Nov 03, 2010 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
A single string drives Djug Django.
Ithaca’s Gypsy jazz band features the washtub bass playing of Syracuse native Jim Sherpa. A Bishop Ludden alumnus, Sherpa began thumping the gutbucket in the mid-1970s with the Water Street Boys jug band in Oswego, where he studied theater in college.
Now, after several years in New Orleans, Sherpa holds down the bottom for Djug Django, a snappy septet also featuring fiddler Eric Aceto, clarinetist Brian Earle and guitarists Harry Aceto, Dave Davies and Doug Robinson.
Djug Django specializes in the music of Gypsy guitarist Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt (1910-1953), who founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France which also featured fiddler Stephane Grappelli. Django’s genius bloomed in the quintet’s blend of New Orleans jazz, French waltzes and Romani dance tunes.
Djug Django Sunday in CamillusIthaca College trumpeter Frank Campos adds some brass to Djug Django’s string-oriented sound from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday Nov. 7, at McNamara’s Pub, 5600 Newport Road, in Camillus. The concert is hosted by the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, and admission costs $10 for JASS members, $12 for others; 652-0547.
Sherpa has built several one-string basses over the years, including his first made from an antique copper washing machine and his current ax, a converted bass drum.
Posting on Metafilter.com, blogger Bill Garrett had high praise for Sherpa’s homemade sound.
“The best washtub bass I’ve heard was built and played by Jimmy Sherpa, aka Dr. Rhythm, the greatest washtub bass player ever,” Garrett wrote. “He’s a great innovator on the instrument because instead of an aluminum washtub he uses a bass drum.”
Syracuse jazz musician Pat Carroll stood in awe of Sherpa’s sound after catching Djug Django last year playing tunes like “Tiger Rag,” “Sweet Sue” and “Nuages.”
“I’ve heard others play this seemingly simple instrument who fail to pass the first test,” Carroll observed. “The gutbucket is a rhythm instrument and Jim has a natural sense of rhythm plus the skill to obtain a full range of sound out of a single string. Simply amazing!”
‘Simply amazing!’Garrett agrees. “I’m not sure how he anchors the string to the head of the drum, but it gives the instrument much more resonance than you can get out of an aluminum washtub. Also, because the head of the drum has some give in it, it has an extended scale compared to a traditional washtub bass.”
Jim Sherpa is a fascinating cat. An outstanding musician on an oddball instrument, he’s also an amateur paleontologist. He was employed by the Paleontological Research Institute in Ithaca when it excavated a 12,000-year-old mastodon skeleton in Hyde Park.
Rhythm runs in Sherpa’s very veins. He’s is the son of Joe Sherpa who worked as doorman at downtown’s Hotel Syracuse and in earlier years played drums with the Mario DeSantis Orchestra.
Djug Django plays from 6 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday at Delilah’s on Cayuga (formerly Wildfire), 106 S. Cayuga St., in Ithaca, but Sunday’s concert is a rare opportunity to catch the combo in Camillus.
For band info and song samples, visit watershed-arts.com/djug. To contact McNamara’s Pub, call 672-8872.
Duo marks decade-long gig Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin celebrated their 10th anniversary at the Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center on Oct. 27. The Sammy Hall of Famers have played from 5 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday evening at the big hotel at 801 University Ave. since February 2000. Admission is free.
For 33 years Frenay and Lenin have been singing and strumming together in groups such as The Flashcubes and the Neverly Brothers.
The duo holds forth weekly at Rachel’s, the Sheraton’s restaurant overseen by the gregarious John Gallagher, beverage manager.
“It’s rare to find such a longstanding musical act performing in a particular venue and still be so well-received,” said Gallagher who also books student acts on Fridays; 475-3000.