John Jorgenson: ‘I’m very inspired by Django and by the music he created with Grappelli and their Hot Club Quintet. What I try to do always in a show, or on a CD, is pay tribute, then move on from there.’

That Django Swing, And Then Some
Working with Quintet and Orchestra, John Jorgenson Stakes Out New Turf For Gypsy Jazz
By David McGee

You know, it is possible to take things too far.

This charge might conceivably be leveled at John Jorgenson, one of the world’s foremost champions of Jazz manouche, or gypsy jazz, or the music popularized in Paris in the 1930s, and still epitomized today worldwide, by the Belgian-born jazz guitarist, Jean “Django” Reinhardt.

Some may know Jorgenson less for his gypsy jazz than for being a member of one of latter-day country music’s finest groups, the much-honored (five #1 country singles, three Academy of Country Music Band of the Year awards) Desert Rose Band (which also included Byrds founder Chris Hillman, Herb Pederson, Bill Bryson, Jay Dee Maness and Steve Duncan), or perhaps as one-third of the all-guitar trio, the Hellecasters, which recorded its first two albums for Mike Nesmith’s Pacific Arts Audio label. However, he has been studying, playing and working his own variations on Django’s music and gypsy jazz as a genre since 1979, when he began studying it in earnest. But, paying more than lip service to his inspiration, Jorgenson actually went the extra mile and then some, to become Django in the opening scene of director John Duigan’s critically savaged 2004 film, Head In the Clouds, starring Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz. It is a strange sight indeed, seeing the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jorgenson as the dark-featured Romani guitar legend. But here he is, in a long shot at the beginning, in closeup at 1:50, playing Django style:

Jorgenson says he practically begged director Duigan for a chance to play the part—“I didn’t look anything like Django Reinhardt,” he says in understatement, “but I told him, ‘I’ll dye my hair, I’ll grow the moustache, I’ll do anything I can.’” Duigan bought the pitch, but told Jorgenson he would have the prosthetics department “build something special for your left hand”; to Jorgenson’s enthusiastic response to this idea for replicating the fire-mangled Django left hand, Duigan added: “I was just kidding.” Jorgenson’s response to that was somewhat sheepish, but not atypical of how he’s pursued all of his musical endeavors: he told Duigan he knew how to play in the Django two-finger style.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m almost embarrassed to say because it sounds like I have no life, but I’ve learned some of Django’s pieces using only two fingers’—mainly because I wanted to see how that was possible. It is possible! What happens is, in learning that it opened up the fretboard in a completely different way. Because Django runs up and down the fingerboard so much, and what ends up happening is the tone and the character of the guitar is so different all over the neck, that the outcome is you get a much more colorful and interesting sound, using the different areas of the guitar so much.”

“Using the different areas of the guitar” is something of a mantra for this exceptional guitar master, whose playing betrays the influence and awareness of the sonic and tonal possibilities he’s learned from being able to play several other instruments besides guitar, such as mandolin, mandocello, Dobro, pedal steel, piano, upright bass, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone. This is the end product of being raised by a father who was a conductor and music professor and a mother who taught piano. At age five Jorgenson was learning his sister’s piano lessons by ear, but his mother taught him to read music by using a different lesson book. As an eight-year-old, he began clarinet lessons; finally, at age 10, after an intensive, near-two-year lobbying campaign he initiated after seeing the Beatles on TV, Santa left him an electric guitar under the Christmas tree.

Born in Madison, WI, on July 6, 1956, raised in Southern California, Jorgenson’s proficiency as a classical bassoon player and jazz bassist earned him a scholarship in 1978 to the Aspen Music Festival. His tuition and room were covered, but nothing else. To keep from starving, he answered an ad seeking a jazz bassist “for immediate gigs.” But instead of jazz, the group that placed the ad were playing progressive bluegrass—David Grisman’s first album, as it turned out—in an instrumental lineup that included mandolin, guitar and fiddle. It was Jorgenson’s first immersion in roots music.

“I’d really never heard that,” he explains from his Nashville home, where he was getting ready to tour in support of his new ensemble album, One Stolen Night, which is being released on his own J2 label coincident with a second new project, Istiqbal Gathering, recorded with Orchestra Nashville and special guests the Turtle Island Quintet (about both, more later). “I’d heard a little bit of bluegrass growing up. I remember seeing a bluegrass band and thinking, Oh, my God, that’s the fastest music I’ve ever heard. I don’t see how anyone could ever play that fast. But I just loved the sound of the mandolin, a flat-picked guitar, and that whole sound. So when I came home to California from that summer, I started learning how to play mandolin. My neighbors had a nice little Gibson, a wall hanger that they wouldn’t sell me, because it was their grandfather’s, but they let me borrow it to play.”

