Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Django Reinhardt born 23 January 1910
Jean Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953) was a Belgian Sinto Gypsy jazz guitarist. He was one of the first prominent jazz musicians to be born in Europe, and one of the most renowned jazz guitarists of all time. His most renowned works include "My Sweet", "Minor Swing", "Tears", "Belleville", "Djangology" and "Nuages" (French, meaning "Clouds"). His name is pronounced [dʒɑ̃ŋgo ʀeˈnɑʀt].
Born in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, Reinhardt spent most of his youth in gypsy encampments close to Paris, playing banjo, guitar and violin from an early age professionally at Bal-musette halls in Paris. He started first on the violin and eventually moved on to a banjo-guitar that had been given to him and his first known recordings (in 1928) were of him playing the banjo (a banjo guitar has six strings tuned in standard guitar tuning).
At the age of 18 Reinhardt was injured in a fire that ravaged the caravan he shared with Bella, his first wife. They were very poor, and to supplement their income Bella made imitation flowers out of celluloid and paper. Consequently, their home was full of this highly flammable material. Returning from a performance late one night, Django apparently knocked over a candle on his way to bed. While his family and neighbors were quick to pull him to safety, he received first- and second-degree burns over half his body. His right leg was paralyzed and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand were badly burnt. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again and intended to amputate the leg. Reinhardt refused to have the surgery and left the hospital after a short time; he was able to walk within a year with the aid of a cane.
His brother Joseph Reinhardt, an accomplished guitarist himself, bought Django a new guitar. With painful rehabilitation and practice Django relearned his craft in a completely new way, even as his third and fourth fingers remained partially paralyzed. Hence, he used to play solos with only two fingers, and managed to use the two injured ones for some chords. According to one story, during his recovery period, Reinhardt was introduced to American jazz when he found a 78 RPM disc of Louis Armstrong's "Dallas Blues" at an Orleans flea market. He then resumed his career playing in Parisian cafes until one day in 1934 when Hot Club chief Pierre Nourry proposed the idea of an all-string band to Reinhardt and Grappelli. Thus was born the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, which quickly became an international draw thanks to a long, splendid series of Ultraphone, Decca and HMV recordings.
The outbreak of war in 1939 broke up the Quintette, with Grappelli remaining in London where the group was playing and Reinhardt returning to France. During the war years, he led a big band, another quintet with clarinetist Hubert Rostaing in place of Grappelli, and after the liberation of
Paris, recorded with such visiting American jazzmen as Mel Powell, Peanuts Hucko and Ray McKinley. In 1946, Reinhardt took up the electric guitar and toured America as a soloist with the Duke Ellington band but his appearances were poorly received.
Some of his recordings on electric guitar late in his life are bop escapades where his playing sounds frantic and jagged, a world apart from the jubilant swing of old. However, starting in Jan. 1946, Reinhardt and Grappelli held several sporadic reunions where the bop influences are more subtly integrated into the old, still-fizzing swing format. In the 1950s, Reinhardt became more reclusive, remaining in Europe, playing and recording now and then. In 1951, he retired to Samois-sur-Seine, France, near Fontainebleau. He lived there for two years until May 16, 1953, when, while returning from the Avon train station, he collapsed outside his house from a brain hemorrhage. It took a full day for a doctor to arrive and Django was declared dead on arrival at the hospital in Fontainebleau. (info Wikipedia and various sources)
This short film was made about 1938-1939 as an advertisement for Django's brand of music before a tour of Great Britain to educate music-hall audiences on what jazz was all about. In those days, many people thought improvisations were due to bad musicianship---musicians who culdn't play in tune! This film was "lost"---even forgotten---for decades until a French fan of cartoons with jazz soundtracks found it in a brocante junkshop in a marché aux puces in a film can simply marked "Jazz Hot"; the price was right, so he bought it, and voilà, here's an extract from the film!