Doug Munro: An Indie Homage to Django


“There’s really no point in printing up CDs anymore,” Munro says.

(Photo: Doug Munro)

After a long stretch of recording for the Chase Music Group, including a pair of potent fusion offerings (1994’s The Blue Lady and 1997’s Shootin’ Pool At Leo’s), two grits ’n’ gravy Blue Note/Prestige-inspired organ trio dates (2000’s Blueness and 2002’s Up Against It) and an appealing dip into the Brazilian pool with two soothing, nylon-string acoustic projects (2004’s Big Boss Bossa Nova and 2007’s Big Boss Bossa Nova 2.0), guitarist Doug Munro decided to start up his own label.

At the time, a popular TV commercial posed the question: “Got Milk?” And as a clever play on that slogan, he dubbed his new label Gotmusic Records, premiering in 2011 with A Very Gypsy Christmas and continuing with 2017’s The Harry Warren Songbook, both featuring his gypsy jazz ensemble Le Pompe Attack.

As for his newfound love of all things Django, Munro explained: “I grew up in my grandparents house back in the late ’50s, and when I’d rummage around in their cellar, I would find all these old 78 discs. So I heard that style of music from the ’30s. Later on, when I started getting serious about playing guitar, I heard Django Reinhardt for the first time and thought, ‘I’ve heard this music my whole life. This is part of my childhood.’”

Regarding his decision to go independent, he said, “It just got to the point where there was really no point in being on an independent label because the industry was falling apart. The whole distribution system had broken down and the big record store outlets were gone. And I felt I could basically do everything that my label had been doing while also recouping my money from record one. And that was the birth of Gotmusic Records.”

That also opened the door for him to follow his Django muse. “Almost on a whim, I did the Gypsy Christmas record, and by luck it did really well,” he said. “The Wall Street Journal picked it as one of their top five holiday releases that year, and just from that exposure I sold through my stock twice. So it made me think, ‘Maybe there’s an audience for this stuff.’ So I formed La Pompe Attack, which is kind of an inside joke. La Pompe is a term for the strumming of the guitar in gypsy jazz, so La Pompe Attack is like my version of a 1950s sci-fi movie, The Attack of the Strumming Guitars.”

Ten years ago, Munro moved with his wife and two boys from their 800-square-foot apartment to a spacious new home on picturesque Putnam Lake (which the locals refer to as Putt Lake) in upstate New York. His third, and latest, gypsy jazz release, the spirited Putt Lake Toodleloo, is a both a tribute to Django and to Duke Ellington. (The last word in the title is a reference’s to Duke’s first charting single in 1927, “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”).

Munro is once again accompanied by an extended family of players, including fellow guitarists Vinny Raniolo, Ernie Pugliese, Ben Wood and Ted Gottsegen, bassist Michael Goetz, drummers Ian Carroll and Jon Doty, and a recent key addition in soprano/alto saxophonist Albert Rivera. “We have a kind of telepathic connection on these tunes, especially on the improv sections,” Munro said of Rivera. “The interplay is definitely spontaneous and it’s different every time. Albert’s just got a killer ear. He’s just one of those guys who can hear everything and immediately responds.”

While Munro’s previous two Le Pompe Attack recordings were released as physical albums, Putt Lake Toodleloo is a digital-only release. “There’s really no point in printing up CDs anymore because people don’t have CD players,” he said. “Speaking from my experience, my audience is much more inclined to buy a T-shirt or a hat to support what you’re doing as opposed to a CD that they’re not going to be able to play.”

“Recording, in general, these days is not a money-making business,” he added. “It’s sort of like something that you do as a thank-you to the people that come out to your shows and the ones that stream your shows from home. You try and build a big streaming audience, but there’s really no financial payoff for that. I mean, how many streams are you going to get? You’re going to make [from] from streaming, it’s not going to pay the rent.

“Your money comes from doing gigs. And your records, hopefully, are going to give you more notoriety and better gigs. And maybe more people will call you to do their gigs. I also do a lot of arranging and production work, and people will call me for that.

“You really need to know your audience and be realistic about what you’re doing. That’s the key to being able to keep your head above water in this business.” DB

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