eric bogart



                                    Eric Bogart has been performing jazz music for more than three decades, first in New York City, then in Miami, Florida, where he was born, and where he currently lives. Though the guitar, and especially the Gypsy Jazz style of Django Reinhardt, dominate most of his creative energies these days, he originally started out as a drummer, having been inspired by the Big Band sounds of Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson.

            In 1986, Eric received much notoriety as having been the last drummer to play with Benny Goodman in his final concert appearance, days before his death. (He was , by the way substituting for none other than... Louis Bellson!)  But even while sitting in the chair that was first occupied by the legendary Gene Krupa, and helping to write the final chapter in the life of “The King of Swing,” Eric was already steering his musical attentions in a new direction.

            When Eric first heard the unique and graceful sounds of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and their 1930’s Quintette of The Hot Club of France ---which utilized an all-string ensemble to deliver a driving, yet subtle rendition of swing jazz, it was an epiphany which lured him away from the realm of percussion towards an exploration of the acoustic guitar that continues to this day.

            Eric recalls that the very first group he heard playing Gypsy Jazz live, in the early 1980’s in New York, “cut through him like a knife.” That group, called “Jazz a Cordes,” was probably the only one of its kind in the U.S., and was lead by a wonderful guitarist and champion of Django’s music, Mike Peters. Mike Peters and Eric became fast friends, and this connection would be the first of many fortuitous “guitar-meets-guitar” associations with brilliant players ---what he describes as ‘that close proximity to the real deal” ---that would influence his music and his career in the years to come.

            A frequent Manhattan venue for the group “Jazz a Cordes” was the uptown jazz club, “The West End Cafe,” managed by the venerable jazz promoter Phil Schaap. It wasn’t long before Eric began to work as an assistant to Schaap, and as a result became acquainted with some legendary figures who were regularly featured on the “West End” bandstand ---many of whom were alumni of the illustrious Count Basie Band of the 1930’s. To have been in the company of such names as Buddy Tate, Earl Warren, Dicky Wells, Eddie Durham, and most notably ---perhaps the greatest drummer in jazz ---ever--- Jo Jones, was to Eric not only a rarefied source of artistic inspiration, but a profound privilege as well. And aside from the Basie-ites, there were others too! Doc Cheatham, Lee Konitz, Al Casey, Sonny Greer, Jabbo Smith, among others.

            Not long after, Eric would meet a very young Frank Vignola, who’s virtuosity and musicianship were well apparent from the very beginning of his career. Their friendship resulted in a long and prolific association which included the bands “The Swing Summit” ---a Long Island based unit which for quite a few years held a summer residency on Freeport, Long Island  and featured rhythm guitarist Don Keiling as well as a host of rotating jazz luminaries including Ken Peplowski, Dan Barrett, Randy Sandke, Howard Alden, Dick Sudhalter, Ed Polcer, Jerry Jerome, Clarence Hutchenreider, among others; “Travelin’ Light,” and “Hot Club USA” More on these two groups, later!

            Shortly after moving to Miami, around 1990, Eric met the highly respected guitarist Simon Salz, a virtuoso in many musical styles. Eric performed prolifically with Simon’s various groups throughout South Florida. Most prominent of their collaborations was the creation of the Gold Coast Jazz Society Repertory Orchestra in 1994, which led to many acclaimed concerts with such outstanding jazz artists as Dick Hyman, Bob Wilber, Peter Appleyard and Ira Sullivan.

            By the mid-90’s, Eric also joined the band “Travelin’ Light,” co-led by Frank Vignola and the tuba virtuoso, Sam Pilafian. Beside touring extensively thoughout the United States, “Travelin’ Light” recorded for Concord Records, toured in Europe twice, and performed in concert with the world famous Boston Pops Orchestra.

            During this period, Eric had also met the virtuoso Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos, and formed the Gypsy Jazz group “Le Jazz Hot.” Aside from their long residency at “Les Deux Fontaines” on Miami Beach’s world famous Ocean Drive, “Le Jazz Hot’ has performed in many concerts, clubs and festivals, and recorded their CD “Douce Ambiance” with well known New Orleans bassist, John Lutz. The group performed in New Orleans in 2007 to rave reviews.

            Eric’s fortuitous bringing together of Federico Britos and his old friend Frank Vignola, resulted in the formation of yet another group, “Hot Club USA” which recorded two albums, performed in Europe and at New York’s Lincoln Center, and also appeared on European and Japanese television.

           In 2003, Federico brought Eric to his native country of Uruguay for some concerts and TV appearances in the capital, Montevideo, which included a tribute to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli program, and a performance with the renowned French guitarist Sylvain Luc.

           In 2007 Eric had the pleasure of touring with the most popular American band performing in the Gypsy Jazz tradition, The John Jorgenson Quintet. It was while being on the road with Jorgenson that Eric got to see, first hand, the profound change in the general public’s awareness over the last two decades of the music of Django Reinhardt, particularly among young people.

            This, in a way, brings Eric’s concept of the “guitar-meeting-guitar” full circle ---looking to the future and the next generation of guitarists and their audiences. One of today’s up-and coming, highly gifted artists in the Gypsy Jazz movement, Gonzalo Bergara, got his first taste of in-person Hot Club style music, watching and listening to Eric and Federico, week after week, at Les Deux Fontaines, on Miami Beach.

            A talent such as Gonzalo comes around not all too often , and while it is certainly a treat to observe the budding of youthful creativity onto the music scene, the truly important role of someone such as Gonzalo is the knowledge that he will influence others down the line ---that his playing will “cut through someone like a knife,” and inspire the next generation.

            For Eric, the music of Django Reinhardt, as a microcosm of all that jazz and improvisational music stands for, is only a part of a larger picture. Django’s music, he believes, has unquestionably become the torch-bearer of the Swing Jazz tradition. Although there remain small pockets of interest in ---and valiant attempts to keep alive, the music of Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday, there is also, in Eric’s opinion, no comparison with what the Gypsy Jazz movement has yielded in the sheer numbers of players (and their near-religious dedication to the study of technique and repertoire,) and especially in this music’s appeal to younger audiences.

            “How ironic,” Eric concludes, “ that a twenty-something guitar player from, say, Buenos Aires, will become intimately acquainted with an old Tin Pan Alley tune such as Sweet Georgia Brown or Avalon, and will have come to this knowledge by way of a French-Gypsy musician, gone for more than fifty years, who took his cues from the likes of a black American trumpeter from Louisiana, named Armstrong, an ocean away and seventy long years ago.” 

Click here

to continue