A few months back I came across a post on Nextdoor Bainbridge about the amazing hikes and activities offered by Bainbridge Island Parks & Recreation—naturally I wanted to know more, and of course, I wanted to write about it. I met with native islander, Ranger Sciacca, to discuss the programs. Ranger has been enjoying outdoor activities throughout the island and the PNW since he was a young boy, so much so, that he is now a Wilderness Program Coordinator for the Outdoor Program produced by BI Parks & Rec. During my research and interview with Ranger, I discovered he had another passion that reached back to his childhood, the violin. Ranger began playing when he was six years old, and he hasn’t stopped since. His studies included old-time fiddle and classical violin, however, when he was introduced to Gypsy Jazz, it all changed.
Gypsy Jazz (also known as gypsy swing or hot club jazz) began in Paris in the 1930s and is widely attributed to Romani guitarist, Jean “Django” Reinhardt—not being familiar with the different genres of Jazz music, I asked Ranger to explain both the traditional Gypsy Jazz and Ranger and “Re-Arrangers” spin on it:
I usually focus on two aspects. First, instrumentation is different–more strings, and fewer horns and drums. Guitar, violin, and string bass are the most classic instruments, and are in almost every band. Clarinet, saxophone, and accordion are also pretty usual.
Sometimes though, I just focus on the stylistic aspect. Basically, it’s a variety of Jazz that began in the 1930’s with heavy influences from traditional western European gypsy music, Parisian accordion music, and American swing.
The genre’s father, Django Reinhardt, grew up first playing gypsy tunes, then backing up French accordion players, so when he started to play Jazz, he brought those influences with him, and the traditional gypsy instruments, and it sounded different!
In 2006, Ranger and his father, Michael, took a trip to Samois sur Seine, France for the annual Django Reinhardt Festival—it was a defining moment for both of them, and changed the direction of their musical careers—Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers” was formed shortly thereafter.
In addition to Ranger and his father, Mike, the band consists of three other talented members. Dave Stewart performs the 5-string electric mandolin, tenor guitar, and traditional mandolin, but he doesn’t stop there—he’s also a fabulous vocalist. Mick Nicholson is on the bass, and draws upon his 11-year career experience with the US Navy Band in Washington, D.C., where he toured extensively worldwide and performed for sitting presidents and many heads of state. Jeffrey Moose, a native of Mexico, and director of the Jeffrey Moose Gallery in Seattle, is their creative and energetic percussion player and a whimsical vocalist for the band. He’s also an accomplished artist, and painted the cover of their Swing 16 album. The band frequently brings in guest performers as well, such as Bill Rappaport, who will be joining them for their upcoming concert on August 30th (see below for details).
Today Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers” play at approximately 100 venues a year, several of which are here on Bainbridge Island and the surrounding areas. Concerts are infused with their own original pieces, traditional pieces, and their very own variation of “re-arranging” classical tunes. Their award-winning music includes swing standards, traditional Gypsy melodies, the music of Django Reinhardt, and Ranger’s unique originals. The band has released four CDs, click here to visit their “store”.
Free Concert on the Lawn at Bainbridge Performing Arts, Friday, August 30th at 6pm
Enjoy the sounds of Gypsy jazz when Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers” host a free concert featuring Bill Rappaport on clarinet. Bill began playing clarinet when he was nine, and has followed a dual path of classical training infused with a deep love for jazz. He was a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for forty years and performed around the country, including at Carnegie Hall. His wonderful tone and vintage solos will make you feel like you’ve traveled to the 1930’s!
The concert will feature music from Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers” repertoire of swing standards and traditional Gypsy melodies. Admission is free (however donations are welcome).
For more information on Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers”, visit their website at http://rangerswings.com/
If you’d like to read about Ranger’s work with Bainbridge Island Parks & Recreation, click here.
*Images provided by Ranger Sciacca.