Monday, November 27, 2017

The Ferret Brothers - Guitarists In Django’s Shadow (2)

Georg Lankester
Georg Lankester tells the story of the Ferret brothers – contemporary Gypsy guitarists of Django Reinhardt. The story is in three parts, below follows part two.  The first part is available herethe third part is published later.

Etienne “Sarane”Ferret (1912 – 1970)
The second son of the Ferret family became the one who made far more jazz recordings than both his brothers, in total over 50 tracks. This is rather astonishing since he was hardly considered an established guitarist.
Etienne 'Sarane' Ferret
Jazz attracted Sarane right from the start and, once in Paris, he rather soon played with violinist Michel Warlop as well as with the accordionists Gus Viseur and Tony Murena, all great improvisers. So like his elder brother – Sarane was active in the Musette scene and recorded with accordionists thereby playing in the Django style. But he could also often be seen in Russian cabarets which were popular among the many Russians who had come to  the French capital. This kind of gypsy music also attracted West-European tourists. Great musicians in those places then were cymbalum player Nitra Codolban and violinist Jean Gulesco. From these artists the young Sarane learned a lot. Because he also met Django, he became even  more interested in jazz where the banjo was replced by the guitar. Sarane was quite familiar with this instrument and he performed with jazz accordionists such as Charley Bazin, Louis Richardet, Viseur and Murena ! In 1939 his quality as a soloist was confirmed when – during a tour in England – he replaced Django in the London “Kilburn” theatre.

However, of even more importance is that, in the early Forties, Sarane formed the Swing Quintette de Paris which gave us many of his own compositions. More or less like Django’s new quintet, Sarane’s formation included two clarinet players viz. André Lluis and Sylvio Siobud.  In the first recordings of this quintet (1941) Matelo is present in the rhythm group; shortly afterwards also Baro joined the quintet. 

Odeon 281.494_Tiger Rag
Somewhat later Sarane replaced the two clarinettists by the violinist Robert Bermosa.   A remarkable recording of this formation is Sarane’s performance of the Tiger Rag with very quick runs in his solos (like Django did in the Thirties). Also the violin player shows a great ‘drive’ on this record.

Georges Effroses
One year later this ensemble is back in the studio but now with violinist Georges Effroses. Also Sarane’s brothers are present in the rhythm group. Recordings show us a solo guitarist with sometimes a lyrical way of improvising. The same can be said of the Israelian violin player, who – in 1943 disappeared. Later it was revealed that the artist had died in a concentration camp.

Towards the end of the war a few records of Sarane and a string quartet were issued and the formation now included guitarist Jacques Montagne (member of the Malha family).Then follows a rather long gap, but in the spring of 1947 Sarane finally made recordings again with his own group now called Le Quintette de Paris featuring  accordionist Gus Viseur. And again several years passed.
Sarane Ferret in 1950s
It was only in the late Fifties that a number of tracks of Sarane and his orchestra came out again; the band inluded several musicians who played with Django shortly before his death in 1953.Some names: Benny Vasseur, Roger Guérin and Maurice Vander. For me personally, the recordings are not so interesting. These were about his last sessions and from then his activities declined.

Sarane Ferret finally died in 1970 (58 years old) as the first of the three brothers.

Georg Lankester 

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Ferret Brothers - Guitarists In Django’s Shadow (1)

Georg Lankester
Georg Lankester tells the story of the Ferret brothers – contemporary Gypsy guitarists of Django Reinhardt. The story is in three parts, below follows the first part, part two and three are published later.

The Ferret Brothers
The name  Ferret or Ferré does remind us of a great musical family that later produced a prodigy called BoulouFor many decades these gypsies (no Manouches) were living in the French town of Rouen and not in a caravan like eg. the Reinhardt / Weiss family. Father Gousti  and mother Douderou had two daughters and three sons.This article deals with those three sons, called Pierre Joseph (“Baro”), Etienne (“Sarane”) and Pierre Jean (“Matelo”). Further their cousin Renë (“Challain” Ferret) should also be mentioned, since he was more or less considered as a ‘fourth brother’.

The Ferrets lived for many decades in France although they were of Andalusian origin. We can really speak of a musical family: Douderou was very fond of Operette and the girls became singers. The three boys were soon familiar with string instruments since their uncles, who used to play these, learned them the technique. In those years the banduria (a Spanish kind of mandolin) and  the banjo were popular instruments;  much later the guitar would become important.

In the Thirties Baro and Sarane left home and went to Paris; rather soon they formed part of the world of entertainment while playing in Russian cabarets and at balls where they accompanied accordionists. The French Musette which started around 1900, had become very popular and the top accordionists preferred to be backed up by gypsies because of their rhythm and control of string instruments .

