Ask the members of Ranger and the Re-Arrangers “Why Django Reinhardt?” and there’s a moment of thoughtful silence.
Um. Where does one even start?
“His music, this ‘Gypsy Swing’ or ‘Gypsy Jazz,’ is now a genre,” guitarist Michael Sciacca said. “So it gives you an idea of his prestige among artists.”
Michael and his son, violinist Ranger Sciacca, built a band around the trademark sound brought to prominence by the now revered guitarist in the late 1930s, in partership with violinist Stephane Grappelli. Ranger and the Re-Arrangers’ second CD, “Django’s Tiger,” exalts what Ranger calls Django’s sometimes simple, sometimes virtuosic and completely unmistakable sound. The fact that Ranger’s violin takes center stage in contrast to Django’s guitar, Michael said, is proof of the genre’s flexibility and universality.
The band, which also includes Todd Houghton on bass, Dave Stewart on mandolin and Jeffrey Moose on percussion, will celebrate the release of “Django’s Tiger” at a free concert tomorrow evening at the Bainbridge Commons.
Ranger and crew recorded and mixed the CD in Edgewood, and mastered it on Bainbridge. The process leading up to recording lasted a year, Ranger said, as they selected seven songs to interpret, including Django’s “Tiger Rag,” from which the album title comes. Ranger wrote three original tunes as well.
The planning and lead time paid off; the band was in and out of the recording studio in two days.
“Django would go in and record everything in one take,” Ranger said. “He would just play it, record it and leave. We didn’t quite do that.”
The band left some room for error in the studio; as Ranger pointed out, Gypsy Jazz is a forgiving music. Nonetheless, he tried to run a tight ship and infuse “a certain level of intentionality” into the recording.
The resulting collection offers up range of moods, just as the genre itself does, as Ranger pointed out. The title song showcases the pure joy and fun of Gypsy Jazz – the kind that has made the Re-Arrangers so popular on the weekend concert circuit – with Ranger playing bright and spirited fiddle.
Their interpretation of “Doin’ the Uptown Lowdown” is fast-paced but minor-keyed, artfully conveying Harry Revel and Mack Gordon’s “ups” and “lows.”
And Ranger’s “Tin Rain,” which the band describes as “slightly more avant garde,” mixes an Eastern European sound with Asian influences and, improbably, the plaintive sounds of Appalachia.
When he composes, Ranger said, he usually begins with the melody; he’ll get a line or a fragment and build a composition and arrangement from there. He finds the process self-referential – sometimes, he’ll get what he thinks is a new tune going in his head and then realize it was actually something he’d already written.
Given the nature of jazz, though, he rolls with it. The day before recording began for “Django’s Tiger,” for instance, Ranger couldn’t let go of the tune “Charmaine” from their first album, “Gypsy Moon.” So he laid it over the title track on this one. Get the CD and listen closely, he said.
Next up for Ranger is more music. Having graduated in May from Whitman College, where he became heavily involved in the outdoor program, he’ll continue to make the outdoors a priority. He recently completed a six-week stint in Forks as part of a knotweed eradication crew and plans to lead student trips.
But the band also has a steady schedule, mostly off-island, that includes festivals, parties, weddings – anywhere a celebration is in order.
“I definitely will work around the music, whatever it is,” he said.
Arrange your schedule
Ranger and the Re-Arrangers present “Django’s Tiger,” a tribute to Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, from 7:30-10 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Bainbridge Commons. The concert is free; copies of the CD will be available. For information and samples, see www.rangerswings.com.