November 2, 2006


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Ameranouche's gypsy jazz
A nationally touring act with an international soundr
By Erica Febre

It's hard to talk about Ameranouche, a hot gypsy jazz trio, without mentioning one of gypsy jazz's greatest musicians, Django Reinhardt.

Ameranouche's members say Reinhardt is their top influence.

"Django was doing some things with the guitar that, to this day, still shocks many guitar players. There's this artistic intimacy present. It's his musicianship and the way that he put things together that's just really wonderful," said Richard Sheppard, known as "Shepp" with Ameranouche.

Reinhardt (1910-1953) was one of the first European jazz players to bring new applications to an improvisatory stage. Born to a gypsy family, Reinhardt's first instrument was a violin. In later years, he switched to the banjo and then the guitar. He is most known for his dexterous fretboard technique, which defined a new genre of jazz guitarists.

"Because of the underpinning on Django, Ameranouche is very guitar-driven. There are three string instruments so it's guitar-oriented music. Gypsy jazz works on a universal level. It's very strong and powerful. The heart beats in a 3/4 time, like a waltz, and that same timing is a strong part of this music," Sheppard said.

Ameranouche features Sheppard on guitar, Ryan Flaherty on rhythm guitar and Benjamin Wood on upright bass. Ameranouche is an upbeat, all-acoustic act presenting their own original material as well as covering some jazz standards.

Although Sheppard describes the music as "pure and unabated, rhythmic laughter," it's the elements of the fast arrangements and the original creations that make it Gypsy jazz, while also including tastes of Latin, Parisian, swing and Spanish rhythms.

Ameranouche is a nationally touring act, with recent performances including Djangofest Northwest in Washington, a celebration of the music of Reinhardt.

An important factor in Ameranouche's gypsy jazz focus, according to Sheppard, is the communal nature of the music. Sheppard said the music is about bringing people together, under a common tent, with music as a universal language to be shared.

It's not uncommon for Ameranouche to have guest musicians join them in a set. As a matter of fact, Sheppard said they encourage it and hope that more people will give the music a listen.

"Our music is just like everyone else's music. Of course it sounds different, but it's still the same intent. Everyone's trying to put out their own creative output. Ours just happens to sound like this," Sheppard said.

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