Swing-jazz festival does it like Django

That a revered gypsy-jazz guitarist from Liberchies, a tiny village in the municipality of Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, is the subject of a roots festival in Victoria doesn’t surprise organizer Oliver Swain.

That the event in question, tonight’s Victoria Django Festival, has sold out in advance — a considerable feat in a sleepy sales market such as Victoria — isn’t a shock, either.

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“We’re tapping into a revival that is happening across the North American roots scene,” Swain said of the second annual event, a swing-jazz celebration feting iconic guitarist Django Reinhardt, who died in 1953 at age 43.

“But Victoria seems to be bursting at the seams, full of a whole generation of swing players. There is a movement afoot and Victoria is a real hotspot for it.”

The strength of the Victoria Django Festival lies in the acts on its roster, nearly all of which are from Victoria (the lone exception is Vancouver’s Van Django).

Swain, Adam Dobres, Paul Dowd, and Chris Sartisohn — who all rank among the city’s best players — will appear in various forms. That, combined with special guest appearances by Daniel Lapp and Ruben Weir, means there’s no telling where the program might end up.

“Flamenco, gypsy, even marching bands — all of them have a direct connection to the music of Django Reinhardt,” Swain said.

The ever-vibrant swing jazz scene in Victoria owes a debt to venues such as Hermann’s Jazz Club, the View Street venue that has almost single-handedly reinvigorated the jazz community of late.

With help from events such as the Victoria Django Festival, Swain expects the music community will only become stronger down the road. “Victoria has a great mix of individuals and institutions, which makes for fertile ground for more involvement in the genre.”

Swain is doing his part: He has injected a few extracurricular elements that should add to the flavour of the weekend.

In addition to a swing-dance workshop, Weir will be hosting an acoustic jam situated, appropriately enough, in a wine bar downstairs in the White Eagle Hall in James Bay.

“Just like in the old taverns of Paris, they’ll be improvising and jamming and calling tunes together,” Swain said.

Swain has loved Reinhardt’s music for years, so it gives him great pleasure to present a second edition of a festival that pays tribute to an “enigmatic historical figure” from the 1930s and ’40s whose oeuvre and impact grows more pronounced with each passing year. “He’s like the only huge contributor from the swing era who was European, and who celebrated the path of the gypsies.

“They were second-class citizens in a lot of these areas, because they didn’t have a homeland, so they put an importance on music as a way of establishing who they are.

“Their cultural identity very much evolved around music.”


The Victoria Django Festival featuring Van Django, the Chris Sartisohn Group and Montage, with special guests Daniel Lapp and Ruben Weir

When: Friday, 8 p.m. (doors at 7)

Where: White Eagle Hall (90 Dock St.)

Tickets: Sold out


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