Grammy-nominated musican Doug Munro swings with the best
Veteran guitarist Doug Munro is a two-time, Grammy-nominated artist who is beloved by guitar enthusiasts and considered one of the top guitar virtuosos on the New York music scene.
Over a 33-year career, the jazz great has released 17 albums and appeared on an additional 75 recordings as a sideman, working with a who’s who of artists that include Dr. John, Michael Brecker and Dr. Lonnie Smith.
His latest recording, “Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook” is a gypsy swing-infused tribute to Munro’s great uncle Harry Warren, and boasts guitarist superstars like Howard Alden, Vic Juris, Vinny Raniolo, Ted Gottsegen and Ernesto Pugliese and violinists Howie Bujese and Andrei Matorin.
Munro has also penned four books on jazz improvisation and served a decade as director of the jazz studies program at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College. He recently spoke with Keith Loria about his latest music.
Keith Loria: You’re a regular on the New York music circuit. What are you playing these days?
Doug Munro: I’m with a gypsy swing band right now called the La Pompe Attack and our basic roots are in the music of Django Reinhardt, but of course we do our own interpretation of it. There’s a lot of other influences in there. We’re an all string band, there are no drums or keyboard players. We have a violinist, another guitar player and an upright bassist.
KL: What sort of stuff do you play?
DM: We do the style of 1930s and 1940s swing with an emphasis of being grounded in the style of Django Reinhardt.
KL: How long have you been together?
DM: Probably going on 10 years. We released our first record in 2011 called “A Very Gypsy Christmas” and since then we’ve released another record, The Harry Warren Songbook, based on the music of my great uncle. And we have a third record we are going into the studio now to record, and that will be out sometime this year.
KL: How did you decide to join with them?
DM: It was my idea. I’ve been playing and recording for more than 30 years, and I was primarily a fusion and soul-jazz guitar guy. I was signed to a small label in California and was with them for 15 years. Around 2010, the record industry that used to exist, ceased to exist, because of digital recording and streaming. Most of the small independent labels evaporated. I had always been a huge fan of Django Reinhardt but I never played the music professionally. Once all that stuff blew up, I decided to do what I wanted to do and put this band together.
KL: You played last year at the Milford Arts Council and were invited back this year to play. How did you hook up with them?
DM: We did our Harry Warren show there. I had a former student at Purchase where I had taught, and he recommended me to play and the show was well received. They had an idea of doing a jazz brunch and we are scheduled to play when it happens. (Munro was scheduled to appear at the Milford Arts Council’s Gypsy Swing Brunch on March 29, but that event has tentatively been rescheduled for June 28.)
KL: You’ve been doing this a long time. What led you towards this career?
DM: I started doing gigs when I was 14 years old so I just always played. I started out as a drummer, then I did piano and wound up on the guitar. My passion was always in music and I never really considered making a go of it as a career initially, but certain life events happened where it just became the most viable means of me making a living. When I was in my late 20s, it was actually when I decided to do it full time. Before that, I was doing it more as a hobby.
KL: For those not familiar with the term “gypsy swing,” how do you define that style of music?
DM: It’s sort of like jazz reverse engineered. There were a few people in Europe, and Django kind of spearheaded the movement —he was the Louis Armstrong of gypsy swing. He loved American jazz so he took the music he heard from American and mixed it with the folk music that gypsies played and made this fusion of the two musical styles. His band was all string players and it really took off. The music is highly entertaining, it’s lively and fun. In order to play this music, you have to be a high caliber musician.