Wednesday, March 29, 2006 1:51:51 PM
The 1999 Woody Allen film "Sweet and Lowdown" is a tribute to the life of Django Reinhardt. The movie is a biography of fictional 1920's jazz guitarist Emmett Ray, who is the second best guitarist in the world - first was of course Django.
Django Reinhardt, the best swing guitarist, was born in Belgium on January 24th 1910. A true gypsy he travelled with his tribe. In 1928 his caravan wagon burned down; his chord hand was so damaged that some fingers were fused together. In the early thirties he heard a recording of Duke Ellington and decided to play swing music. At the Hot Club of Paris he met the violinist Stephane Grappelli. They sounded like the Eddie Lang-Joe Venuti duet. In 1934, Louis Vola formed the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" an all-string ensemble with Reinhardt, violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt's brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitars, and Louis Vola on bass.
During World War II, Grappelli moved to England, Reinhardt stayed on the Continent, and led a new quintet with clarinet replacing violin. Later he had to stay hidden because of the Nazi persecution of gypsies. When the war ended, he made an American tour with Duke Ellington. Django was quite eccentric and a compulsive gambler. Supposedly he never showed up to recording sessions and people would have to get him drunk and trick him into to going to the studio. Some of his most famous compositions were actually complete improvised. He lived most of his life in Paris and he died on the 16th May 1953 of a sudden heart attack. His style continues to influence European jazz quitarists.
Django Reinhardt & his Quintet of the Hot Club of France - J'Attenndrai - Quicktime video - 12MB
Django Reinhardt quotes:
- Jazz attracted me because in it I found a formal perfection and instrumental precision that I admire in classical music, but which popular music doesn't have.
- It doesn't matter all that much. It's just that when you're playing, Stephane, you've got both Chaput and me backing you, but when I'm soloing I've only got one guitar behind me!
Quotes about Django Reinhardt:
- "His way of playing was unlike anyone else’s, and jazz is different because of him." - Stephane Grappelli
- I still listen to Django Reinhardt, his catalog. I'm just catching up with that after several years of not really listening to him proper. You know he's the greatest... it's the fear thing. ... but now I'm getting used to it... He (Django Reinhardt) was God. Just amazing" - Jeff Beck / Yardbirds / Jeff Beck Group
- ".. my instrumentals try to create some of the basic feelings of human interaction, like anger and joy and love ... with Jessica, I couldn't quite find it, then my little daughter, Jessica, crawled into the room, and I just started playing to her, that's why I named it after her ... I came up with that melody using just two fingers as a sort of tribute to Django ... in general writing a good instrumental is very fulfilling because you've transcended language and spoken to someone with a melody" - Dickey Betts / Allman Bros. Band
- "Usually, no one quite knew where Django Reinhardt was going to be, but I met his brother and about an hour later in walks Django with an entourage of friends. He always traveled with a large group -- carried his own admirers with him, the most sinister-looking bunch of hoodlums you've ever seen. I walked up and offered to buy him a drink. That seemed to be the right thing to do... he was the first really brilliant solo guitarist I ever became aware of, I had records of his when I was 10 years old. It just blew my mind that anyone could play a guitar like that. Still does." - Charlie Byrd / Jazz Guitar
Django_Reinhardt - Wikipedia
Django Reinhardt - by Joseph Dinkins
The Django Reinhardt Swing Page