The Corona Blues

The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of musicians all over the world, bringing performances, rehearsals, and recording to a complete halt. Michigan has been hit hard, and the worst outbreak is in Detroit and surrounding areas, endangering the lives of many of our jazz musicians. With deep concern for the people we love and admire we reached out to three major jazz players of different generations, to learn how they were coping with the pandemic. Jim Gallert spoke with James Carter, Piotr Michalowski with Paul Keller, and Linda Yohn with Andrew Brown.

Andrew Brown

Linda Yohn spoke with guitarist, composer and band-leader of Djangophonique Andrew Brown regarding the new CD Jazz Du Jour. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, Brown and Djangophonique were heard regularly at The Detroit Filling Station in Ann Arbor and were planning a big CD release event.

Djangophonique was poised to make a really big splash with Jazz Du Jour. Has the lockdown locked you out of progress in selling the disc? Have you been able to market online?

Honestly, most people buy CDs at live shows. Today you can download and stream everything, so I find CDs more to be ways for people to take home a souvenir and support the group, so in some sense, we haven’t been able to sell as many CDs. However, there have been a fair number of people who have ordered them in the mail. A lot of people have bought the digital audio from our Bandcamp site, which not only is the best way to get money directly into the artist’s hands, but also allows for people to “pay what they want,” which usually means folks will throw some extra money on top of the asking price. That is greatly appreciated during this time when the key part of our industry, and our passion, disappeared overnight. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start playing guitar and when did you fall in love with the acoustic approach a la Django Reinhardt?

I learned enough guitar between seven years old and ten that I could strum simple open chords and accompany myself singing. I didn’t do much with music as a kid, but picked it back up when I was eighteen. I discovered Django Reinhardt at age twenty and fell in love, but at that time I didn’t have the technique to allow to play the style, nor did I have the skills required to teach myself. I went in other directions for a while musically. Then, around age 27 I had more ability on the instrument, and as a self-teacher, I started to seriously delve into the Django style. I’m thirty now. 

How have your plans for this summer and into autumn changed due to the lockdown?

Right now, all the gigs have gone away. There are some that might still happen but so much is uncertain. I imagine and am preparing for 2020 to be a hiatus year for the most part. I do all the management and booking for Djangophonique so beyond the sadness of not being able to play gigs with my friends is also the feeling of, “Wow — I worked my butt off from December through March putting together this summer’s shows…. “ But then you step back and realize that overall things are still okay. I have my health. My family is healthy so far, and I still have music, so it’s all good. The economy and the music industry will recover from this somehow and we will continue. 

Have you stayed in touch with your band mates?

Yes! We do Zoom hangouts. 

Have you found this to be a time to woodshed and learn new techniques or write new tunes?

Somedays, yes. Other days I step away, walk in nature and exercise. In a way, I can take care of myself that a busy schedule didn’t allow. But needless to say, I’m glad the people who share the triplex with me love music because I play a lot of guitar!

How has technology helped you?

I have been doing some remote teaching, and exploring some recording stuff, but I’m not on the ball as much as I could be probably. I really just love playing with my friends, and the vehicle I had built for that was all of our gigs. 

Any rosy moments of introspection and reflection that have inspired you to keep at it?

Life can seem meaningless. Maybe there isn’t intrinsic meaning, so you have to find that for yourself. This is maybe the hardest thing in life. Other times the meaning feels palpable. I’m a very emotional person, so I’ve had hard times during this thing, but I’ve also just laid down on my back on my cheap Persian carpet knock-off and listened to entire Django albums. I get swept away by the depth and freedom of his playing. To me, Django is like ballet for the guitar. It’s virtuosic, elegant, joyful, much depth.