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Full Focus

Dario Napoli's Modern Manouche


From the album Joie de Vivre



'Full Focus' is a series where musicians and others discuss a jazz track or tracks in detail. The idea is that you are able to listen to the track that is discussed as you read about it.


Dario Napoli

Dario Napoli


While his path in jazz began in New Orleans and his musical upbringing is rooted in blues, rock and modern jazz, over the last decade, Italian guitarist and composer Dario Napoli has built an international reputation in the world of gypsy jazz. He has presented his Modern Manouche project at some of the world’s most renowned festivals, at both straight ‘jazz’ events as well as many of those Dario Napoli summer campbuilt around the legacy of Django Reinhardt (Django Amsterdam, Django Legacy at Liverpool Philarmonic, Djangofolllies, Django in June, Cully Jazz Fest, Pisa Jazz ....).

Born in Sicily and now based in Milan (not Naples as his name suggests!) his music has been described as ‘hot, electric, funky, semi acoustic swing’ and ‘an unpredictable and exuberant sound, which steals from various musical eras leading you through a rich and vibrant sonic experience, without ever totally abandoning the gypsy imprint of Django.’

Each year, Dario hosts 'Under The Tuscan Sun', a residential Gypsy Guitar Camp with tutorials and jamming (click here for video or Dario's website for details). The 2020 Camp dates are from 23rd to 26th June.

Dario’s 4th album Joie de Vivre was released in December, 2019. His ‘Modern Manouche Project’ features electric bassist Tonino De Sensi and Tommaso Papini on rhythm guitar.


If you like the music of Django Reinhardt, this is for you. But it would be a mistake to say this is an imitation of the master guitarist of the Quintette du Hot Club de France as Dario Napoli brings his own touch to the music. The opening track, You, shows us that he is his own master of the instrument. The rhythm section of Tommaso’s Mauro Freschi guitar and Tinino’s Jacaranda bass lays down a steady background with Tonino’s bass rising for a solo. Masks, the second of Dario’s compositions, is taken faultlessly fast and then we have the first of four varied compositions by others – Johnny Mandel’s The Shadow Of Your Smile is a beautiful interpretation – I am reminded again of a comment someone made that they like to hear ‘standards’ included on an album to see what the musicians can do with them, and this is a good example.

Tribute is paid directly to the Belgian-born Django Reinhardt with his Place de Brouckere, a hip tune named after an historic square in the centre of Brussels. And then comes Charlie Haden’s Our Spanish Love Song, romantic and rhythmic, with some well placed bass by Tonino and a pause before Gershwin’s Embraceable You is played at a faster pace than I was expecting, but none the worse for that as there is some fine improvisation by the guitarists. The final three tracks are compositions by Dario, starting with the title track Joie de Vivre that lives up to the ‘joy of life’ intention and again Tonino comes in with a bass solo. No Regrets is not the Edith Piaf song, but Dario’s sentiment going into fade before the final track Simple Pleasure has an unexpected surprise outro and suitably wraps up an album that is a pleasure to listen to and relax with.

Dario Napoli might not be a well-known name in the UK, but this is a nice introduction. In this Full Focus article, Dario talks about the track Masks. Play the music and read Dario's description:





As many gypsy jazz fans and enthusiasts, I've always wondered what Django would have done had he not passed away in untimely manner in 1953 at only 43 years of age...

I mean, for anyone who took the time to listen to him throughout his brief but intense and immensely prolific career, from banging chords on a banjo in Paris big bands as a kid, all the way to touring with Duke Ellington's orchestra while playing as a soloist on an archtop guitar, it seems Django was constantly looking for the next thing, constantly experimenting and evolving, both technically on his instrument, as well as a composer and band leader. I'm convinced, had he lived long enough, that would have probably played with the likes of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and that he would have transitioned to the electric guitar permanently, and possibly Dario Napoliteamed up with the likes of Jaco Pastorius and other jazz-fusion legends...or so I like to think.

This is why, despite the difficulties in finding the right electric bass player (Tonino joined the band a little less than a year ago), I always had in mind a gypsy jazz project that featured an electric bass as opposed to the standard upright bass, so gorgeous in it's appearance but often a bit limited in its musical colours. Running the risk of upsetting the purists was a brief afterthought, but I felt it was more important to have the music reflect me, my upbringing and my influences, (as well as those of Tommaso Papini, rhythm guitarist extraordinaire and recently acquired bassist Tonino De Sensi) as strongly rooted in Django, as much as in Weather Report, Frank Gambale, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, The Police and Sting, and all the pioneers of jazz influenced rock of the '70s, '80s and '90s.

As a result, the standard gypsy jazz trio, in reality becomes more like a quartet, as Tonino on bass can carry the swing like an upright player needs to when the tune (or the section of the tune) requires so, but also becomes a soloist when required, being that off voice protagonist, no less than what a violin or clarinet would other tune on our 4th album Joie de Vivre reflects this better than my composition Masks, in essence a unison fugue, inspired to some degree by compositions such as Got A Match from Chick Corea, where jazz and classical phrasing collide.

The concept of the tune stems from a doubt I've had my whole life: to what degree is our personality a choice and to what degree is it inevitable and predetermined? Either way, in every facet of life and in every social context, either because of the expectation we have of ourselves or externally induced, we learn to project an image that we believe consciously or unconsciously better suits the situation ...which always begged the question in my mind, so who are we really ..? Which mask will you be wearing today ..? 


Click here for Dario's website. Click here for a video trailer for the album Joie de Vivre. Click here for details of the album.


Dario Napoli Modern Manouche Trio


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Visit some of our other Full Focus pages:

John Pearce - Just Friends
Matthew Read Trio - Burke And Hare
Zac Gvi - Waltzin' In
Henry Spencer - The Reasons Don't Change

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