By Adam Skuse
By the time you read this, the descendant of the ridiculously legendary Django Reinhardt will already have landed in the city. Hot on the heels of the JZ Festival, the Lulo Reinhardt Latin Swing Quartet will be performing a series of shows from today until the end of the month. Apart from the world-renowned grand-nephew of Django Reinhardt, the quartet also includes guitarist Doug Martin, a stalwart of the local gypsy jazz scene, and will be performing original compositions blending jazz, gypsy melodies and Latin rhythms, as well as Django Reinhardt standards. So if there’s been a jazz-shaped void in your life since the JZ Festival ended, or you have any interest at all in hearing some of the most toe-tappingly enjoyable music there is, get yourself to at least one of the performances.
Oh yeah, and most of the shows are FREE.
Shanghaiist interviewed Lulo by email before his arrival in Shanghai.
Shanghaiist: How would you describe the music that you’ll be playing?
Lulo: My music is a combination of original gypsy swing, Latin, samba, flamenco, and jazz. It is complex, captivating, and untamed. Such is my music it cannot be categorized into any one genre.
Shanghaiist: Why have you decided to come to Shanghai? What have you heard about the music scene in the city?
Lulo: Saga Musical Instruments invited me to the Shanghai Musikmesse trade show. I will be performing there as well as at many other places in Shanghai this month with Doug Martin and Daniel Weltlinger. People have told me it is a good place and I am looking forward to making new contacts here and letting the Chinese people know who I am.
Shanghaiist: There is obviously a strong tradition of music in your family. What part did music play in your early childhood and family life?
Lulo: I started playing guitar when I was five. My father gave me my grandfather’s Django Reinhardt model guitar and showed me my first chords. After that I rehearsed every day with my cousin Mike. We had a lot of fun playing together – Mike always played the solos and I played rhythm. Whenever the family got together, which was all the time, we played for birthdays, weddings, communions, always learning and playing Django’s songs. Back then we only listened to this music and at that time my uncle, Daweli Reinhardt, was playing with Schnuckenack [Django’s cousin] in the 70’s. My first concert was in 1973 playing with the Mike Reinhardt sextet in front of an audience of four thousand people. It was here that I “jumped in the deep water” and felt like a musician and that this was what I was born to be. I was twelve years old.
Shanghaiist: Collaboration seems to be a running theme of your career – why do you feel it’s important to play with so many different people?
Lulo: For me it’s the most important thing to play with different musicians. It is in this way that I can experience different cultures and different ways of playing. I mix different styles with my own and experiment with everything I hear. For example, during my first visit to Africa in 1998 I played in the desert of Algeria for the Sahrauis people with one hundred other musicians from around the world. The event was called the Sahara Continental Music Festival. It was here that I met Zezo Ribeiro from Spain who inspired my shift to modern Latin jazz. The indigenous sounds from this region also inspired my interest in world music.
Shanghaiist: The Reinhardt name is world renowned. In what ways has it helped you in your career? Has it hindered you in any way?
Lulo: The Reinhardt name has opened doors for me and for other musicians in my family. It is important to know in which direction to go afterward. Most people expect that I will only play the Django style and are surprised that I have taken my music to a whole new level. Therefore I create my own style and people seem to like it. I always have gypsy swing as a starting point and have always had it yet I feel free to venture into new territory as far as I want to go.
The Reinhardt name has only ‘’kicked me in my ass’’ so that I will make new music. Django Reinhardt did this and so do I. This name of mine cannot hold me back.
Shanghaiist: Gypsy jazz is an enduring style and, if anything, seems to be gaining popularity across the world – from South America to Europe and Asia and plenty of other places. What do you think is its appeal?
Lulo: This style is unique and like flamenco has its own followers. In my experience people like it or they don’t like it, there is no half-hearted appreciation. Gypsy swing is loved by lovers of gypsy swing. It is with this passion that people all over the world come together to experience or learn to play together. This style was a revolution in Django Reinhardt’s time and is still capturing the hearts of audiences today throughout the world. More and more musicians are discovering the Gypsy sound.
Shanghaiist: What’s next for you once you’ve finished in Shanghai ?
Lulo: I have a new Gypsy swing CD with twelve new compositions to finish and produce as well as two other CDs: one with my father and our own band “I Gitanos” and a CD with my percussionist Uli Kramer recorded live in Köln, Germany.
Lulo Reinhardt Latin Swing Quartet
Oct. 16, 21:30 (Tues) Piccone 1, 2 Floor Tao Jiang Road
Oct. 17, 21:30 (Wed) Piccone 1, 2 Floor Tao Jiang Road
Oct. 18, 21:30 (Thurs) Cotton Club, 1416 Huai Hai Road
Oct. 19, 20:00 (Fri) The Melting Pot, 635 Bi Bo Road (Pudong)
Oct. 20, 22:00 (Sat) Piccone 1, 2 Floor Tiao Jiang Road
Oct. 21, 20:00 (Sun) La Bella Cafe, 127 Yong Fu Road
Oct. 23, 22:00 (Tue) JZ Club 46 West Fu Xing Road
Oct. 24, 20:00 (Weds) Livingston American School 580 Gan Xi Road (near Fu Quan Road)
Oct. 24, 22:45 (Weds) House of Blues and Jazz, 158 South Mao Ming Road
Admission to shows is free with the exception of those at Piccone (100 RMB) and Livingston American School (admission fee 50 RMB, with proceeds going towards the Lin Family Medical Fund).