Review: The gypsy kings of the strings

tim-kliphuis-violinist-excerptBilled as a showcase of two of the world’s finest gypsy jazz musicians, Tim Kliphuis and Paulus Schäfer joined forces at the Theatre Royal. Ian J Cole was there.
Tim Kliphuis and his fellow musicians were breathtaking. Photograph: M Borggreve

Tim Kliphuis and his fellow musicians were breathtaking. Photograph: M Borggreve

Review: The Dutch Gypsy Jazz Legends
Venue: York Theatre Royal, April 9



This was billed as a showcase of two of the world’s finest gypsy jazz musicians: Tim Kliphuis a violinist who was classically trained at the Amsterdam Conservatoire and started playing gypsy jazz in the style of jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, and Paulus Schäfer considered to be one of the most talented gypsy jazz guitar players from the Netherlands.

These talented musicians were joined on stage by Kliphuis’s regular sidekicks from the Tim Kliphuis Quartet in the form of Roy Percy on Bass and Nigel Clark on Guitar (both from Scotland) and perform as the Tim Kliphuis Trio.

The evening started with the Trio playing a piece written by Stéphane Grappelli (much is made throughout the performance of Grappelli’s influences on Kliphuis) this was followed by a composition created by Edward Grieg or Eddie Grieg as Tim described the composer which lighten the mood as the audience settled in for an evening of virtuoso performances.

After these two warm-up pieces the Trio were joined on stage by Paulus Schäfer who, according to the press release, was to “evoke the true spirit of Django Reinhardt”.

Reinhardt (for those of you who don’t know) is often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time, partly because he only played by using the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos (his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after an injury in a fire) and he was a performer of outstanding ability, the Jimi Hendrix of the 1940s and 50s.

Very original: Paulus Schäfer

Very original: Paulus Schäfer

Django Reinhardt’s 1949 record Djangology was one of the five influential records that were left to me after my father died, so Reinhardt hold a special place in my heart and I was particularly interested to see if Schäfer was the new Reinhardt.

The performances by this quartet of musicians were outstanding and breathtaking at times, Tim’s in-between patter was jovial and funny and it was a delight to watch the musical interaction between four world class jazz players. I particularly liked how Tim managed to turn the violin into a percussive drum at times.

I only have a couple of slight niggles. One is that I felt the violin was too loud in the mix at times and overshadowed the other players (it was obvious that Roy Percy occasionally had problems hearing Nigel Clark). Also I don’t think that Paulus is “the reincarnation of Django Reinhardt”, he’s a very original Paulus Schäfer and should remain that way. Stop with the comparison please.

This was a fantastic evening of virtuoso playing which the audience clearly loved. The title was The Dutch Gypsy Jazz Legends – I don’t think these guys are jazz legends yet… but give them time and they will be.

Ian J Cole
Ian J Cole is a composer, sound designer and producer who splits his time between writing experimental music and being the creative force behind the pop group Katie And The Questions