Is there a guitarist who does not love Django Reinhardt‘s music? There certainly isn’t one that can’t learn a lot from his playing, and after a few listens that ‘like’ will turn to ‘love’.
If you are one of my faithful readers from Just Jazz Guitar then you know that the music of Django brings to mind ONE name: Stelios Panos! I gave Stelios and his transcriptions of Django, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Christian a well-deserved rave when he first came out with them for Band-in-a-Box. (You can read that review here.) In case you didn’t have BiaB, he also provided MIDI files for many of the songs in order to share the wealth further. Now he has come out with further improvements on Django’s transcriptions as well as sets for Joe Pass and Grant Green.
In a previous review this month I suggested that every guitarist would love a copy of Band-in-a-Box, so if you are wondering what gift to get a loved one who plays guitar (or really any instrument) look no further. Why go out into winter weather or order something that won’t arrive on time when you can order BiaB and get it before Christmas if you order by Monday! Better yet, you can download Stelios’ wonderful transcriptions from Django-in-a-Box right up until Christmas morning if you like to cut things really tight!
Stelios has continued to make his transcriptions available to Django fans by creating videos of ALL 277 transcriptions of Django’s solos in two different formats: one plays the original solos with transcriptions in notation, while the other gives you the Background Track that you can play over top of. Now even if you don’t have Band-in-a-Box you can still learn and play all of Django’s solos with original accompaniment including on-screen chord charts. (N.B. The ones marked “SOLO” contain just the solo, not the song theme.) These videos were made with Band-in-a-Box 2019 so the ornaments are true to Django’s playing. I like to use the free VLC player (which is available for every major OS, including tablets and phones) for these since it can slow down or speed up the videos for you. It’s a great way to learn.
The Joe Pass and Grant Green sets are the same high quality of transcription that we have grown to expect from Stelios Panos, and he has not let us down. You don’t have to choose since the set includes both guitarists. This package contains 55 songs/solos from Joe Pass and 22 Grant Green songs/solos for Band-in -a-Box . You can view both lists of songs by clicking here. There are high-quality audio tracks of each song as well as the BiaB versions. One caution about these, and other songs marked “solo”: Band-in-a-Box usually tries to create a backing track on the fly that can sometimes be more distracting than helpful, so I like to turn off the other instruments in the Mixer and just have Audio playing. One nice feature of Band-in-a-Box is that it will suggest a RealStyle that will substitute for songs where they fit, and the results are usually a nice improvement.
Whether you are shopping for a loved one or just yourself, go to Django-in-a-Box and see all of the great jazz, and not just guitar. Even guitarists will want to check out Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis! You can learn a lot from another instrument’s interpretation of songs, and they help you to get out of your own patterns for your personal instrument. It should go without saying that learning from some of the all-time greats in jazz will open your ears and playing to great new possibilities.
As always, Stelios Panos gets my top recommendation for his astonishing work in the service of jazz players everywhere.