Guitarist Shane Marler’s debut solo album, “Tzigane,” is the culmination of a series of events that began with a chance encounter.
Marler, of Hillsboro, played in a rock ‘n’ roll band for years, but one year at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, he heard a song in a style he was unfamiliar with, and he loved it.
The song was “Minor Swing,” originally composed by Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt was the pioneer of the Gypsy jazz genre. Because of that encounter, Marler has studied Gypsy jazz for the past five or six years, including traveling to France each year for the Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival.
Instrumentation is a notable difference between Gypsy jazz and the big-band music of the 1940s. While big bands heavily featured brass instruments, Gypsy jazz focuses on string instruments. “Tzigane” features two guitars, bass, violin, clarinet, accordion, and piano.
Gypsy jazz features a lot of improvisation, Marler said. That allows musicians to be more expressive, he said.
“We will never play it the same way twice,” he said. “It just won’t happen.”
After years of prodding from friends in the music industry to record a solo album, Marler and other musicians began recording in August. Digital Boy Records of Wichita released “Tzigane” on Dec. 20. Tzigane is a synonym of Gypsy, Marler said.
“I’m really lucky because the other musicians on the record are really top notch,” Marler said.
Working with good musicians forced him to be better and simultaneously made him sound better than he is, he said. Having his name on the front of the album created extra pressure, but he said he welcomed the pressure.
It was his first studio recording since he began studying Gypsy jazz. He said it is the first album to showcase who he is and what he is trying to do musically.
The album includes one original composition by Marler, “Nico,” which was written to fulfill a promise. Marler and his wife, Morgan, were in France two years ago. Marler stopped to fuel his rental car before leaving the Normandy coast to go to the jazz festival, but because of the foreign language, he accidentally filled the diesel car with unleaded gasoline.
After a rough drive to the festival, his friend, Nico, helped him get the car repaired. Thanking him for his help, Marler promised Nico he would write a song about him.
“I lived up to my end of the bargain,” Marler said.
He said he didn’t care about selling the album; he made it so he would have a record of his musical progression. But due to pressure from the record label and other interest, “Tzigane” is available online at http://www.shanemarler.com, for digital download on iTunes, and will soon be on sale at http://www.amazon.com.
Marler dedicated “Tzigane” in memory of his father-in-law, Bob Marshall, who passed away shortly before recording began. Marshall was a longtime band director in Peabody.