Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt’ prowesses – first with a violin, then with a banjo and finally with a guitar – gave birth to a completely new style of jazz: the gypsy jazz. Django’s music is the result of the encounter between gypsy legacy and the jazz of the 1930’s. As it was often said: “Django is the hero of one people, the gypsy people”
During his childhood Jean-Baptiste Reinhardt, more commonly known as Django, travelled a lot before settling in Paris with his parents. He learnt by himself the basics of music and released his first album when he was eighteen years old.
After a fire in his caravan, his left hand was badly injured and he had to adapt his playing and find a new style and a new technique that would be widely copied afterwards.
When he was twenty years old, Django discovered Duke Elligton and Louis Armstrong. In 1934 he founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with the violinist Stéphane Grappelli. They would record many albums and would tour throughout whole Europe. During the Second World War, Django was in the occupied zone playing for different orchestras.
In 1940 he recorded with saxophonist and clarinettist Hubert Rostaing “Nuages” which would become a hit. He would also be one of the first French musicians to include be-bop in his compositions.
In 1946, Django got an appointment with “the Duke” (Elligton) but that meeting never happened. Disappointed, Django left his guitar and focused on his other passions: painting, fishing and pool.
During the 1950’s, he bought a house in Samois-sur-Seine and often played with French “be-boppers” (Roger Guérin, Hubert et Raymond Fol, Pierre Michelot) and stayed at the jazz avant-garde.
In 1953, Norman Granz offered him to take part in the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” tour but a cerebral congestion took him on the 8th of May, just a month after his last recording with Martial Solal.
Great improviser, Django Reinhardt strongly distinguished himself on the jazz scene as one of the great musicians of his time. He was and remains a main reference for a large part of guitarists.
Many of his children became guitarists like their father: his sons Lousson and Babik and his grandson David.
Eight landmark dates in the life Django Reinhardt
1928: first record avec accordionist Jean Vaissade. Fire in his caravan, lost two fingers on his left hand.
1933: went in studio with singer Jean Sablon
1934 : Foundation of the Hot Club de France with the violinist Stéphane Grappelli
With the Quintette du Hot club de France :
1937: Minor swing
1943: Manoir de mes rêves
1953 (04/08): last recording in a quintet formation with the pianist Manuel Rocheman