Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Sometimes life twists in unimagined ways and exciting opportunities arise. One such opportunity for me was to be invited to have dinner with the Occidental Gypsy Band at the home of Lee and Gloria Shapiro of Sharon, MA. Just before the band was scheduled to play a house concert set, we sat down to a seafood paella dinner prepared by our host.
House concerts take you back to the folk traditions where music was performed in the home where a group of neighbors would gather to socialize and enjoy the music. Experiencing roots music at a house concert is a highly emotional experience. The performers are able to relax and interact with those in attendance as if they were old friends. Lee and Gloria have been hosting house concerts for sometime now. It is a warm and welcoming atmosphere and I treasure the friendship that is forming between us.
In the traditions of Django Rhinehardt's and Stephan Grappelli, Occidental Gypsy Band presents a well balanced fusion of swing, American jazz and manouche (traditional gypsy music) with a shaker of Latin rhythms blended in for a new flavor all their own. The set consisted of a broad mix of swing-time, waltz and ballad rhythms along with some bistro styled contemporary folk tunes. With a brand new CD now in the case, Occidental Gypsy played several selections from the release, most of which are original compositions by Scott Kulman and Brett Feldman. Brett described the process of making the CD as being far more involved than he had ever imagined but the hard won results were well worth the effort.
The camaraderie between the band members was easy going and comfortable. The passion of their playing was palpable when experienced up close and personal. When the music is in the hearts of the musicians as it clearly was with these folks, the connective energy between the band and the listeners reverberates repeatedly. It would be fun to experience them in a dance venue and do a little swing.
The band came together when Scott Kulman was introduced to the Gypsy Jazz style of music in a casual encounter with Brett Feldman. Joining Scott and Brett is Jeff Feldman on bass. Julgi Kang joined them in 2010, bringing the dark violin tones characteristic of the gypsy style. Scott and Julge connected through their attendance at Berklee School of Music.
The moniker "Occidental" distinguishes this band as the Western style of Gypsy Jazz that originates in the eastern block with the Roma population. Brett and Jeff explained the root history of the Django gypsy style. A nomadic people with very little assimilation into traditional society norms of schooling and education, their social gatherings are centered with a musical underpinning as most ethnic groupings do. Django blended ethereal traditional sound of his people into the “hot club” jazz of the 1930s French bistros. Thus, the genre was born. Occidental Gypsy have studied the style extensively and made it their own. Put this band on your must see list.
Picture slide show of the event
I was a paid guest at this venue.