Who would have guessed that it would be Walt Disney’s vision that helped put Jorgenson onto the gypsy jazz path he has traversed so fruitfully since including a side of Django-influenced music on one side of his first solo album, 1988’s After You’ve Gone? But such is the case, for it was at Disneyland, in 1979, where he had taken a summer job playing in a roving quartet, that he was introduced to the music of Django Reinhardt, through one of the musicians he performed with in a band of roving minstrels that moved from one park location to another, playing three songs in different styles of music in different guises—as the Main Street Maniacs, they played Dixieland; as the Thunder Mountain Boys, they played bluegrass. The three-month gig turned into a full-time position. To relieve the boredom of “playing those same three songs,” the group—a quartet of multi-instrumentalists—began expanding its repertoire. From the banjo player Jorgenson picked up on “this great ‘20s and ‘30s banjo playing that I’d never heard before, and I wanted to try some of it on guitar.” Asking his partners if “there was a guitarist back then that had this kind of wild technique,” he was greeted with the unanimous response, “Oh, Django Reinhardt!” He bought a Django album, was overwhelmed, and soon talked the Disneyland power- that-be into letting the musicians form a new entity that would play ‘30s music—“Django, the Boswell Sisters, Slim and Slam” [Ed. Note: That would be Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart, who recorded an original song titled “Tutti Frutti” in 1938, 17 years before a Little Richard classic of the same title but at a considerably slower tempo and with different lyrics; Gaillard collaborated with singer-songwriter-vocalist Doris Fisher on “Tutti Frutti”; Fisher also wrote or co-wrote “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall,” and, not least of all, “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” Elvis Presley recorded both “Tutti Frutti” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” the latter twice: as the second side of his $3.25 self-recorded singe at the Memphis Recording Service, with “My Happiness,” as a birthday present to his mother, and later as the B side of his smash hit single, “All Shook Up,” in 1957.] They called themselves the Rhythm Brothers in this incarnation, and were “instrumentally like the Hot Club of France, but vocally like Nat King Cole Trio or some of the swing bands of that day.”

Over time at Disneyland, Jorgenson met another Django-style guitarist, Raul Reynoso, who advanced Jorgenson’s knowledge of the gypsy’s technique, and as musicians came and went, he made the connections that set him on the course that brought him to where he is today, including Chris Hillman, Bill Bryson, Darroll Anger “and that whole other kind of southern California bluegrass world.” He met David Grisman at a NAMM show in Anaheim, and through Grisman was introduced to Hillman. “I heard Chris’s songs that we were playing acoustically for awhile, and really, really pushed that they ought to be more like country-rock, with a bluegrass tinge. That’s what morphed into the Desert Rose Band.”

The Desert Rose Band, live at Church Street Station, 1988, performing Buck Owens’s ‘Hello, Trouble.’ John Jorgenson cuts out on a spitfire guitar solo at the 1:06 mark.

The Desert Rose Band, live at Church Street Station, with Roger McGuinn, performing Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,’ originally recorded by the Byrds on 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Before he started pursuing his gypsy jazz vision full-bore, Jorgenson not only helped fuel the successful Desert Rose and Hellecasters bands, but put in a six-year tenure on the road as Elton John’s guitarist and backed up, in the studio or on stage, a staggering and varied list of artists, including Bob Dylan and Luciano Pavarotti. Solo, his 1999 album, Emotional Savant, a near-one-man show, in front of and behind the board, was a showcase for the depth and breadth of his artistry, a mixed-genre exploration that included original songs and his own underrated vocals. With 2004’s Franco-American Swing, he was fully into Django gypsy jazz mode (it includes the songs he performs in Head In the Clouds, “Minor Swing” and “Blue Drag” as well as a cool, bluesy, gypsy jazz-redolent “In Memory of Danny Gatton”); Ultraspontane is a virtuoso display of gypsy jazz chops, especially on Django’s “Ghost Dance,” and two lesser-known, late-era Django recordings, “Improvisation #1” and ”Improvisation #2” (the latter being two examples of on-the-spot improvisations Reinhardt recorded as part of the occasional solo guitar recordings he made from time to time between 1937 and 1950, now collected one a single CD, In Solitaire).

