The John Jorgenson Quintet: Hot Gypsy Jazz in the City of Angels

The John Jorgenson Quintet took the stage at the 12th Annual Culver City Summer Sunset Music Festival and hypnotized an eclectic crowd eager as the sun disappeared into a brisk Southern Californian night.

The four-piece posse that features guitarist and vocalist Jorgenson, a six-year member of Elton John’s band and founding member of the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, enlightened ears with hot gypsy jazz music at the City Hall Courtyard.

Highly recognized overseas as a pioneering gypsy jazz player, Jorgenson has impressed many with his intricate guitar work, recording with such musical icons as Academy-Award winner Barbra Streisand, singer Bonnie Raitt and banjo innovator Earl Scruggs.

Backed by rhythm guitarist Gonzalo Bergara, violist Stephan Dudash, string bassist Charlie Chadwick and drummer Cesare Valbusa, Jorgenson offers an infectious blend of melody that few other musicians can match.

Swapping between his own compositions and more classic standards, Jorgenson, who also splits time on the clarinet, leaves his audience eager to hear more of his romantic and soulful tunes.

While the bandleader might be best known in the pop, rock and country scenes, gypsy jazz is what Jorgenson feels for most.

But it wasn’t always about gypsy jazz for Jorgenson.

Picking up a guitar at the age of 12 and first learning to play rock n’ roll, he gradually developed a palette for other musical styles and signed on to a professional career just two years later at 14.

Jorgenson paved his way into the national spotlight in 1986 with The Desert Rose Band, but it was the year of 1994 that turned him loose on the international scene.

What was supposed to be an 18-month stint on Elton John’s world tour evolved into a six-year stretch that opened the door for recording sessions, television appearances and collaborations with some of rock music’s most famous, including Johnny Cash, Sting and Billy Joel.

Since then, the native Southern Californian has reappeared in prominent guitar magazines and played with some of Europe’s best gypsy jazz players, including Bireli Lagrene and Romane.

In recent years, Jorgenson has transferred his sound to the big screen as an interpreter of Belgian Roma jazz musician Django Reinhardt, composing his own arrangements for feature films Gattica (1997) and Heads in The Clouds (2004).

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