When Jeff and Isabelle Magidson pick up their guitars and play, you know there’s something special going on. The energy between them is as bright and lively as the Gypsy Jazz they both play.
Jeff Magidson met Isabelle more than 20 years ago, when he was a street musician in Paris. He brought her back to his native Moraga in 2004, where they have established themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with. They formed the band Duo Gadjo, which features music from France and America.
Along the way, they have lived the challenging life of musicians raising children (they have two – one in college and another in the final year of high school).
Jeff has played for years as a guitarist in the Hot Club of San Francisco, a premiere Gypsy Jazz group that Isabelle also joined several years ago as guitarist and vocalist. Jeff is also the musical director of Walnut Creek's Red House Studios.
Raising children while pursuing a musical career can be tricky, but they’ve managed to pull it off.
“I'm amazed that we've been able to do both for so long,” Magidson said. “It's definitely not an easy juggling act. We don't get to spend as much time as we'd like to with our children, but on the other hand, we are able to share our passion with them and making music with the people you love is a very special thing indeed.”
Much of that music is Gypsy Jazz, a genre originated by French guitar genius Django Reinhardt in the 1930s. It involves blazing guitar runs and has a joyous, celebratory feel, but it’s extremely challenging.
“I started getting into Django when I lived in France,” Magidson said. “If you play guitar and live in that country, he’s hard to miss.”
Since returning to the states, Jeff and Isabelle formed a group of their own, Duo Gadjo, in which they mix a blend of Gypsy Jazz, French and American standards, blues and Zydeco. They play in a variety of venues around the Bay Area.
“Armando’s in Martinez is the top of my list of favorite venues,” Magidson said. “We also love Yoshi’s in Oakland, and the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, the Colonial in San Francisco and Speisekammer in Alameda.”
If you’re a fan of guitar music, or just want to hear songs that make you feel good, make sure and catch a show by Duo Gadjo. You won’t be sorry.