In Woody Allen's film Sweet and Lowdown, Sean Penn plays guitarist Emmet Ray, who said he cried every time he listened to the great gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Some of Reinhardt's beautiful ballads have the same effect on me, and knowing his history makes the music all the more poignant.
Reinhardt grew up in gypsy encampments near Paris, where he took up banjo, violin and guitar. By the time he was a teenager, he already had some serious guitar chops, but at the age of eighteen, he got caught in a fire that left the third and fourth fingers of his left hand severely burned. Doctors said he'd never be able to play the guitar again, but Reinhardt was determined. Eventually, he came up with a completely new way of playing guitar by just using his first and second fingers — and some of the extraordinary stuff he did with two fingers was impossible for most guitar players using four.
During the '30s and '40s, Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Quintette du Hot Club de France spread the gypsy-jazz gospel throughout Europe and America. Today, legions of Reinhardt followers still study the guitarist's technique, play guitars modeled after his Selmer guitar, and pay homage to the man every year at the Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival in Samois-sur-Seine, France, where he lived for two years before his death in 1953.
But you don't have to go to France to hear some damn fine gypsy jazz: Local Reinhardt disciples the Gypsy Swing Revue set up shop every Wednesday at the Irish Snug (1201 East Colfax Avenue). While drinking copious amounts of Guinness, I've caught the quartet led by nimble guitarist Elliot Reed, and whether they're doing fiery renditions of "Minor Swing," one of Reinhardt's most famous songs, or slowing it down on the ballads, these guys fully capture his spirit.
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Club scout: Great Divide Brewing Company (2201 Arapahoe Street) will celebrate fourteen years in the business with a party from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, with live music from the Tippetts, Widowers and the Swayback. Ten bucks gets you food and beer, including some special Great Divide releases. A few blocks away, Theörie (1920 Market Street) launches its Mojito Madness happy hour on Friday, June 6. Every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., the club will serve $6 mojitos and $12 mojito pitchers. And on Wednesday, June 11, the venue starts up Glamour Wednesdays, when ladies drink free from 10 p.m. to midnight and are served by some hot single dudes.
On Sunday, June 8, Sharp's Roadhouse (6496 Highway 2, Commerce City) kicks off its weekly arm-wrestling competitions; the following Saturday, the bar starts up its weekly oil-wrestling. Sharp's already has weekly Foxxy Boxing nights on Wednesdays.
The Sunday Rockabilly-n-Ribs afternoons at Tambien (250 Steele Street) have been hot since the concept was introduced a month ago. And if Mexican barbecue, more than 200 kinds of tequila, Tecates and rockabilly aren't enough to get you down there, on Sunday, June 8, Tambien will add a car show to the mix, with contests for best street rod, muscle car and classic car, with best in show winning a tequila dinner for two. Radio host Peter Boyles will be a celebrity judge. Soon to be not so hot: Rockbar (3015 East Colfax Avenue). Yes, Tambien's sibling is having air-conditioning installed, but it still might be a few weeks before things cool off, because it's a big, uh, unit.