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Pearl Django

The Siskiyou Institute will present the Seattle-based gypsy jazz group, Pearl Django in concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at The Old Siskiyou Barn, Ashland.

Celebrating more than 13 years in existence, hot club- style Pearl Django's followers include Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli fans, guitarists and guitar enthusiasts, lovers of string music, including bluegrass devotees, who relish nimble, clean, intricate picking, world music fans drawn to French and Gypsy accents, plus jazz buffs and aficionados of the new swing music.

Django Reinhardt, the Belgian-born gypsy guitarist and banjo player, led the all-acoustic Parisian ensemble the Quintet of the Hot Club of France in the 1930s and '40s. The band featured three acoustic guitars, string bass and violin. Reinhardt died in 1953, at age 43, and has remained one of the three or four most important jazz guitarists in history. His signature style included rapid-fire single-note playing and lightning runs alternating with ballad passages rich with vibrato.

Pearl Django began as a trio in Tacoma in 1994. The focus of the group was, and is, to incorporate the music of Reinhardt and Grappelli with American swing music. The original members of the band were Neil Andersson, Dudley Hill and David "Pope" Firman. Andersson, formerly of the Wailers, and Hill had been playing blues and jazz as a duo together for close to four years before Firman joined and completed the early incarnation of Pearl Django.

In 1995 luthier and guitarist Michael Dunn arranged for Pearl Django to go up to Vancouver for a performance and workshop. While there the trio met Shelley Park, a former luthier student of Dunn's and rhythm guitarist with Michael's Hot Club of Mars. Shortly thereafter, she became a member of Pearl Django and her rhythm guitar playing completed the band's well-rounded and highly rhythmic ensemble. Both Andersson and Park played Shelley D. Park guitars in Pearl Django.

The group quickly expanded to a quintet, adding a violinist and a third guitarist.

An interview on NPR's All Things Considered in 2001 brought the group to national attention. In June 2002, Pearl Django performed at the Festival Django Reinhardt in Samois sur Seine, just outside of Paris. Today, the group works as both a quartet and a quintet.

Current members include Neil Andersson, guitar; Ryan Hoffman, guitar; David Lange, accordion; Michael Gray, violin; Rick Leppanen, bass. All of the members contribute original compositions to the band's expansive repertoire.

In 1995 Pearl Django recorded its debut album "Le Jazz Hot." In June of 2007 Hoffman became the new rhythm guitarist and Pearl Django released CD number nine, "Modern Times."

Tickets are $20 and $15 for students. For reservations see www.siskiyouinstitute.com or call 488-3869.

Pearl Django keeps the gypsy jazz music alive that was made popular by Django Reinhardt back in the 1930s. - Siskiyou Institute