Review: International Gypsy Guitar Festival

Tony Hewitt checks out a lesser-known gypsy jazz festival in the Cotswolds, with a star turn from Fapy Lafertin on Django-inspired guitar

This is as far as I know a previously unreported festival which is in its 13th year and takes place at Gossington in Gloucestershire. Each year this festival features the very best of UK and continental bands playing in the style of Django Reinhardt and is held in a large marquee with plenty of space for people to camp on the site which also has local food, real ales and workshops.

The atmosphere is very relaxed with a number of amateur bands playing till late around the camp site while the main events are taking place on stage. This year the festival opened on Friday night featuring Wawau Adler from Germany which I did not manage to hear.

Saturday was a very full day starting at 1pm and going on until midnight. The afternoon session was highlighted by the Tim Robinson band with a typical French line-up of accordion, two guitars and bass, but this was not the usual Django programme. Tim played a very varied set which included Ellington and Hendricks material and was the best of the UK guitar players on show. The band consisted of Dan Teper on accordion, Pat Naylor on rhythm guitar and the man for all bands George Trebar on bass, who seemed to be in every other band during the weekend.

The heavens then opened to turn the festival into its usual Glastonbury-style mud event. The evening started with The Moscow Drug Club which was led by singer Katya Gorrie. This gave us a flavour of 1930s Berlin with Katya’s husky delivery backed by an excellent band containing the only brass player of the weekend, trumpet player Ben Cummins.

This was followed by Club Royal with yet another variation on the Django theme having a soprano/clarinet lead player by the name of Giacomo Smith, with a strong Bechet influence; good to see a young group with not a grey hair in sight.

Gypsy Fire came next. This is the band that appears every year and is led by the festival organiser Stuart Carter Smith. They gave a polished cabaret-type show with lead violin player Ben Holder very much an audience favourite.

The evening finished with a superb performance by Fapy Lafertin (pictured) on guitar with his cousin Martin Limberger on rhythm guitar, and a very young guest violin player Hanna Bienert who played in a restrained Grappelli style. This set was a wonderful mixture of Django through to bossa with Fapy showing why he is among the top of the present set of continental guitar players and Martin the very best of the pumpers.

By Sunday the sun was back out and the mud was receding. The music kicked off with the Samuel Lees band who had travelled down from Kendal, and then the Remi Harris Trio with a beautifully played, well-rehearsed set which included John Scofield’s Hottentot and Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debbie; not the usual Django material but a great programme played in the image.

The final set of the weekend and no letdown after Remi Harris was by Gary Potter, with George Barnes sharing the lead duties with George on bass once again. We were treated to a pure Django Reinhardt programme as only Gary can perform with the only rendition of Nuages in the whole weekend.

All in all a wonderful festival which is more than a strong rival to Samois now that it has become too large and expensive.

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