The Date Brothers play Gypsy Jazz guitar. Although these talented siblings live in different countries, they are about to meet up in Australia and bring their combined talents to the Armidale Club.
Ian, when did you and Nigel first pick up guitars?
When I was 7, my mother took me into a shop and bought me a ukulele. She said, “This will calm you down”. I played it for a year, and then I asked her for a banjo. She said, “A banjo is $70. A guitar is $30 … you can have a guitar”.
I got right into it and started earning money with the guitar when I was 14.
Nigel is 7 years younger than me, and I had left home by the time he started. He was around 13 or 14.
Nigel, describe the music that you and Ian play when you tour together?
We both like to play all kinds of music, but when we get together we mostly play Gypsy Jazz. This was a style of Jazz guitar pioneered by the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Ian, tell us about your music history …
I have performed and recorded with many of Australia’s Jazz greats.
I have also written music for television and film and appeared on more than 70 albums.
I have performed all over Australia and 37 other countries at various festivals and events. I am equally at home on the acoustic and electric guitar. My guitar playing is firmly rooted in the Jazz tradition. I have my own crafty style, and I like to bring humour to all my projects.
Critics have described my playing and performances as lyrical, endlessly inventive, masterful and my live performances as thoroughly entertaining.
Nigel, where have you performed?
I have performed at festivals and concerts in Australia and overseas, made TV appearances, radio shows, countless weddings, bars, cafés, corporate gigs, residencies and recording sessions.
I have spent my years playing a wide variety of musical styles with lots of different musicians.
Ian, what’s this we hear about you and Nigel getting kidnapped by pirates as young boys?
It was such a traumatic event … our parents were international secret agent types, and they used to work out of embassies in some dangerous locations. We were kidnapped from a yacht in the Strait of Hormuz. I remember being blindfolded and the smell of camels, fish and body odour. I can’t say too much about it, because we are under an oath of secrecy with the government involved and the statute of limitations has not passed … sorry.
Nigel, where do you and Ian live these days?
I live in Balgowlah, NSW, Australia, and Ian lives in rural Ireland in County Cork.
Ian, how often do you and Nigel get to play together?
We usually do a 6 week Australian tour every year, and every other year we do something in Europe.
Nigel, tell us about your Oz tour and what we can expect at your Armidale concert?
We are playing some festivals and concerts starting in Perth and ending in Sydney. In Armidale we will playing just the two of us for an intimate evening of virtuosic guitar playing.
Ian will no doubt sing some songs and play some trumpet as well. We will play Gypsy Jazz and some Blues and some Latino style music. Acoustic guitars. Ian will be playing a Selmer guitar made in Paris in the 1930s. This is the instrument favoured by all the Gypsy Jazz players.
Ian, your finest moments in music?
There have been many fine moments. Meeting and playing with some very fine Jazz musicians over the years, whom I learned so much from. How to really play, how to make a sound, how to put the music across. These were all fine moments.
And I will say also that the finest moments are always when the music is flowing out of you and it is a all very joyful and sparkling with energy and sounding like you can do no wrong! I work hard to make that happen at every show.
Nigel, what’s your favourite piece that you enjoy playing as a duo?
We have been enjoying improvising with a classical piece by Grieg, Norwegian Dance No.5 and doing it in a Jazz kind of way.
Ian: How popular is Gypsy jazz music?
Gypsy Jazz has enjoyed a huge wave of popularity amongst audiences and players worldwide in recent years.
The technical challenges presented by the idiom, the harmonic foundations and the melodies that are used as a basis for the improvisations demands a high degree of knowledge and skill. This makes for an exciting and highly engaging experience for the listener. It is a rare opportunity to hear guitar played at this level.
This article was published in issue 70 of New England Focus