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Gypsy Jazz Invades America

Guitarist Django Reinhardt

Guitarist Django Reinhardt

Some musicians in the United States are bringing a unique style of French music to American audiences. Gypsy jazz, also known by its French name, jazz manouche, dates back to before the Second World War.

While already popular in many European countries, diehard American fans can now hear the distinctive sound of Gypsy Jazz at specialist clubs in cities across the U.S.

The sounds of 1930s Paris fill the room at this coffee house in Florida. The Cook Trio specializes in Gypsy Jazz. Jason Cook is the group's lead guitarist.

"It's very happy," Cook says, "and it's not a very subdued way of playing. It's very over the top. It's like pure guitar music, you know."

Gypsy jazz originated in France during the 1930s. Guitarist Django Reinhardt was instrumental in developing the style, having grown up in gypsy camps near Paris.

Today's gypsy jazz musicians imitate Reinhardt, who played alongside violinist Stéphane Grappelli in the group Quintette du Hot Club de France.

Reinhardt played guitar chords with just two or three fingers. Other Gypsy jazz musicians do as well.

The Cook Trio's Kyle Jones says Reinhardt's music is notable for its distinctive, fast-paced rhythmic guitar strumming - known as "la pompe."

"The guitar, you know, pushes the whole thing. It's like a pulse, you know, they call it 'the pump'. It really is the pulse of the music and it drives it forward," Jones says.

Many bands around the world play the music at clubs and festivals. The Django Band entertains Russians at this club in Moscow. Guitarist Dmitri Kuptsov says the genre has a large following.

"People learn about this music style from each other over the Internet and they go 'wow, this is great'. This style is clear, easy to understand by the Russians more and more people learn about it every day," Kuptsov says.

This venue in Florida is one of several places where Gypsy jazz fans in the United States can enjoy the music.

The Cook Trio musicians say they want to help expand the popularity of Gypsy jazz, which is still unknown to a lot of Americans. But they point to annual festivals in New York, California and Washington state as a sign that the music of Django Reinhardt still has a healthy following 56 years after his death.