“We were playing so much, people kept asking us for CDs, so we decided, we should really record one.” ~ Aline Homzy

General ($15) / Student, Artist ($10) at BeMused Network

This Saturday at 8pm, the gypsy jazz trio Les Petits Nouveaux will be celebrating the launch of their first (self-titled) CD. Come to 80 Gladstone and join this unusual group for a taste of well-loved jazz tradition with a contemporary edge.

But what exactly is gypsy jazz, anyway? The style begins with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli, the founders of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, says Les Petits Noveaux violinist Aline Homzy.

The biggest difference between American jazz and Django’s jazz is the instrumentation. “In American jazz nowadays, you’d see an electric guitar, piano, drums, bass, maybe some horn, trumpet and saxophone. Whereas with Django, it was all about the guitars,” she explains.

In fact, Django’s quintet had three guitars: Django himself on the lead guitar, and two “La Pompe” — rhythm guitars, playing on each beat of the measure. The quintet was rounded out by a clarinet and Grapelli on the violin. At the CD launch, up-and-coming clarinetist Jacob Gorzhaltsan will be joining the band in the later sets of the evening to create a similar sound.

The group is the descendant of Humber College’s first ever gypsy jazz ensemble, started by Swedish jazz guitarist Mikko Hildén under the direction of Drew Jureka. Aline and Mikko met as part of the ensemble, and decided to continue playing together after graduation. Jazz guitarist Andy Mac, who joined the Humber gypsy jazz ensemble the year after Mikko and Aline,  completed the group.

Aline — who first trained as a classical violinist — says that she never expected to play jazz as a musician, despite having grown up listening to Reinhardt. But once she did, looking to Reinhardt’s music — and from there to that of violinist Grapelli — was a very natural journey for an improvising violinist.

Membership finalized, Les Petits Nouveaux dived right in.

“We started playing all around Toronto, rehearsing almost weekly, and we got a few weekly residencies in the city,” says Aline. The trio played regular gigs at La Revolucion, a restaurant in The Junction, and El Cafecito, a little café favoured by swing dancers.

“Because we were playing so much, people kept asking us for CDs, so we decided that we should really record one.” So last August, they went into the studio armed with new and arranged music in the style of Django. “We all wrote original music, but it also goes a little bit beyond that,” says Aline.

“I wrote a piece in the Hungarian gypsy style. Andy Mac took one of Django’s pieces and actually turned it around from major key to minor. Mikko wrote a really interesting arrangement of I’ll Remember April, which is a jazz standard, in 7/8 time, which you don’t hear much of in the Django repertoire.”

The group’s former teacher, Drew Jureka, also makes a guest appearance on the recording, playing bass clarinet in one of the pieces.

Following the recording, Mikko Hilden unfortunately had to return to Sweden, but the group felt it was a shame to stop playing right after producing a CD. They heard through the grapevine about a new jazz guitarist in town, a newcomer from Vancouver.

“We started playing with him and it was a good fit, personality-wise and playing-wise — he’s a really good guitar player and a really nice guy. So now we have Tak Arikushi as our third guitar player,” Aline says, adding that Arikushi has been playing with the group for almost a year now.

Saturday’s CD launch party offers a chance for new audiences to get acquainted with this genre, and experience this unique musical collaboration up close and personal in the intimate space.

“I’d love to have people come out who enjoy music but don’t necessarily know the style very well — or know us very well.” says Aline of the upcoming launch party. “I love creating new audiences, and I’d love for them to learn about this style.”

If you have never heard gypsy jazz played before — or if you have and can’t wait to hear more — come to this Saturday’s CD launch at 8pm at 80 Gladstone to experience their signature sound. Advance tickets start at $10 and are available on BeMused Network.