'It has so much energy': Gypsy jazz takes stage at Vancouver music festival

Artists Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars among the gypsy jazz musicians performing at the 11th annual April in Paris festival.

Artists Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars among gypsy jazz musicians performing

Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars gear up for their performance at the April in Paris gypsy jazz festival. (The Hot Club Of Mars)

Gypsy jazz isn't quite a household genre — but for Vancouver jazz singer Deanna Knight, its the perfect music to help newborn babies get acquainted with the world.

When Knight's not playing concerts, the longtime jazz singer takes on the role of Lullaby Stork — a musical messenger who sings telegrams for children, new parents and grandparents.

"I'm delivering an experience to people who are together celebrating. It's a moment where I can vibrationally bring everyone into the space with their heart," she told host Margaret Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air. "I really love performing in those types of settings."

The Lullaby Stork performs telegrammed music for children and families. (Lullaby Stork/Facebook)

But Knight has never forgotten her first love — and that's performing with her jazz band. Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars will be taking the stage at the April in Paris music festival, an annual Vancouver concert series showcasing the best of the city's gypsy jazz artists.

Gypsy jazz

Knight says Vancouver's gypsy jazz scene doesn't necessarily show up in the mainstream. But in certain nooks and crannies across the city, like the Fairview Pub on Broadway or the revamped Yale Saloon on Cambie, the musicians come out to play.

"It has so much energy ... the passion and energy, you can feel it," she said. "You can't help but tap your feet, bounce in your seat, or hey, get up and dance!"

French guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt has long been considered the founder of gypsy jazz. (Herb Museum)

The style of music evolved in France in the 1930s, pioneered by French guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt. The style, often referred to as hot jazz, is known for its rhythmic guitars and swinging sound that invites dancers.

But Knight says the style is evolving.

"We are definitely crossing over into a more of an electro-swing. It's really big in Europe, and it's starting to ripple into North America, which is awesome," she said. "It's definitely brought some edge and some extra beat. I think you can play to a little bigger audiences too, because you can get all of that energy going."

April in Paris

Deanna Knight will be joined onstage by her band, the Hot Club from Mars, at the April in Paris festival (named, of course, after the many Parisian bars where the genre evolved).

Deanna Knight and The Hot Club of Mars perform their own unique blend of Gypsy Jazz. (Deanna Knight)

Other acts featured on the weekend festival include Company B Big Band and the Josh Roberts Orchestra.

She says audiences can expect lots of tunes that are a throwback to the early days of dance. She hopes her performances, including her own original songs, will captivate the crowd.

"I want the lyrics to be positive for today and to inspire people. If I can deliver that with my heart and soul, because the lyrics mean something to me, it will transfer and definitely ripple out into the audience."

With files from CBC's Hot Air