The role of the banjo
This instrument on which the young Django Reinhardt was a star player, gradually became less popular for the following reason: In 1928 Django – who was involved in a fire accident -  became seriously injured. However, during his recovery period  he learned to play guitar and developed an amazing technique and great virtuosity despite a crippled left hand. He came back in the Parisian world of music, at first to accompany singers, later playing with jazz musicians (e.g. saxophonist André Ekyan). From late1934 he became one of the star players in the Hot Club quintet next to violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

Django’s  unparallelled guitar playing made great impression on his fellow gypsies and consequently many changed from banjo to guitar. So the former Musette changed into Swing Musette whereby accordionsts were backed by guitarists, one of which was Matelo, a master in this kind of music. 

The career of the three Ferret brothers

Pierre 'Baro' Ferret (1937)
Pierre “Baro” Ferret (1908 – 1976)
His official  name was Joseph, however, he was usually called Baro and later Mr. Camembert since he liked cheese. He started to play the Spanish banduria, but then switched to banjo, very popular in the Musette. And in the Thirties he really would become an exceptional guitarist. Already in 1931 he and Sarane left home in order to settle in the French capital and he found work in the Musette scene and soon made recordings with the well-known accordion player Guérino – (NOTE Django recorded with this artist on banjo in 1928.).
Sarane (g, left) and Baro (g, right) with accordionist Guérino’s orchestra 
Baro was such a talent that his solo playing later almost equalled that of Django.The two guitarists respected each other and often played together, then experimenting for fun. The musicians had, however, totally different characters: Django was in fact a good man, Baro was not a very easy person and often he came in touch with bad guys, sometimes even swindlers. Due to his friendship with Django, serious problems fortunately could be avoided.
Starting from 1935 Baro became a member of the Hot Club quintet and we can listen to his fine rhythm in recordings from those days, e.g. as released by the French company “Frémeaux”. On top of that I refer to his recordings of beautiful waltzes issued in 1939 by the Trio Ferret with solos of Baro accompanied by his brother Matelo and Maurice Speilleux on bass. Some titles: “Ma Théo”, “Gin-Gin” (also known as “Chez Jacquet”) and the most famous gypsy waltz composed by Gusti Malha “La valse des Niglots”. 

And even before, Baro recorded “Wind & Strings” with Albert Ferrari (tenor sax), the “Swing Valse” and “Swing Cocktail” joined by Gus Viseur on accordion.
Baro Ferret (left) with accordionist Gus Viseur (late 1930s)
Here's an example from the recordings with Gus Viseur, Swing Cocktail 1938

In the summer of 1940 the guitarist played with Viseur’s orchestra and provided some beautiful solos – I can recommend those records.
Jo Privat
After the war he joined accordionist Jo Privat, who since many years was the owner of the well-known “Balajo” club. This formation produced hits from those years as well as Reinhardt compositions. Sometimes, when people listened they thought that it was Django himself who played the solos !
The Baro Ferret Ensemble (late 1940s)
In 1949 Baro formed his own group The Baro Ferret Ensemble and recorded several titles for the Odeon label. Those performances include Jo Privat, guitarist Jacques Montagne and Jéremie Grand’son double bass. The recordings show elements of the new American jazz form Bebop which inspired Baro to even create Bop-Waltzes. His compositions show a great musicality and a new approach e.g. an  6/8 jazz rhythm.

During the Fifties he recorded again with his ensemble and a piano player; these are more modern themes which remind us of Django’s last recording sessions.  At that time Baro owned a bar where gypsies dropped by to play and where he often joined them. However, slowly the interest declined and eventually he sold the bar.
Pierre 'Baro' Ferret (1908-1976)
The guitarist died at the age of 68 years, more or less in silence. During his career he was in fact never in the spotlights.

Georg Lankester

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Anthony 'Bus' Etri - Legendary Big Band Swing Jazz Guitarist

Bus Etri (1917 - 1941) 
The name and recordings of jazz guitarist Bus Etri may only be known by a handful of jazz guitar nerds today. However, Bus Etri's contribution to big band swing jazz in the 1930s and early 1940s ought to be better known among fans of swing jazz guitar. Unfortunately, only few details about Bus Etri's biography and career are available, but here are the few facts I could find. Anthony 'Bus' Etri was born in Manhattan, NYC, June 22, 1917 and died in a car crash in Culver City, Ca., Aug. 21, 1941. No info available about his life and musical background until his name and guitarplaying are featured with recordings by the Hudson - DeLange Orchestra from 1937 - 38. When this co-lead orchestra dissolved in 1938, Bus Etri continued for some time as a member of Will Hudson's orchestra which recorded a couple of sessions for Brunswick under the name of Will Hudson and his Seven Swingsters featuring Etri on guitar. However, at some point in 1938 Bus Etri switched to Charlie Barnet's orchestra and was a stable member of this organisation for the remain of his shortlived career. Both as a member of the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra and Charlie Barnet's big band Bus Etri contributed with his remarkable and excellent jazz guitar playing on stage and records, below I'll insert some recorded examples that have been uploaded at You Tube.
The Hudson - DeLange Orchestra
March 10 and 11, 1937 the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra recorded nine titles for the Master/Brunswick label in New York, four have guitar soli by Bus Etri - they are: Stardust, College Widow, Bugle Call Rag and Wake Up And Live. Personnel of the orchestra include Charles Mitchell, Howard Schaumberger, Jimmy Blake (tp), Edward Kolyer (tb), George Bohn, Gus Bivona (cl, as), Ted Duane (cl, ts), Pete Brendel (as, bar), Mark Hyams (p), Bus Etri (g), Doc Goldberg (b), Nat Pollard (dm), Ruth Gaylor (vo), Will Hudson (arr, dir), Eddie de Lange (vo, arr, dir). Below is inserted the audio videos of Stardust and Bugle Call Rag 

