It doesn't take a guest appearance by Mr. Obvious to state the simple truth. It's impossible to review an album called A Tribute To Gypsy Swing without mentioning Django Reinhardt, the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist. But this album's artist, Harri Stojka, makes it easier because he embraces the comparison and makes no secret of his admiration and affection for Django.
Django Reinhardt occupies a rather unique spot for all guitarists. Although his background, with his innovative virtuosity and a short but colorful life, is similar to that of other jazz legends (Charlie Parker comes to mind), Reinhardt has somehow been elevated even further, and has reached almost god-like status with his followers. There are countless guitar-playing disciples, Djangophile fan clubs, festivals dedicated to him, and a number of small towns in Europe that depend on his fame to produce tourism earnings.
It's pretty intimidating for other guitarists, but that doesn't mean there haven't been some who tried to follow him, including his own son Babik, Barney Kessel, Bireli Langrene and others, now including Harri Stojka.
Stojka was born in Vienna about a half-century ago, a Roma gypsy, and grew up in a musical environment that included exposure to the type of music played by Django, who is after all probably the best-known gypsy since Esmeralda.
As Stojka reached adulthood, he played professionally in all kinds of groups around Europe and handled all kinds of music, including blues and heavy metal. He was even fascinated by bebop for a while, and became a huge fan of Charlie Parker, attempting to put his own guitar signature on many of Bird's tunes. In his day, Django was also fascinated by Parker, and it might have contributed to Stojka's inevitable return to the music he remembered fondly and knew best. "When I got back to gypsy music, I felt like I had found something that was missing. So I can say this is truly my music now."