Pierre Baro Ferret was born in Rouen, France in 1908. The eldest of three brothers, he showed talent as a musician from an early age. After a short apprenticeship in the local dancehall, he migrated to Paris. He quickly became a fixture as a guitarist in the bals-musette, and also was a favorite sideman of Django Reinhardt, recording around 80 sides with the great jazz guitarist. Though he too was an able jazzman, Baro is most renowned as a composer and interpreter of waltzes. His early bal-musette compositions like "Swing-Valse" co-written with Gus Viseur, are among the most beautiful and sophisticated of the style. Later compositions, such as "L’inattendu" and "Le Depart de Zorro" are modernist in the extreme. As a guitarist he had perfect technique and a unique improvisational style. He turned away from the performing life after the war, and in the 1960s he operated a bar, "La Lanterne". He made a but a single LP "Swing Valses d’Hier et Au’jourd’ui", an audacious display of virtuosity and imagination. This handsome and charismatic gypsy passed away in 1978, little noticed by the larger guitar-playing world. It has been said that he was too far advanced a musician for his time, and maybe too advanced for our time too. There is no reason to argue this point.
In the days when I was recording the first 78 rpm records of the great jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt for the Swing label, I had the opportunity to listen to, and record, another guitarist of no less outstanding talent: Baro Ferret. He was revolutionizing the musette waltz. Unfortunately, his work went on almost unnoticed, causing him to give up his musical career not long afterwards. Some thirty years later once again I came across one of his records, cut in 1938 for a French label, which had not considered it worthy of release at the time. I was struck by the intricacy and freshness the music still conveyed. Sharing my lucky find with others inspired a new search for Baro Ferret. We discovered that not only was the old master still alive, but that he had remained the best interpreter of that specific style. That’s how this recording began - end of quote from Charles Delaunay.
Pierre Joseph Baro Ferret, the creator of the swing waltz, was of gypsy origin. He was born in 1908 in Rouen, France and like his brothers Sarane and Matelo, he began at a very early age to play banjo and banduria in the colourful musette dance halls. Baro’s virtuosity led to recordings with the famous accordion player Guerino, and his guitar solos were often attributed to Django Reinhardt. Baro’s approach to the instrument was fairly close to that of the brilliant manouche (who composed marvellous waltzes, such as Chez Jacqet, when he was very young), but even closer to that of the two pioneers of the style, Mattéo Garcia and Gusti Malha. Legendary heroes of the banjo-guitar, they had won fame at the side of great musette accordion players like Emile Vacher, Fredo Gardoni, and the Peguri brothers, enriching the repertoire with valuable harmonic contributions, and new melodies. Too often, we do not really know who composed these masterpieces. For example, the Reine Musette was given by Gusti Malha as a present to Jean Peyronnin, who needed a sixth title to become a member of the Société des Auteurs. The Minch Valse was given by Mattéo Garcia’s son to Baro for him to add a personal touch.
For many, the surprise with this recording will be the discovery of Baro Ferret’s talent as an innovator. Long before Shorty Rogers, Horace Silver or Dave Brubeck, he brought rhythmic structures in 3/4 and 6/8 meter into jazz. The strange mood and unusual harmonies of his compositions remind us that Baro was once an essential part of Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, with which he recorded nearly eighty titles, between 1935 and 1940. He was also the brilliant soloist in groups that all bear his stamp: the swing musettes, long scorned by purists. Together with Gus Viseur and Jo Privat he explored the swing waltz, a new and rather controversial concept: how could a waltz (3/4) swing (4/4)? Baro Ferret fused them with his genuine touch. He continued the development, and in 1948 he presented his bebop waltzes.
A rare fragrance of poetry came out of those old 78 rpm recordings, which strangely enough have never been reissued, but with a miracle that very fragrance is also to be found in this CD (originally LP), recorded thirty years later. At that time, our guitarist was discouraged, and had given up the job.
Baro Ferret - Monsieur Camembert (a nick name given to him because of his great love of the cheese) - was a cheerful and colourful character of the popular world of Paris, and for a few years he owned a bar, La Lanterne. Many gypsy musicians came to the spot for jam sessions and Baro would sometimes take his guitar down from the hook. When he died in 1976 not a single magazine in the music world mentioned it. Hopefully this beautiful recording will allow him to take the place he well deserves, doing him justice at last.
Written for the first edition of the CD “Swing Valse” (HCRCD 45).