Django Reinhardt – Jazz Virtuoso

Django Reinhardt is jazz guitar’s most dazzling soloist, improviser, and most important, innovator. As a French-speaking Belgian gypsy, he’s the first European musical virtuoso to influence American jazz guitarists. Furthermore, what makes his style of playing so special? Well, it could be because he follows his musical taste and not his fingers.

As a child prodigy and obviously, a hopeless romantic, he makes his music exciting, upbeat and whimsical. Yet, inspiring many musicians along the way in his career. With the likes of Carlos Santana, Julian Bream, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Joe Pass just to name a few. But, trust me there are a lot more!

Django Reinhardt – The Early Years

Django Reinhardt starts out his life in a gypsy caravan. As a child, he would hang out at the studio of painter Emile Savitry and becomes quite good at painting. It’s also here that he first hears Louie Armstrong and Duke Ellington and finds his love of Jazz.

Receiving a banjo-guitar at age ten, Django practices obsessively, becoming good enough to perform professionally. By, at age 13, he’s performs on the streets and as a sideman in the low-level Parisian dance halls. As well as learning violin and banjo along the way. 

Surviving A Fire

Already a famous musician on the Parisian dance scene at age 18, accompanying the accordionists. One evening in 1928, he accidentally drops a candle in the caravan that he and his wife were living in and barely escapes from the fire.

Not only does he lose his little finger and left ring finger but, the entire left side of his body is badly burned as well. After 18 months in the hospital, and a few months after, he relearns how to play his instrument and is performing again.

Reinhardt and Grappelli

With Stéphane Grappelli, Django finds a kindred spirit. Coming from humble beginnings as a street musician, Grappelli is a well-known violinist. Furthermore, their paths crossed quite frequently by going to the same cafes in Paris. In the early 1930s, they even perform together in the same orchestra. It’s during this time that they really clicked and started performing together. In 1934, they co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France.  Quintette du Hot Club de France , a group whose many records are greatly prized by connoisseurs. 

Quintette du Hot Club de France

One of the earliest and most significant continental jazz groups in Europe. Their most famous lineup features Reinhardt, Grappelli, bassist Louis Vola, and rhythm guitarists Roger Chaput. As well as and Joseph Reinhardt (Django’s brother) who fills out the ensemble’s sound and added occasional percussion.

Lastly, Django Reinhardt records in France with many visiting American musicians, including Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. As well as, Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1946. Shortly after in 1953, he dies suddenly of a stroke at the age of 43. Django fans celebrates his music through annual Django festivals that are held throughout Europe and the U.S. 

Be sure, to check out the other blog posts: https://jbonamassa.com/category/blog

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