Martin Taylor teams up with fellow travellers in tribute to legendary gypsy star Django

GUITARIST Martin Taylor is talking about his musical hero, Django Reinhardt, 100 years on from the birth of the wayward but influential Belgian gypsy guitarist, and how there was revival of interest in "Djangology" in the 1980s among some unlikely genres: "All of a sudden, all these rock or country guitarists I knew were growing little moustaches and getting themselves Maccaferri guitars …

"They took to it like it was some new religion," laughs Taylor, speaking at his home in Kirkmichael, Ayrshire. "But I grew up with that music."

His father, Buck Taylor, was a double-bassist who loved the music of Reinhardt and his immortal Hot Club de France partnership with violinist Stphane Grappelli. "My dad was also a traveller, and he loved the fact this was a gypsy guy doing this. But now, everybody around the world loves Django's music, because it's the real thing. He did what he wanted to do, even when under pressure to change the way he played. It's a lesson to us all to stick to what we believe in, rather than being a slave to fad and fashion."

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Now 54, Taylor, who started sitting in with his father's band at the age of eight and first established his reputation playing with Reinhardt's old partner in musical alchemy, Grappelli, is an internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist in his own right, attracting honours including the "Dr" and "MBE" with which he can bookend his name. And this year's Reinhardt centenary sees him, after a gap of 15 years, re-assembling his band Spirit of Django to celebrate the vital essence of the fiery gypsy guitarist, rather than slavishly replicate him, with a new album, Last Train to Hauteville, out on 10 May.

The album is a tribute to the Breton village where Taylor and his family have a 17th century retreat – which was a place of healing after the death of their younger son five years ago.

However, this train to Hauteville is a fast, cheerful and swingy one, rattling down the track with fellow-travellers including Taylor's longstanding Spirit of Django colleague, accordionist Jack Emblow, now 80, and on reeds, Alan Barnes, here frequently in clarinet mode. "I love the woodiness of the clarinet," says Taylor, "and the combination of guitar, clarinet and accordion is fantastic – you can get all sorts of close harmonies going on."

Other band members include Taylor's son and manager, James, on drums, and his daughter-in-law, Alison Burns, on vocals. It is bubbly, vivacious, Gallic-accented music, with the shade of Jacques Tati hovering nearby. In fact, it does include a manically-tempoed number called Monsieur Jacques, but evoking an inexpert monocyclist, rather than the eccentric film-maker.

"The kind of melodic jazz I play is sometimes looked on as being lightweight, compared to things that are more 'out' or free-form," says Taylor, "but in my experience, having played in both areas, improvising melodically can be pretty hard. Often musicians I've worked with in Spirit of Django think it'll be an easy session, then find it's one of the hardest things they've done."

Spirit of Django play some Scottish dates later this summer, including Glasgow Jazz Festival on 24 June. In the meantime, Taylor has been overwhelmed by the "phenomenal" response to the Martin Taylor Guitar Academy he launched earlier this month in association with the ArtistWorks online subscription teaching platform established by AOL creator and guitar enthusiast David Butler. It enables Taylor to exchange videos with students all over the world and post them on the site, along with his responses.

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The Academy's online chat room enabled the peregrinating guitarist to converse with students when he was stranded in Hong Kong last week, courtesy of That Icelandic Volcano. "It's given me a whole new lease of life," he says.

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