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Mango fan Django combines variety of acoustic styles

By Tanya Bell/The Gazette

Mango fan Django's gypsy jazz, swing, French waltz and calypso music travels back in time, sending listeners around the world in one set.

The sounds can take you to the islands in the 1950s for a little limbo, to a Southern swing juke joint in the 1940s or to a Parisian cafe for a cozy close dance in the 1930s.

The three-member Colorado Springs-based band - Ed Parsons and brothers Alain Le Lait on guitar and Gerard Rouvenacht on stand-up bass - have been touting their toe-tapping tunes around town since January, hitting spots such as Manitou Bakery, Poor Richard's, Wooglins and Smokebrush Cabaret.

Their sound is upbeat, energetic and well-practiced. It has a light and airy acoustic blend, making audiences who are unfamiliar with their brand of music feel instantly comfortable. All of the members take on vocals, with Rouvenacht and Le Lait often singing in their native French language.

"I just kind of 'fou, fou, fou' in the background," jokes Parsons.

All three members had played in previous bands that were hooked up to more traditional sounds. Parsons wanted to be in a band that would use his newly acquired gypsy guitar skills.

"It has a lot of tradition in European music," says Parsons. He joined brothers Le Lait and Rouvenacht, who moved to the United States nearly 20 years ago.

Initially, the band played mainly gypsy jazz, a style created by the legendary Django Reinhardt (Get it? "Mango" because it rhymes with "Django" and "fan" because they dig Django). In the 1930s, Reinhardt became known in Europe, and then worldwide, by combining folk, classical and American jazz in a string ensemble.

The style proved to be mentally and technically demanding, because of its precise nature.

"Music is a funny thing - you have to be able to think it," says Parsons. It's almost like learning a language."

So Mango fan Django explored other styles that were a little less demanding. They chose swing, calypso and French waltzes.

"(These types of music) are really fun to play and people really react to it," says Rouvenacht.

Although the band also does a few cover tunes, the selections are usually songs audiences don't sing along with. Parsons searches for obscure records that the band can reinvent.

"The songs are unusual enough that people won't know them," he says. They find that audiences listen intently.

Looking ahead, the band would like to play a few gypsy jazz festivals to meet some similar groups. They also hope to eventually put out an independently produced CD, but they'd like to keep their music careers low-key and keep their day jobs.

"No world tour," says Le Lait.


WHO: Mango fan Django in concert

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today

WHERE: Black Rose Acoustic Society, corner of Shoup and Black Forest roads

COST: $1 members, $2 nonmembers

The group also will perform a set during the Commonwheel Artists Co-Op Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival at 2 p.m. Sept. 4-5 at Manitou Springs' Memorial Park.

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