Photo Courtesy of Mary Alouette
It’s only been a year since she started playing guitar continuously, but there’s something courageous about Mary Alouette when she performs. She’s vulnerable but confident. It’s alluring.
Alouette grew up with music. Musical theater, pop music, opera, film, indie rock – she draws inspiration from the gamete to produce a modern incarnation of Gypsy Jazz. That’s right, Gypsy Jazz. But we’ll let Aloutte describe the genre in her own words.
Aloutte took some time to speak with We Love DC via e-mail about her upcoming EP release show (Wednesday April 25) at Strathmore Mansion, where she is currently an Artist in Residence.
Rachel: What is it about Gypsy Jazz that you love? What reeled you in?
Mary: Gypsy Jazz is attractive in its hot rhythms, beautiful melodies, and freedom of expression. It was started by guitar legend Django Reinhardt in the 1930’s, who was a Belgian gypsy playing mostly in Paris. There is a special instrumentation and style to the music. The predominant feature has two or three guitars – one or two rhythm guitars and a solo guitar. The rhythm guitars provide the “pompe,” the pulse and heartbeat of the genre. The solo guitar can be simultaneously virtuosic, musical, and passionate. It floats on top of the rhythm guitar. The other usual instruments are double bass and violin or clarinet. In my compositions, I find the heart and soul to be the guitar, and the instrumentation is negligible.
Photo Courtesy of The Grey Area
Happenstance is what brought The Grey Area together. It was March 2010 when Jason Steinhauer (vocals/guitar) stopped by Zoo Bar for an open blues jam. Drummer Timothy Jones (TJ) was playing with a few other guys on stage at the time, so Steinhauer sat at the bar and waited for his turn to join.
It didn’t take long for Steinhauer to get in on the action though. Instead of waiting for his name to be called, Steinhauer jumped on stage as soon as the song being played was finished. From there, he grabbed the mic, looked at TJ, and said, “‘You Shook Me,’ the Zeppelin version.” TJ smiled, kicked the beat, and started the song. That’s all it took — an indie-rock band with the ability to write pop hooks and catchy choruses was born.
Steinhauer and TJ exchanged numbers that night, forged a friendship, and started writing music with each other. After toying around with the idea of adding a bass player, the duo made their official band debut eight months later at the Canal Room in New York City. Now they’re nominated for three 2012 Washington Area Music Association awards (including Best New Artist) and are playing an album release show at Strathmore this Friday.
Steinhauer took a few minutes to share The Grey Area’s story with We Love DC in anticipation of Friday night. Here’s what he had to say. Continue reading