The style of music known as jazz manouche, or Gypsy jazz, cannot be talked about without mentioning Django Reinhardt. The French jazz guitar legend is regarded as the inventor of the genre and one of the great jazz innovators ever.
Denis Chang was 18 when a friend recommended he listen to Reinhardt’s music.
“I checked him out and I loved it,” Chang said. “It was very guitar oriented, there was a lot of energy. It mixed a lot of styles that I like, there was some rock elements, classical music, jazz, lots of different things.”
Chang, now 29, is now the leader of his own band, the Denis Chang Manouche Quartet. Since his revelation more than a decade ago, he has played and studied alongside many of the world’s great jazz manouche guitarists. He has been dubbed the godfather of the Montreal jazz manouche scene – an accolade he said he is flattered by, though he’d rather not have any.
He has also developed a following of his own, touring regularly and teaching classes and workshops on the art of manouche. “I really love sharing knowledge,” he said. “My father was a teacher so I guess it’s something I inherited. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Chang’s biography cites influences ranging from Bach to George Benson to Michael Jackson. Growing up he also listened to a lot of rock, classical and world music, he said.
Chang’s upcoming tour, which begins in Revelstoke, is being billed as “On the Road with Django Reinhardt,” but he said the songs will mostly be his own compositions. “The influence is still going to be there,” he said. “It’s the music I grew up listening to mixed with what Django did at the time. It’s a mix of everything I’ve listened since I was kid.”
Change will be joined on stage by a rhythm guitarist, bass player and saxophone player. He said to expect lots of guitar work and varied compositions. “Faster songs, slower songs. Stuff that sounds a little bit like pop music, ballads…” he said. “I’d say there’s a bit of everything for everyone.”
Denis Change plays Revelstoke on Thursday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the United Church. Tickets are $20.