Which brings us to the present day and two new albums at once: One Stolen Night, recorded with his illustrious quintet (Jason Anick, violin; Simon Planting, bass; Rick Reed, percussion; Kevin Nolan, rhythm guitar; with special guests Tania and Sandra Differding on trombones, and Gonzalo Bergara on bandoneon); and Istiqbal Gathering with Orchestra Nashville and the Turtle Island Quartet. For those who like the classic, bracing Hot Club swing, One Stolen Night comes highly recommended, as it romps and ruminates through 13 tracks (two of them bonus numbers at the end), eight of them Jorgenson originals, with the infectious “Hungaria” being the sole Reinhardt copyright; one of the bonus tracks, the moody solo guitar piece, “Istiqbal Solo,” is the foundation of the ambitious, orchestral title track of Istiqbal Gathering. By the very act of writing new songs in the gypsy jazz style, Jorgenson injects new life into the genre; but it’s on Istiqbal Gathering that he offers the most intriguing possibilities of the music’s greater potential, as a bridge linking it to seemingly disparate cultures and composers, and as a result staking claim to some fruitful common ground all share—in the Aaron Copland-meets-Django fusion of the three-movement “Concerto Glasso” that begins the album, to the 15:25 “Istiqbal Gathering” that hints at both South American and Chinese influences informing its Romani fervor (the South American influence being fairly pronounced, thanks to the steely, cascading, piano-like discourse provided by Alexander Fedoriouk on cimbalom), and, not least of all, a pair of songs—“Dieter’s Lounge” and “Groove In the Louve”—with the orchestra and Turtle Island Quartet in densely textured, richly evocative string-driven summits in which the lush rushes of emotion provided by Orchestra Nashville are countered by Jorgenson’s and the Turtle Island folks’ languorous, introspective soliloquies.

In the Q&A below, Jorgenson compares and contrasts the two new albums and the expansive spirit of Django informing each one.

The John Jorgenson Quintet offer a spirited take on Django’s ‘Billet Doux,’ which appears on the new album, One Stolen Night. This lineup include Jorgenson on guitar, Jason Anick on violin, Kevin Nolan on rhythm guitar, Charlie Chadwick on bass and Rick Reed on drums.

Two albums, one with a band, one with an orchestra and a celebrated string quartet—they don’t call themselves “String” anymore, but Turtle Island Quartet. Despite the seeming differences in these albums I think I’ve found some similarities in your approaches on these two discs in that perhaps you’re trying to confound listeners’ expectations of what they’re going to encounter when they hear these discs. For instance, on One Stolen Night, the rush of strings at the start of “Kentucky Kastrinos” is more like Philips Glass than Django or gypsy jazz; and on “Concerto Glasso” on Istiqbal Gathering, it’s not just gypsy jazz with orchestra, but strikes me more like Django meets Aaron Copland, because parts of it have that big sky feel of “Billy the Kid” or “Rodeo,” with an exotic flavor of gypsy jazz overlay. Those are only two examples, the point being that you’ve really made a statement on these two albums about the vitality and the expressiveness of gypsy jazz in contexts beyond how people normally hear it today. You take it to new places, especially on the orchestra album.

John Jorgenson: I try to put a lot into everything and never do anything by rote or as expected; even doing a standard, like “Hungaria,” for example, I try to add something to it so it’ll be distinctive, not a retread of something that’s been done before. On the quintet album, the standards on there—“Dr. Jazz,” “Norwegian Dance,” “Billet Doux,” “Hungaria”—I would never normally record, but people requested them so much. What I’ve tried to do with each album is to just widen influences and include what I feel are more roots of the music. Learning about Django and studying his life got me interested in gypsies in general, which then got me interested in different gypsy music. Every country, and even every region, has a different flavor to its gypsy music. While French gypsy music is Manouche style, like Django, Greek gypsy music is more Balkan and features an instrument like the bouzouki. So that’s where that element came in. And of course I have the history of bluegrass, and to me the fast dance music of eastern Europe is very similar to the fast instrumentals in bluegrass; it just has a different harmonic content and a different rhythm, but it’s very similar. They’re both dance music. So on “Kentucky Kastrinos” I wanted to have that virtuosic, kind of classical Russian-European element with a little bit of the American bluegrass element, and just show how close they are, without losing the character of either one.

