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Saturday, July 22

Jazz Legend: Django Reinhardt

Jean Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 - May 16, 1953) was a Belgian Gypsy jazz musician who descended from the Sinti, a Roma related tribe of nomads living in Northwest Europe.

Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Belgian gypsy encampments, close to Paris. As a youngster he was already performing at dance halls in Paris. He played the banjo, the guitar and the violin. At the age of 18 he was injured in a fire, though he survived the accident pretty well, the third and fourth digits of his fretting hand were burned badly.

In 1934, Louis Vola formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django, violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Joseph Reinhardt and Roger Chaput on guitar, and Louis Vola on bass. The concept of lead guitar (Django) and rhythm guitar (Joseph and Roger) was first used with the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Without percussion instruments, they used the rhythm guitars to serve this purpose.

During the Second World War, the Quintette toured in the UK. While Grappelli decided to stay, Reinhardt returned to Europe and reformed the Quintette. Clarinetist Hubert Rostaing replaced Grappelli.

At that time, the Nazis were systematically persecuting jews, gypsies, handicapped and political opponents, in order to deport and eliminate them. Unlike many other gypsies, Reinhardt did not perish in concentration camps (Never Forget!). He was helped by Dietrich "Doktor Jazz" Schulz-Köhn, a Luftwaffe official that admired Django's music.

When the war was over, Reinhardt rejoined Grappelli in the UK and they went on to tour the USA, opening for Ellington and playing at Carnegie Hall. However Reinhardt toured with Ellington, he didn't get the attention he was hoping for, so with broken dreams he returned to the continent.

After returning to France, he formed a new band with sax, trumpet, piano, bass and drums, and continued composing.

In 1951, he retired to Samois sur Seine, where nowadays the Festival Django Reinhardt is held (vids). He was one of the first internationaly known European jazz musicians.

Django Reinhardt "Django et Compagnie" (JiP 11)

Django Reinhardt "Swing from Paris" (JiP 12)

Django Reinhardt "Swing 39" (JiP 13)

Django Reinhardt "Swing 48" (JiP 58)

Django Reinhardt "Solos, Duets, Trios and Quartets"

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