Monday, July 25, 2011

Musical Guest {Django Reinhardt}

[Portrait of Django Reinhardt, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946] (LOC)

Remember a couple of months ago during my Woody Allen month for Cinema Tuesdays, I covered Sweet and Lowdown about a jazz guitarist who idolized Django Reinhardt so much that he would faint at the sight of him? Well, I thought it was high time that I write a little post about him. Not only is M. Reinhardt one of my favourite jazz musician, he is also, quite possibly the greatest guitarist ever.
M. Reinhardt is famous not only for his unique style of guitar playing, as a result of a fire which left part of his left hand paralysed (see photo) but also for inventing a new style of guitar technique called "hot jazz guitar".
M. Reinhardt was born into a family of French gypsies and began performing the guitar publicly at a young age. In 1934 he hooked up with the jazz violinist St├ęphane Grappelli and together they put together the Quintette du Hot Club de France, usually for a jazz band, it had no percussion instruments. The Quintette remains one of the most original and interesting in the history of jazz. If you're not a fan of them, or have never heard of their name before, you will have heard their recordings in countless movies and TV shows. The Quintette performed and recorded throughout Europe until 1948, with a hiatus during the war as M. Grappelli stayed in England but M. Reinhardt returned to France. During my extensive research for this post (Wikipedia) I could not find out exactly how a gypsy jazz musician managed to survive in occupied France but it might have something to do with the fact that some Nazi officers loved his music.
Unfortunately, M. Reinhardt dropped dead of a brain haemorrhage in 1953 at the age of 43 just as he was moving in a new musical direction with the electric guitar. Despite this, he lives on in his recordings and through modern musicians who have been influenced by his style.
What truly makes Django Reinhardt a unique jazz artist and a genius musician is that when listening to other musicians you can hear their personality through their music but when you hear a recording of Django Reinhardt, you can hear his soul.

"Minor Swing" is my favourite.

This is the only video I could find of the Quintette performing

This is an interview with him from the late Forties and the only example I could find of him speaking.

"Djangology" his last major composition.

Any suggestion for which musician you want covered next?

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