This time around, I’ve got something special for you. Recently, I chatted with Steve Lynnworth of the gypsy jazz trio, Mes Amis, who is set to perform on Monday, March 26 at Slates in Hallowell as part of the Monday Night Concert Series. Honoring the genre that Django Reinhardt championed in the late 20s/early 30s, Lynnworth — formerly from Waltham, Massachusetts — brings gypsy jazz to the modern age with a flair and devotion that is easily reflected in the tunes he’s laid down on two CDs: “Tomorrow Is Another Day” and “The Spirit.”

In preparation for the following interview, I went online to hear Mes Amis’ first album from 2013 before calling him at home in West Gardiner.

Q: I’ve been listening to “Tomorrow Is Another Day” and I’ve decided that your guitar playing is best described as “elegant shredding.”

Lynnworth: (Laughter) Alright!

Q: There is something about gypsy jazz that is so intricate and invigorating and, at the same time, playful. How long have you been doing this? Is it something you’ve always enjoyed or did you come into it late in life?

Lynnworth: The gypsy jazz part came late in life. I’ve been playing guitar professionally for over 30 years, getting to be 35 pretty soon here. Initially, I was really deep into the blues. What attracted me to that was Stevie Ray Vaughan. I worked my way back from there, digging deeper and finding out about earlier performers like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker. I would say that for a solid 10 years, all I did was blues and then when I moved up to Maine I ended up getting into a band called Big Chief that was more of a wedding ban — for the cocktail hours we’d play jazz. Initially that wasn’t something I knew how to do, although I had a jazz teacher early on who showed me chords so I could cover the job, but I didn’t understand how to solo in jazz. So that’s something that I learned over a few years. The cocktail hour became my favorite part of the gig. People had introduced me to Django Reinhardt but my take on that was: “Well, that’s impossible, that music is impossible to play, there’s no way I could ever do that!” I didn’t even really give it any attention, but maybe five or six years ago I saw a kid on the internet playing one of these gypsy guitars and I noticed two things: he was very fast and very good, and the tone of the guitar was unique. I’ve always loved electric guitars, and these gypsy guitars have an electric quality to them. I think part of it is the strings and part of it is the scale of the guitar, but the sound of them is more exciting than a typical American flat-top acoustic guitar, which I’ve never really been attracted to. Once I heard those guitars I got right into it and so the gypsy jazz thing is something I’ve been in for the last five or six years.


Q: Do you think you’re going to stick with it for a while?

Lynnworth: Yeah, I don’t think it’s something you ever lose once you get into it, you know? Once it’s got you, it’s got you.

Q: Now this interview is focused on your upcoming gig at Slates in Hallowell. Have you ever played there before?

Lynnworth: Yeah, we played there last year as a trio, but we’re going to go in with a full quartet. When we did it before there were space constraints, but this time we want to go in there and really do what we do. A lot of what makes our band fun is the interplay between me as a soloist and the horn player as a soloist.

Q: The line-up on “Tomorrow …” is yourself, Toby Tyler on rhythm guitar and Michael Burd on acoustic bass.

Lynnworth: Toby passed away, unfortunately, a few years back.


Q: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. So the trio is now yourself, Harry Richter on rhythm guitar, and on bass?

Lynnworth: Wells Gordon is on acoustic bass and the horn player is Shane Ellis. If you listen to the other CD, “The Spirit,” that’s got the current line-up on it and there’s only one cover on it, “Misty.”

Q: That’s right, your first album had a few covers, “Bill Bailey,” “Exactly Like You,” “Coquette,” “Sheik of Araby” and “Autumn Leaves.”

Lynnworth: Yeah, and all the rest (eight others) are mine. One of them, “Never To Be Mine,” Toby used to call it a “wooden-leg waltz” because it was in 5/4 (time) like 1-2-3/1-2, 1-2-3/1-2. That was his little joke.

Q: I see that “The Spirit” came out in 2015 so I have to ask, are you working on something new, recording-wise?

Lynnworth: Well, right now I’m working on a blues record because I did that for so long and I wrote all these tunes and they never got finished, so that’s something I just want to do for myself. It’s not like I’m planning to start a band and start doing blues again, but just to wrap up that part of my life in a way and document it, I guess. I also have a project going with a really great female vocalist who lives over in Warren, and I actually have another album that’s recorded but I need to mix it. It’s gypsy jazz but with a different bass player and a violinist — but the band is talking about doing another CD. I definitely have enough tunes, it’s just a question of when to record them. I think what we’d like to do is gig the tunes through the summer and then record in the fall so that we have everything worked out.


Q: That makes a lot of sense. That recording you have with that violinist is very reminiscent of the collaboration between Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli so many years ago.

Lynnworth: Yeah, the stuff I recorded with the violinist I really do need to get that finished. It was not recorded with my regular band, so it’s sort of a back-burner thing. It’s not like I’m in any hurry to get that out right now.

Q: I understand completely, it’s just that that combination of instruments has a neat vibe to it. Is there anything you’d like to get across to the folks reading this article?

Lynnworth: Well, just that I can guarantee that we’re going to be having fun when we play and we hope that that translates to the audience. I’d be thrilled if people come to the show. I’m not really great at the self-promotion thing but we always have a good time and people seem to enjoy it, so I hope people come out to join us.

Lucky Clark has spent 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.