of turned into a jam session. It was a lot of fun, so we want to make that a tradition. The night before ends up being like a late, late jam session anyway in the Hotel Blue breakfast room. So people are up late, but then we’ve got to get them up and going—so breakfast and good coffee.
You’ve spread the events out in different venues.
My idea is to showcase Albuquerque’s great venues. This year, I wanted to showcase a couple more. Playing in Low Spirits has been a lot of fun. The Kosmos really has a cool vibe—I like the feel of it. Scalo gets the Django Fest musicians up in Nob Hill a little more.
There’s another local band appearing. Le Chat Lunatique? What’s up with them?
Hobbyists. They play a handful of gigs a year.
Just around town? Free stuff?