Bandjango Collectif: the local band blending array of sound, musical talent

Bay Area band Bandjango Collectif recently dazzled attendees alike on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Blue Note-Napa jazz club for locals night. As the large crowd gathers together by the 9 p.m. start time to watch and enjoy Bandjango, many anticipate fulfilment of a promise from the band to be transported to “lands unknown.’’ 

Bandjango was formerly known as the French Oak Gypsy Band and describes its members as ones who bring forth a “wild-around-the-edges experience melding French Gypsy Jazz and Chanson, New Orleans Jazz, Global Traditionals, and Folk.” Many of the songs that vocalist Stella Heath sings are in French, although she grew up in Petaluma. 

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Locals could see the band play for only seven dollars, which is a cheap date compared to some of the more expensive ticket artists that the Blue Note venue hosts, like Michael Franti. Franti,  whose sold-out show is set to play later this month, is among a plethora of artists locals and Sonoma County residents alike can expect to enjoy in the times ahead. Yet, in a town known for its expensive taste, the venue’s locals night has also been a fantastic way for restaurants and businesses to offer discounted options for residents to take advantage of. 

The Sonoma West Times states in an article that, although Heath grew up singing songs that were influenced by her mother’s unique music taste, she did not consider herself as a singer up until a professor at Syracuse University, where she studied, encouraged her to pursue music professionally. 

Heath is now a professional vocalist, pianist and actress; she also teaches voice, acting and piano lessons. 

With aim to combine her background in music and theater, Heath created “The Billie Holiday Project,” which combines music elements brought forth by Holiday as well as personal details about the singer’s troubled life and her triumphs. Although Holiday died of a drug overdose, Heath says, “I really try to break that image of her as this stereotype, of her being some kind of a victim. She lived a very full life,” according to the Petaluma 360 newspaper.

Heath also states that she did not want to try to copy Holiday’s iconic voice, instead using her own unique vocals to represent the legacy left behind by Holiday. 

Other band members also in the Bandjango group include Gabriel Pirard, who is a french American guitar player, James Inciardi on Tenor, Skyler Stover on Standup Bass and Jamie Foster on Drums and Percussion. 

The group changed its band name from French Oak Gypsy to Bandjango Collectif in anticipation of its new album release this month. As stated on the group’s website, the name is a play on the word “Django” which is a Romani word, meaning “I awaken”; it is a representation of their music which is an exemplary showcase of a cross-cultural celebration, bringing it all together for audiences to enjoy. 

Heath’s melodic voice was enjoyed by all at the Blue Note performance regardless of whether or not she was singing in French or English. One fan writes about the band on Facebook, saying, “If you haven’t seen this band, you should do it before they go big time with a worldwide audience.” 

Discounted ticket prices are a great way for people to experience new bands that they normally would not have otherwise. Jazz fans and others alike should should check out Green Music Center’s vast list of upcoming events. A Jazz Day is set for October 10 and even better, it is free. 

The Bay Area has always been a melting pot of people from all over the world and Bandjango’s sound represents that. Whether a fan of jazz, or not, the creative talent that it takes to weave sounds from around the globe is a feat that is certainly admirable.