Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
John Jorgenson John Jorgenson

Jorgenson salutes Django Reinhardt

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 by DEB BOYLAN Special to The Press in Focus

Virtuoso guitarist John Jorgenson, co-founding member of the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, takes the stage, 7 p.m. Oct, 18, Blast Furnace Room, ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, Bethlehem.

"I've been very lucky over my career," Jorgenson says. "I was named guitarist of the year three years in a row back in the '90s and I won a Grammy a few years ago [2008 Best Country Instrumental] for a collaboration with Brad Paisley."

Jorgenson started his musical journey at the age of five, playing piano. Music is in his DNA. "My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor. "The piano was the first thing and then I got started on the clarinet when I was eight, then I started getting interested in the guitar when I was about 10."

"I've been so fortunate to not only meet a lot of my heroes, but to be able to play with them, as well, such as Earl Scruggs," says Jorgenson.

"I would never have thought that growing up in California I would get a chance to work with Earl Scruggs, but I did a number of times and with Johnny Cash and the Byrds. I remember watching the Monkees on television and then later on I ended up working with Michael Nesmith on some of his projects."

A huge influence on Jorgenson is jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. "Much of that style is what I'll be playing in Bethlehem," Jorgenson says.

Jorgenson performed some of Reinhardt's music on the "Head in the Clouds" (2004) film soundtrack.

"Originally, they asked me to contribute some music to the film and to recreate some of Django Reinhardt's music," he says. "They [the filmmakers] decided they would like to show Django on camera.

"So, even though I don't look anything like him, I dyed my hair, grew a mustache and they did a special makeup effects on my hand to make it look burned and scarred. Django only had use of his index finger and middle finger on his fretting hand and we kind of recreated that look."

Jorgenson had previously learned to play some of Reinhardt's songs using only the same two fingers on the fret board. "I was able to use that for the film and it's a very small detail, but I guess that's what makes film great, when the directors really pay attention to small details," says Jorgenson.

The SteelStacks concert will be a trio format, "which really leaves a lot of room for the guitar, and I'll probably play some clarinet," he says.

"I have a great rhythm section. Simon Planting, my bass player, is from Holland and he is considered one of the foremost bass players in the style of gypsy jazz. My drummer, Rick Reed, is also really fantastic, especially with brushes. Not a whole lot of people can do that."