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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

BLOCK: You listen to John Jorgenson play guitar and you realize he's got a ridiculous amount of talent in those fingers. And then you realize he's also gifted on mandolin, Dobro, banjo, piano, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon and more. But it's guitar music in his latest CD called "Ultraspontane," gypsy jazz guitar in the style of Django Reinhardt.

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

BLOCK: John Jorgenson cofounded the country Desert Rose Band in the '80s. He spent six years touring with Elton John. He's played with everyone, from Benny Goodman to Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan. But his passion is gypsy music from all over the world, especially the sound created in Paris in the 1930s by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli on violin.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOHN JORGENSON (Musician): Django sounded like Jimi Hendrix or something on an acoustic guitar - fiery and really vibrant and nice, you know, in your face. And it's really amazing because was the first guy, as a guitarist, to be the upfront lead instrument. It was a rhythm instrument before that. And he was not only bringing it upfront, but playing his stuff that no one had even been thought of to play and beat - probably couldn't technically play it, anyway.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JORGENSON: You know, as a guitarist and as a curious person, immediately, I started to try to figure out, okay, how is he doing this?

BLOCK: And was there a moment when you realized, this is going to be a lot harder than I thought?

Mr. JORGENSON: It's kind of always (unintelligible) with me - always.

BLOCK: Really?

Mr. JORGENSON: Yeah. It - and I think that's what's exciting about it is it's always challenging.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: How would you describe how the sound on a guitar, like a Django Reinhardt-style guitar, how is it different from another guitar?

Mr. JORGENSON: Well, it's more percussive. There's really a sharp attack to it. It has a more vocal quality about it. It's not as pretty and sweet and full as a normal Martin Style guitar that you kind of strum to play (unintelligible) or folk music. It's very penetrating. I mean, I've got this guitar here. I can…

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

BLOCK: Penetrating, you say?

Mr. JORGENSON: Yeah. It cuts through, you know? If there's a band playing all pretty loud, I can come in…

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. JORGENSON: …and it'll pop right above the noise created by the band.

BLOCK: Let's take a listen to one of the songs on the CD. This is "El Camino Del Che." And this is a song that you composed.

(Soundbite of song "El Camino Del Che")

BLOCK: This is that attack you're talking about?

Mr. JORGENSON: Yeah, to hear that melody, it's really punchy. And in order to be able to do this kind of fast articulation, you need a guitar that speaks really quickly. You'll hear it when you're going into this next section, very, very fast chromatic round(ph) which is idiomatic of Django.

BLOCK: That right there?


BLOCK: How many notes per second was there?

Mr. JORGENSON: Hmm. I don't know. I don't know.

BLOCK: Come on.

(Soundbite of "El Camino Del Che")

BLOCK: You have one tune on the CD which - in which you're a double player. You play guitar, but you also play clarinet. This is "Lucky Sevens."

(Soundbite of song "Lucky Sevens")

BLOCK: Is it a different part of your brain that you're using, do you think, when you're switching from guitar to wind?

Mr. JORGENSON: Kind of. It's almost like once I get the clarinet in my hands, and I'm making a sound on it, the sound, that kind of just leads me there. And of course, I can sustain on the clarinet, you know?

BLOCK: Right.

Mr. JORGENSON: So that changes everything. And then also, I have to breath, so that…

BLOCK: It helps?

Mr. JORGENSON: …changes the phrasing, too. I mean, one - a joke that people talk about guitarists is that they're - you know, why does wearing glasses help a guitar player's phrasing? It's because they have to stop every now and then and push their glasses up their nose. You know, because some guitar players will tend to just play and play and play and play and play and never take a breath because they don't need to. But it's actually good for the phrasing if you take a breath.

(Soundbite of song "Lucky Sevens")

BLOCK: What would you say gypsy jazz is to you?

Mr. JORGENSON: Well, it's a style that incorporates so many things that I like. It has a little bit of advanced harmony that I like from jazz, not too complex. It has that fantastic swing from swing music. It has the edge and the drive of rock music. It has the beautiful acoustic string instrument sounds of bluegrass music. It has the romanticism of classical music. And it's technically challenging, always challenging and joyful, very melodic and joyful. So it's very fulfilling for me to play it because I love all of those other styles that I mentioned, and I feel like I can incorporate all of that into the gypsy jazz.

BLOCK: It's all wrapped in there?


BLOCK: Well, John Jorgenson, thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. JORGENSON: Melissa, my pleasure.

BLOCK: The CD from the John Jorgenson quintet is "Ultraspontane." John played two solo pieces in our studio. You can hear those recordings at

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. JORGENSON: My hands.


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