Combo revisits the gypsy music style of Django

Sidney Friday Night Jazz Series welcomes acoustic group, Cold Cut Combo (CCC).

Aaron Watson

Sidney Friday Night Jazz Series welcomes acoustic group, Cold Cut Combo (CCC).

CCC will bring a modernized form of Gypsy Jazz to St. Paul’s United Church, opening at 7 p.m. tonight (March 4).

Hailing from Sidney, Christopher Sartisohn and Aaron Watson make up the group and perform regularly throughout Greater Victoria.

They have had regular gigs at the Vista 18, Bengal Lounge and Butchart Gardens. They also play weekly gigs and private functions and special events.

They play a form of Gypsy Jazz, which Sartisohn said was popularized by Django Reinhardt of the Hot Club de France.

“We sort of do our own spin on it. Aaron sometimes sings, we do some accordion waltzes as well, we throw that in there for the Parisian flavour, but its primarily guitar driven music,” he said.

With a good tempo to it and a swinging, uplifting beat, he said people enjoy it.

“It’s fun to play, that’s the primary thing,” he said.

Having both grown up in Sidney, Watson said it’s been a place with great music.

“There was a lot of pretty amazing music in Sidney when we were growing up and there always has been … tucked away. I mean some pretty acclaimed people came out of Sidney and made quite the careers for themselves internationally,” he said.

The two have hung out since high school and both ended up in Victoria, playing together now for around 15 years as the Cold Cut Combo.

Sartisohn did sabbaticals and accompanied other professional musicians in China and throughout Europe, while Watson spent a lot of time working and playing in Japan and Africa.

Both would eventually find their way back to the Island.

The two men have been into music since a young age, Sartisohn when he was just five.

“My dad had an old broken guitar that had one string on it and I would take it and I would just tune it randomly and play the one string and then play along to records like ABBA … and then eventually ACDC,” he said.

The pair started with modern jazz, exploring its roots and eventually found one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Django Reinhardt.

Watson began playing records when he was really little.

“I had a huge stack of 45s and just always played them and sang along,” he told the PNR.

Sartisohn helped  design the Django Fest that’s been going on in Langley, Washington for 10 years. The event, he said, was a catalyst for popularizing this music on the west coast.

“It’s international now and brings in real gypsies — those who are not afraid to fly anyways,”  said Sartisohn with a chuckle.

“They’ll come and just blow everybody’s minds … the level of musicianship of some of these guys from Europe and eastern Europe as well some of the Romani gypsies in the original more traditional stuff is absolutely incredible.”

Watson added the music is upbeat and tells a huge history, a history of migration.

“Through those festivals, we’ve been able to play with a lot of those people and get taught that language,” Watson said.

Sartisohn added that it’s right from the source.

“And this was before YouTube and everything, so it’s learning from some of these authentic gypsy guys. They barely speak the English language and we don’t speak their language but music is a language,” he said.

While spending time in Europe, Sartisohn learned the genre directly from the source and went to the original birthplace of Django Reinhardt, just outside of Paris.

There was a big gypsy festival there in 2003, he explained, on the 50th anniversary of his death.

“It (was) the world’s largest congregation of gypsies on the planet ever,” he said.

Cold Cut Combo will continue to play the festival this summer and plan to release a recording in the near future.

They play tonight at St. Paul’s United Church in Sidney at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available at the door with a recommended donation of $10.