With the One Stolen Night CD, I’m always trying to introduce more people to the music and bring new songs into the repertoire, because so many artists in the style tend to record the same material over and over. I don’t think that extends the genre or brings in new listeners. Then on the Istiqbal Gathering CD it was very much my goal not to have, “Here’s ‘Nuages’ with an orchestral arrangement.” I grew up playing classical music; when I was 16 I won a concerto competition and played the Mozart bassoon concerto with an orchestra. So orchestral music is somewhat natural for me; it’s not a foreign thing, and I understand orchestration and I have a good experience of what an orchestra’s capable of. For example, I did play a Copland piece for Benny Goodman with Benny Goodman—I was in an orchestra and Benny Goodman was the soloist. So I didn’t consciously think of Copland when composing “Concerto Glasso,” but you can hear it in there, and certainly that’s music I heard and played as a developing musician. I believe that everything I’ve heard and played over the years does come together in a composition, especially a large composition like that.

So my goal, to be a little more succinct, was to create something that is legitimate in the classical orchestral world, but bring the gypsy jazz guitar into that mix in a way no one has before. It’s a beautiful solo instrument that is capable of different things than a classical guitar—there’s a power and expressiveness that I think is unique to gypsy jazz-style guitar. And I wanted to create something unique that again would be something that people in the future could possibly perform, to become a part of a repertoire, and maybe someone else will write a piece for this type guitar with orchestra. And again, the title cut, “Istiqbal Gathering,” it’s kind of interesting how that came out. I’ve been collaborating with Paul Gambill and the Orchestra Nashville [Ed. Note: Paul Gambill is the conductor of Orchestra Nashville], and the collaboration started out with arrangements of existing material. Then it morphed into composing new material for the orchestra. In that process I turned Paul Gambill on to Taraf de Haïdouks—do you know that group? They’re a Balkan group with accordions, a violin, and cimbalom. I was in Croatia, and for some reason a few of the gigs cancelled out. So we had a couple of spare days. We decided to take our driver and van up to Budapest, and while I was there I went shopping for CDs of cimbalom music, because the cimbalom is the national instrument of Hungary. So I bought a few, came back to the hotel and I had an email from Paul Gambill saying, “Why don’t we create a piece for guitar, cimbalom and orchestra?” I wrote back, “It so happens that I’m here in the capital city of the country—“ Right? Carl Marsh collaborated with me on the piece, and we got a chart of the cimbalom to see what was physically possible, and we wrote a part. The player that we got didn’t work out so well; he wasn’t really a cimbalom player; he was an orchestral percussionist who had learned enough cimbalom to get by. So we performed it, but we knew we didn’t want to record it with this guy. Paul said, “We’ll find someone else.” A couple of weeks later we were at a meeting, and he pushed a CD across the table to me and said, “What about this guy?” I said, “I love this guy! He’s one of the artists whose CD I bought in Budapest, and he’s one of the inspirations for the piece.” So he lives in Cleveland—Alexander Fedoriouk is his name. He came down, and it was so perfect, because I could just say, “Okay, you know track number four on your CD? Play this part like that.” The funny thing is he didn’t even know his CD was released in Hungary. He’s actually Ukrainian and defected to America years ago, lives in Cleveland and is a graphics editor for the newspaper in Cleveland. But he is a virtuoso cimbalom player. It was wild. He was surprised that his CD was available in Europe and he lived in America.

The music of the Romanian gypsy group Taraf de Haïdouks, especially the use of the hammered cimbalon, inspired John Jorgenson’s ‘Istiqbal Gathering,’ the 15-minute-plus title track opus of his new CD, featuring Alexander Fedoriouk on cimbalom. Here the group performs ‘Briu’ at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

That’s a beautiful passage that begins with Fedoriouk’s solo, too. Part of it also reminds me somewhat of Chinese folk music, and I know that Django was no stranger to Chinese melodies. But it goes from that to a beautiful, lilting, pastoral setting with the velvety strings and the lone, romantic violin, and then evolves into the clarinet-and-strings rhapsody, and if you say “rhapsody” you can say “Gershwin” with it because it’s positively Gershwin-like, as if you’ve gone from the waving wheat that sure smells sweet to the urban jungle in a matter of minutes.

