While many think of the legacy of Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt as a quaint footnote to the kind of jazz that was played in the cafes of Paris during the 1930s and '40s, his legacy has lived on in players like Boulou Ferré . Born in Paris in 1951, only two years before Reinhardt's death, Ferré had a close connection to his legacy: both his father, Pierre "Matelot" Ferret (1918-1989), and his uncle, Baro Ferret (1908-1976), played in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with Reinhardt. "The link between Django and my family is an artistic one," Ferré has said. "Django, with my father and my uncles, was a bit like the Pope and his bishops. Something like a trinity, religious and ritualistic."Boulou Ferré's brother, Elios Ferré (b. 1956), also became a noted guitarist.
Boulou Ferré started training as a guitarist as a child, and by the age of seven was transcribing Charlie Parker solos for the guitar. He played his first public concert at eight and recorded his first album as a leader at 12. As would happen a number of years later with Bireli Lagrene, his early work was lauded for the resemblance it bore to Reinhardt's. In 1963 he attended the Conservatoire National de Paris where he studied classical music for a number of years. At 13, he performed with John Coltrane at the Antibes -- Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival. Following the set, he met Coltrane (though Ferré knew little English), and the veteran saxophonist taught him several musical phrases.
In 1978 Ferré formed a duo with his brother, and the two would continue to perform and record multiple albums over the next 30 years. Releases have include Pour Django and Relax & Enjoy (credited to the Boulou Ferré Quartet). While both brothers favored small acoustic guitars (a Selmer) as used by their father in the Hot Club of France, both experimented with electric guitars on New York, New York. "You must learn to play acoustic guitar first," noted Ferré. "But electric guitar is also great because it allows you more coloring to your music." Ferré has also recorded albums with many other players, including Three of a Kind with Babik Reinhardt (Django Reinhardt's son) and Christian Escoude.
While Boulou Ferré's work has a strong foundation in the work of Reinhardt, his method has stretched the original Hot Club style in divergent direction. Seldom, for instance, does Ferré rely on the "boom-chucka-boom-chucka" backdrop of the Hot Club rhythm section, and he never rushes his solos. Reinhardt would nonetheless remain a guiding light for his vision of jazz guitar. "Django was a guru for all of us," he has said. "A master...we listened to him all the time -- it's part of our history, our world, our culture, our lifestyle." As for his divergence from the master's work, however, Ferré's influences are broad and even extend beyond music. "If I was stuck on a desert island with my heroes, there would be four: Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, and Django." ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.