Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gyspy Guitar, Yet Again

Limehouse Blues
Limehouse Blues
was composed by Philip Braham and was originally sung with words by Douglas Furber. The song has long since become a improvisational instrumental and one, like Brazil, I heard on an old but astounding Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappeli recording.

Reinhardt/Grappeli, Limehouse Blues

The lyrics:
And those weird China blues
Never go away
Sad, mad blues
For all the while they seem to say

Oh, Limehouse kid
Oh, oh, Limehouse kid
Goin' the way
That the rest of them did
Poor broken blossom
And nobody's child
Haunting and taunting
You're just kind of wild

Oh, Limehouse blues
I've the real Limehouse blues
Can't seem to shake off
Those real China blues
Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown

Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown

Here is my version of Limehouse Blues. The guitar I am playing was made by David Hodson shortly before his death, and was a replica of Reinhardt's guitar in the Louvre. I say "was" because a local repairman (a monkey with a can of Krylon and a wrench, as it turned out) took a barely visible hairline face crack and made it into a disaster by forcing the crack open, pouring glue onto it, then sanding it after the glue dried. The guitar's face has since been lovingly and painstakingly restored by someone with the talent and expertise to do it, but there were some really intense moments.

Swing Gitane
Despite his fame as a gypsy guitarist, "Swing Gitane" is one of the few gypsy melodies that Django Reinhardt recorded and kept for a time in his repertory. "Swing Gitane" means "Swing Gypsy." My version is certainly more Swing than gypsy, but it is a very compelling minor key song. It has built in both swing and drive while retaining some of the eastern European flavor of earlier versions.

I am not a gypsy jazz player, instead having my roots more in electric archtop playing, but the allure of these guitars is hard to resist.