Festival Django Reinhardt is an annual Gypsy jazz music festival during the last week of June that dates back to the early 1980s. It is usually held at Samois-sur-Seine, France, but because of flooding in 2016, was moved to the extended grounds of Chateau de Fontainebleau. The festival brings in talents from across Europe and even the United States. In June 2016, the main stage features extraordinary Gypsy jazz, electric jazz and blues talents. A side stage featured young Gypsy jazz musicians in training, Irish bands and other local and regional talents. Booths lining the sides of the festival grounds and throughout the venue featured beautify handmade instruments, T-shirts, delightful local food and drink offering, performers’ music, posters and souvenirs.
Each evening of the festival, the main music events started at about 7:00 p.m. and continued until late in the evening, with the wattage, energy and decibels growing and the night progressed. We attended on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25. The first performance on Friday was by Florin Niculescu, who we had also seen in Paris. Brilliant and electrifying. Richard Bona, a jazz bassist, performed with Mandekan Cubano, an Afro-Cuban band, and simply lit the crowd on fire. Everyone was on their feet, clapping, swaying and dancing. They were forced to come back on stage for a rousing encore to finish out their set. Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestar finished the evening. They are a high-energy, high-drama, high-volume mash-p of a Balken gypsy brass band, electric jazz and disco. We stayed long enough to get a feel for the vibe and witness the light show, but these old timers headed for our room before groove completely set in.
Florin Niculescu Quintet
Richard Bona & Mandekan Cubano
Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestar
On Saturday, we managed to catch three of the six acts. Eva Sur Seine and her trio presented a delightful update of traditional jazz tunes. Eva has put words and vocal expressions to many instrumental standards. Her cuteness and spunk stole the show, but there was great depth of talent evident in her and her band mates’ performance.
Sixteen year old Brad Winterstein and his trio left us awestruck. Brady and his uncle Horo Winterstein on acoustic guitar, and Xavier Nikq on stand-up bass, mesmerized the crowd with straight-forward Gypsy jazz. You wonder what can possibly come next for a such a young man with such astonishing mastery of his craft.
Although it was not the last act on the bill, we wrapped up our evening listening to Gregory Porter, a New York jazz, blues and soul singer-songwriter. Gregory has a beautiful, rich baritone voice, and a somewhat quirky personality. His interaction with the crowd was minimal, and he wears a hat that covers his ears and chin, even on a warm June evening. However, his luscious vocals pretty much were all you wanted to pay attention to.
I don’t have a means of comparing the 2016 Festival at Chateau de Fontaineblue to previous Festivals at Samois-sur-Seine, but we certainly enjoyed the welcoming, laid back international character and the relatively small venue. We were able to get up close to the stage when we wanted to and wander the grounds to view and sample the wares and food as we pleased. Would I go back? Yes!
Brady Winterstein Trio
One of the main stage performers with his young friends on a side stage.