From the same session, Bus Etri's guitar solo playing is also featured in Bugle Call Rag 

The remarkable hot chord style contributions and short single string statements by Bus Etri in the two above examples are a hallmark of his guitar playing style at this point of his career, also noticed in the recording of On The Alamo by the Hudson-DeLange orchestra from April 8, 1938

Charlie Barnet and his orchestra (c.1941)
As mentioned above, in 1938 (- probably between August and November) Bus Etri switched to the big band orchestra of Charlie Barnet and was a mainstay with this organisation until his untimely death in August 1941. Charlie Barnet and his orchestra made a considerable number of recordings for Bluebird and further was presented in transcription sessions and various live performances during the late 1930s and early 1940s featuring Bus Etri on guitar. However, much of this material outside the studio recordings by the band is still undiscovered and hard to find, thus the number of live recordings featuring Bus Etri guitar soli contributions is unknown so far.
Tappin' At The Tappa_Bluebird B-10584-B
Among the studio recordings by Charlie Barnet's orchestra for Bluebird, the first registered solo by Etri is featured in a session recorded in NYC, Jan. 3rd, 1940 on Tappin' At The Tappa - a tune by Barnet and heavily inspired by the Ellington sound. Personnel include Robert Burnet, Billy May, John Owens, Lyman Vunk (tp), Spud Murphy, Don Ruppersberg, Bill Robertson (tb), Noni Bernardi, James Lamare, Gene Kinsey (as), Charlie Barnet (as, ts, ldr), Kurt Bloom (ts), Bill Miller (p), Bus Etri (g), Phil Stevens (b), Cliff Leeman (dm).

Bus Etri's solo contribution at this recording of Tappin' At The Tappa is still played on the acoustic archtop guitar and his style of playing has not changed fundamentally compared to the mix of chords and short single string statements known from the contributions with the Hudson - DeLange Orchestra. However, two months later Bus Etri has changed to amplified/electric guitar and now a new dimension in his playing style is revealed in a session with Charlie Barnet for Bluebird on March 21, 1940. Two titles from this session have soli by Etri, they are featured in A Lover's Lullaby and Wanderin' Blues
Wanderin' Blues_Bluebird B-10721-B
The audio of Wanderin' Blues has also been uploaded at You Tube and is inserted below

Jazz critic Jan Evensmo writes in his solography on Bus Etri (- free available as a downloadable pdf document, here) about this recording of Wanderin' Blues, quote: “Wanderin’ Blues”! Mostly played single string in the bottom register, it is a 100% original conception of the blues. Ranging from down-to-earth blue phrases to an almost Ravellian atmosphere in bars 9-10, purposefully played out of beat, the solo gives altogether the impression of a true innovator on the instrument." Bus Etri's switching to the amplified/electric guitar implied a noticeable change in his playing style, now more focused on single string contribution. This may be the reason why some critics have characterized Bus Etri as 'the white Charlie Christian', a comparison also evident in the recording of Flying Home by the Charlie Barnet orchestra from May 8, 1940, although Etri's short solo in this take of the famous swing tune does not copy Charlie Christian, well, you may judge for yourself

Two more examples of Bus Etri's contributions on amplified/electric guitar with Charlie Barnet are inserted below to further characterize his playing style. Here is first a recording for Bluebird on Jan. 7, 1941 of Charlie Barnet's  Blue Juice 

Jan Evensmo writes in his Bus Etri solography about Blue Juice, quote: "It seems that BE had a particular knack for the blues, and he plays very well here, mixing a driving single string with strange chords, creating rather unique results, not to be mistaken for any other contemporary guitar player, nor later ones. Note how he uses several of Charlie Christian’s tricks, adapted to his own needs." The same applies to the transcription recording of Uptown Blues from about the same time, inserted below from You Tube as the last example here of the jazz guitar playing style by the legendary Bus Etri 

The above inserted photo of Bus Etri is copied from the updated solography by Jan Evensmo, which also features another illustration in color of the guitarist. The solography by Jan Evensmo is a must for serious researchers of Bus Etri's recorded legacy and I strongly recommend you to download the pdf , if you like to  have a detailed outline of registered soli contributions by this excellent guitarist.

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