John Jorgenson: I really appreciate how you listen to music. As a composer and artist, that’s what I hope will happen when someone listens—that they will be taken on a journey and will either recognize influences or stylistic elements. That section of the piece you’re talking about, just after the cimbalom solo, is also featured on One Stolen Night as a solo piece, “Istiqbal Solo.” That’s the first part of that large piece that I composed. That’s the raw material, as it were, that became the middle section of the longer work. And a lot of the information in the rest of the piece I was playing with my quintet, obviously a scaled-down version, but many of the motifs and melodies came from another piece that I never ended up recording. It’s interesting to me how things developed. I’m asked quite often, “How do you get ideas for writing?” “How do you compose?” All this kind of stuff. Well, like everyone else, I’m sure, every different way. There’s no one way of doing it. Sometimes something comes together, boom! Like a channel. Sometimes you get just a little fragment. Or sometimes you have to craft something. Other times there’s a transition—you need to get from one place to another, and sometimes I might have to use my education more to construct something. I’ve found if I let them happen, it’s so much better than if I make them happen.

You have the Turtle Island folks on two cuts and they’re known for their adventurous nature, certainly for breaking down barriers between jazz and many other styles of music. Was that the primary reason for bringing them in? What did they bring to the party?

John Jorgenson: I’ve known David Balakrishnan for a long time; not well, but I met him in 1985. I met Darroll Anger and Mike Marshall at a festival in Toulouse, France, that I was playing with Chris Hillman. Through that meeting they asked me to do a tour with them later in the year, and our ensemble was Darroll, Michael Manring and myself, and also on the tour was Michael Hedges and Liz Story. Of course Darroll was an original member of that quartet, and he introduced me to David way back when. Then Evan Price, who was until recently a part of the quartet, also plays violin in the Hot Club of San Francisco, and he’s filled in for me a couple of times; he’s a great Grappelli-style player. So I was very familiar with them. And David Balakrishnan got a grant as a composer to create new works for the national chamber orchestra. So it all worked out really well, and again it was one of those things that we allowed to happen. Certainly on David’s piece, “Groove in the Louvre,” which was commissioned for me, the orchestra and the Turtle Island Quartet. He pushed me into areas that were a little unfamiliar and, I must say, a little uncomfortable at first, but once you find your bearings you’re fine. But that’s why they were brought in. And I think they were also brought in to push the string players of the orchestra a little bit. And show them some of the techniques that they use—percussive techniques, the different ways they use the bow, improvisation and the like.

Did you use the entire string section with them?

John Jorgenson: Yeah, on those two pieces it was string orchestra, plus quartet, plus me. And I think Gary Heddon has to be cited for doing a fantastic job of mixing that. Because it’s hard to distinguish a string quartet as soloists with a string orchestra, and a guitar as well; and I have to say that I didn’t feel that the piece really came together as a listening experience until Gary mixed it. At least when I listen to it I can really hear the quartet as an entity and each one of the instruments as a solo instrument, and then the string orchestra as a unit as well. I really feel like that was crucial in helping the piece get across the way it was intended.

Turtle Island String Quartet, ‘Quarteto de cordas.’ Of the group’s work on Istiqbal Gathering, Jorgenson says: ‘They pushed me into areas that were a little unfamiliar and, I must say, a little uncomfortable at first, but once you find your bearings you’re fine. But that’s why they were brought in.’

I did some extensive A/B testing of your quintet work with Django’s original recordings. I’m really impressed with how you’ve found your own place within this style, similar to what Mark O’Connor has been able to do with his Hot Swing Trio, in the way you use those signature themes and runs in your original songs, but mostly as jumping off points for your own instrumental voice. It’s like tipping your hat to the master as you move the music forward, because he’s no longer here to do that.

John Jorgenson: Exactly. I’m very inspired by Django and by the music he created with Grappelli and their Hot Club Quintet. What I try to do always in a show, or on a CD, is pay tribute, then move on from there. Because what I’ve found in playing shows is that people liked it when I played a traditional Django, but when I played something I had composed that was a little bit out of the box, they would respond much more. So I went, Okay, I guess I better compose more. That’s really how it’s gone. But yeah, I love to take some of his idiomatic phrases and work them into songs.

Did Django play in any unusual tunings, or was it standard tuning for the most part?

John Jorgenson: Standard tuning. I think what helped create his style was that the “handicap” basically led him to play more extended chords. It was harder for him to play a straight major or a straight minor. He extended his harmony base with his left-hand fingering. It’s funny, because for example, a C barre chord on the third fret, in the A finger position, that’s rather hard to play with his disability. But if you just lay your finger across the top four strings, you get a C6 chord. He could use that, you know.

