march 2017

Robin Nolan, caught here during the photo shoot for his Sin City album, had a life-changing experience when his father took him to his first Gypsy jazz festival. "The romance of seeing these guys with acoustic guitars, around a campfire— that's what got me, beyond all the shredding," he says.

The virtuoso Gypsy-jazz guitarist pays homage to his two favorite players—Django and Angus Young—on his fiery new instrumental album, Sin City.

Though he's considered one of today's most accomplished Gypsy-jazz guitarists, Amsterdam-based Robin Nolan didn't grow up playing Django-inspired music and he doesn't come from Romani stock. In fact, jazz manouche wasn't even Nolan's first musical love. He only became enamored of the style as a teenager, when his father took him to visit Samois-sur-Seine—the city in north-central France where Reinhardt spent his final years. “Gypsy musicians have been meeting there for decades," Nolan says. “It's turned into a big festival now. The romance of seeing these guys with acoustic guitars, around a campfire—that's what got me, beyond all the shredding, which was really exciting as well. My father had played me Django records before, but I couldn't relate to it. Going to this festival and experiencing the music under the stars was completely different. That's what made it click for me."

While that Samois sojourn was the catalyst that sparked Nolan's passion for Gypsy jazz, he was already playing guitar by then. Like many youngsters, he was passionate about rock 'n' roll—AC/DC's music in particular. “Their wild lyrics, the instrumental hooks, the big power chords. It's all just massive," he says. For many guitarists who get into jazz, it's a natural progression to leave their gritty rock roots behind in favor of headier sounds. Most never look back. Nolan, however, is not like most. His new Sin City record showcases the AC/DC songbook, reimagined and rearranged, Gypsy-jazz style.

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  • Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
  • Understand how to play "over the bar line."
  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.
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Julien Baker on the Pedal That “Saved My Butt!” & Heroes Yvette Young & Jann Wasner | The Big 5

Plus, hear why her butterscotch Tele is still her go-to guitar.

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