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Gypsy jazz (also known as "Gypsy swing") is often said to have been started by guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt in the 1930s. Because its origins are largely in France it is often called by the French name, "jazz manouche," or alternatively, "manouche jazz."

Reinhardt was noted for combining a dark, chromatic Gypsy flavor with the swing articulation of the period. His most famous group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France, also brought fame to jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. (Many Gypsy jazz groups that followed used "Hot Club" in their names in homage.) In addition, many of the musicians who originated the style worked in Paris in various popular Musette ensembles, and the Musette style waltz remains an important component in the Gypsy jazz repertoire.

The original Quintette du Hot Club de France played acoustically without a drummer, facilitating the use of the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument. Guitar and violin are the still main solo instruments, although clarinet and accordion are also common. The rhythm guitar is played using a distinct percussive technique, "la pompe", that essentially replaces the drums. Although many instrumental lineups exist, a group including one lead guitar, violin, two rhythm guitars, and bass is often the norm. In Eastern gypsy jazz, the rhythm section is most likely covered by one or two cymbaloms, or (less frequently) a cymbalom and/or drums and an acoustic guitar (the cymbalom accompaniment technique is called in Romanian "ţiitură"). An upright bass fills out the ensemble.

Gypsy jazz is thriving today, with fans and practitioners — some faithful copyists, others innovators — found all over the globe. The largest audiences and highest caliber of musicians are still found in Europe, as this is where the style originates. Tim Kliphuis, Stochelo Rosenberg, Biréli Lagrène, Joscho Stephan and Tchavolo Schmitt are perhaps the most famous performers today. There is also a substantial American Gypsy Jazz movement headed by groups like Pearl Django, John Jorgenson Quintet, and George Cole. Also, on the West Coast, performers like Fabrice Vignati and Tracy Vignati (The Vignatis) created a new form of music, Gypsybilly, related to Gypsy Jazz by the use and sound of the rhythm and lead gypsy guitar.

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