On all this music on these two albums, there is but one vocal, on King Oliver’s “Dr. Jazz,” and it’s terrific; it’s not simply a serviceable vocal to break the run of instrumentals. It’s warm, it’s lighthearted, it’s swinging, it’s a singer who’s invested in his material. I’m sure you know Louis Armstrong recorded this number and you do a fabulous job on this. Are there more vocal recordings in your future?

John Jorgenson: Maybe so. That’s one of the ones I mentioned that people asked about all the time from the live shows, so I just did it. I usually sing a song or two live because I realize people can’t hear instrumental music too much without going crazy. I’ve been looking for more material, I probably will. I get some positive feedback on it. I guess I’m a little shy of calling myself a singer. I don’t know why—I’ve sung in every band I’ve been in since I was 14.

The bonus tracks strike me as the most conscious effort on the two albums for a complete immersion in the classic Django gypsy jazz—not only the sound but the quintessential template, with the romance element, the dreamy guitar work, the evocative accordion in ‘Dark Romance’ and then the moody, solo guitar passages in ‘Istiqbal Solo.’ Is that in fact their purpose as bonus tracks?

John Jorgenson: I put them on there as bonus tracks because I didn’t think people were going to hear them very much where they were available before. Le QuecumBar is this venue in London that I’m a patron of along with Angelo Debarre and Hank Marvin, lot of great players.  It’s the only venue I know of in the world that’s specifically for gypsy jazz. So when they did an album of their patrons, many of their patrons gave them tracks they had already used. I wanted to give something that would maybe encourage people to buy it because it wasn’t available anywhere else. So that exclusivity, they had that for a couple of years. And I wanted more of my audience to be able to hear those pieces, because it was conceived—you’re absolutely right—similarly to Django’s solo pieces that he composed, “Improvisation 1,” which I did on the last album, with orchestra, and then it was also dedicated it to the man who built me the guitar I played it on, David Hodson; then “Dark Romance,” I look at it almost as a transitional piece between my former quintet and my current quintet, because Gonzalo Bergara, a very fine guitarist, played rhythm guitar for me in the last incarnation of the band [Ed. Note: Bergara is on Ultraspontane and One Stolen Night.] He’s from Argentina and also played the bandononeon; and because of him, we listened to a lot of Argentinian music while traveling. It’s very similar to gypsy jazz, not in the rhythm but in the feeling. It has a melancholy and a romance and a passion. So to be able to feature him on that track as well was almost like saying, “Goodbye, Gonzalo, go on now with your own quartet and show the world what you got. I appreciate what you brought into my quintet.” It’s sort of a bridge into the new lineup.

The John Jorgenson Quintet performs Django’s ‘Hungaria’ at the Circle Church World Music Concert Series, North Madison, CT, March 27, 2009. Jason Anick is on violin, Kevin Nolan on rhythm guitar, Simon Planting on bass, Rick Reed on percussion. ‘Hungaria’ is featured on Jorgenson’s new One Stolen Night CD.

Totally off the subject at hand, but not unimportant to fans of yours and of one of the best country bands in recent memory, Wikipedia claims the Desert Rose Band has some shows booked for this year. Yes? No?

John Jorgenson: Yeah. We did five concerts in 2008; in 2009 we didn’t do anything. But for some reason in 2010 it looks like we’re going to at least do a handful. Two nights at the Birchmere, a festival in Colorado, strawberry festival in California—which will be interesting because I’m playing with my quintet in the afternoon and the Desert Rose Band in the evening; it’s fun, but in my mind it’s rocketing back and forth playing all these electric guitar parts. But it’s good; I like a challenge. I love those guys; I love Chris Hillman, Jay Dee Maness, Herb Pederson, Bill Bryson, Steve Duncan; Steve especially, he played in the Hellecasters with me; Steve and Bill were in a band with me before Desert Rose Band called the Cheatin’ Hearts, with Sneaky Pete. We go so far back. And Chris was the first kind-of-famous musician to recognize my talent and give me an opportunity to be more on a world stage. Of course as a kid I was a huge Byrds fan, and because of Chris I got to play with the Byrds and become friends with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. Maybe five years ago if this opportunity had come up, I don’t know if I would have been interested, but I’m happy to revisit that, have a good time and play that music again with those guys.

A related quick Q&A with John Jorgenson discussing the Django technique can be found here.

The John Jorgenson Quintet’s One Stolen Night is available at





Istiqbal Gathering, by John Jorgenson and Orchestra Nashville, is available at




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