Jazz Appreciation Month: Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt (1910 – 1953) born Jean Reinhardt, was a Belgian born French-Romani gypsy and was to become one of the first jazz talents to emerge from Europe and is still regarded as one of the finest jazz guitarists, his gypsy jazz style can be heard in Jazz Clubs and festivals all over Europe. Django created a special technique to play the guitar after he lost two fingers on his left hand in a caravan fire which possibly added to his technique. In 1934 he met violinist Stéphane Grappelli and they formed the string quintet le Quintette du Hot Club de France, they were joined by visiting Americans Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter.

When World War 2 broke out, Grappelli opted to stay in England, but Django stayed in occupied France and replaced Grappelli with a clarinet player called Hubert Rostaing, who provided the distinctive opening to Reinhardt’s composition Nuages.

After the war he and Grappelli reformed for a tour of the USA and recorded a number of sides for Columbia. Django did a guest spot with Duke Ellington but further USA work failed to materialise and he returned to France. Reinhardt failed to adjust to post war life and became unreliable and difficult to employ.

During the early 50s he began experimenting with Bebop and using an electric guitar.

On 16th May 1953, Django Reinhardt collapse at his home, but delays in finding a doctor resulted in him being declared dead at the scene. He gad sufferd a brain haemorrhage.

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