Bert’s Bible –
The Chord Transcriptions
During his lifetime Bert Niblett transcribed the chords to over 200 Django Reinhardt compositions and swing standards, in 3 hardback books with some transcriptions of Django solos.
‘The Gypsy Jazz Melody Book’ for violin with guitar chords by Bert is still available.
Melancholy Baby – Bert’s Favourite Fruit
My Dad started teaching me the guitar when I was about 10, and I used to go to his club, regularly for a few years, 1962-64. I then flitted between a bit of guitar and piano, until I started playing violin when I was 19, at Art College, and immediately felt a real affinity with the instrument, so expressive, so adaptable and easier for my small hands. I took my fiddle along to his Club on the odd occasion in the 70s, but I was doing Irish traditional gigs in folk clubs. From 1979 – 83 I studied Classical violin part time at the Guildhall School of Music. Later we included a bit of swing in our gigs. But it wasn’t till 2005 upon meeting Douglas, when he started the Penzance Club Django that both my husband, Noel Betowski and I became totally obsessed with playing this Django Grappelli music.
In 1976 I had joined an Irish traditional band which is where I first met Noel who played guitar, bouzouki and mandolin. His beautifully made Stephan Sobell bouzouki, is somewhat neglected these days as Noel plays gypsy jazz on my Dad’s old John Le Voi or a Gitane copy. I also play guitar, but the violin for me is the most natural. I just love improvising in this style, one can express so much, wrap feelings in sound. It can be transcendent, even spiritual or sensual, it can be jubilant or melancholy, and so much more. Bert used to say that with jazz “you can play how you feel.” I’ve been amazed how people respond to the gypsy swing. I’d stopped playing in the 60s partly because it didn’t seem ‘hip’ at the time. You are right my Dad did keep the music going when there was little interest.
There is so much I want to say.
The Django Legacy documentary mentions Bert’s chord books, likening the playing experience at the Club to a church service, when the page number was called for the next tune. Not strictly true, since it was the tune that was called first and then someone found the page number, but there was a definite sense of ritual, which I quickly identified, long before Ian Cruickshank wrote his script! – Mike
As valuable to Pam as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Bert Niblett – Founder of Club Django – Haringey 1955-2000,
Tribute site is maintained by Bert’s daughter, Pam
Engineer, guitarist and maker of Selmer Maccaferri style guitar Bert was founder and leader of “Club Django” which was featured in the 1990 Channel 4 documentary “The Django Legacy.”
The club ran from 1955-2000 in North London for the enjoyment of its members. During his lifetime Bert trancribed the chords to over 200 Django Reinhardt compositions and swing standards, in 3 hardback books with some transcriptions of Django solos.
‘The Gypsy Jazz Melody Book’ for violin by Pam Betowski with guitar chords by Bert Niblett is now available with a CD.