Famous Like Me > Composer > R > Django Reinhardt
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Jean Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953) was a Belgian Gypsy jazz musician. He was the very first important jazz musician who was born in Europe. His most renowned tunes include Minor Swing, Tears, Belleville and Nuages. Django is pronounced zhane-go (with a long 'a').
Born in Liberchies, Belgium, Reinhardt spent most of his youth in gypsy encampments close to Paris, France, playing banjo, guitar and violin from an early age professionally at dance 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 with him playing the banjo (a banjo guitar has six strings and is tuned like a guitar).
At the age of 18, Reinhardt was injured in a fire that ravaged the caravan he shared with his first wife. The third and fourth digits on his left hand (his fretting hand) were burned so badly they were fused together, and although the doctors succeeded in separating the fingers, they were of diminished use to him in his future guitar playing (Acker Bilk was another musician whose dexterity seemed unimpaired by finger-damage as was Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead). Determined to keep playing, Reinhardt focused on the guitar and developed an original style of playing that emphasized his undamaged fingers.
In 1934, he formed the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt's brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitar, and Louis Vola on bass. He produced numerous recordings at this time, and played with many American musicians, like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and Rex Stewart.
As World War II was declared, the quintet was on tour in the United Kingdom. Reinhardt returned to Paris at once, leaving his wife behind. Grappelli remained in the United Kingdom for the duration of the war, and Reinhardt reformed the quintet in Paris with Hubert Rostaing on clarinet in place of Grappelli's violin.
Reinhardt survived World War II unscathed, unlike many other gypsies who perished in the concentration death camps of the Nazis. He had the help of a Luftwaffe official named Dietrich Schultz-Kohn, a.k.a. Doktor Jazz, who deeply admired his music. In 1943 he married Sophie Ziegler, with whom he had a son, Babik Reinhardt, who went on to become a respected guitarist in his own right.
After the war, Reinhardt rejoined Grappelli in the UK, and went on to tour the United States, opening for Duke Ellington, and playing at Carnegie Hall, as well as making more recordings.
Django Reinhardt was then among the first people in France to appreciate and understand the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (he sought after them when he first arrived in New York). He integrated some elements of their music, still never compromising his own musical visions.
He consequently formed a new band with saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and drums, keeping composing outstanding tunes and remaining as the most advanced guitar player of jazz music.
In 1951, he retired to Samois sur Seine in France, near Fontainebleau, and lived there for two years until, on the morning of May 16th 1953, he came back walking from the Avon train station, after a long sleepless night and collapsed outside of his house from a brain hemorrhage. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital in Fontainebleau.
Just before Christmas 1954, the Modern Jazz Quartet recorded pianist John Lewis' tribute, simply titled "Django". This elegant lament became an oft-recorded jazz classic.
In 1971, Stéphane Grappelli teamed up with Belgian guitarist Phillip Catherine and Danish bass player Niels Henning Oersted-Pedersen to record a tribute titled "Young Django", a reference to the nickname given to the virtuoso Catherine.
Reinhardt is portrayed in the opening sequence of the 2003 cartoon Les Triplettes de Belleville, playing a mean guitar with his three fingers and puffing cigarette smoke out of his ears. He is also portrayed by guitarist John Jorgenson in the movie Head in the Clouds.
Reinhardt is the idol of the fictional 1930's guitarist, Emmet Ray, in the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown (1999).
The song Johnny Depp plays in the river party scene in Lasse Hallström's Chocolat was Django and Grapelli's great hit, "Minor Swing".
Djangos compositions Rhythm Futur (95 minute mark) and I Cant Give You Anything But Love (41 minute mark) are both portrayed in the movie The Aviator.
His song Nuages is also in the movie Gattaca during a scene where Ethan Hawke demonstrates the clouds of Titan in a wine glass using smoke from his cigar.
The Beatles tune Piggies allegedly steals a melody from Djangos "Evelyn".
Jimi Hendrix listened to Django Reinhardt and consequently called his band "Band of Gypsies"
Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was inspired by Reinhardt to keep playing guitar after an accident which cost him his fingertips.
BB King mentioned Django Reinhardt as one of his main influences.
Carlos Santana is a fan of Django's music.
The Allman Brothers Band song Jessica was written by guitarist Dickey Betts in tribute to Reinhardt. He wanted to write a song that could be played using only two fingers.
- 2004 Le Génie Vagabond
- 2003 Jazz in Paris: Nuits de Saint-Germain des-Prés
- 2003 Jazz in Paris: Nuages
- 2001 All Star Sessions
- 1996 Imagine
- 1959 Django Reinhardt and His Rhythm
- 1955 Django's Guitar
- 1954 The Great Artistry of Django Reinhardt
- 1953 Django Reinhardt et Ses Rythmes
- 1951 At Club St. Germain
- 1951 Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club Quintet
- 1945 Paris 1945
- Rétrospective Django Reinhardt 1934/53 (probably the most complete one)
- The Django -- The Unforgettable
- Django Reinhardt [Forlane]
- Stardust Records Presents Django Reinhardt: Anthology 1934-1937
- The Art of Django
- Quintet of the Hot Club of France [GNP]
- Vol. 6: Nuages
- Django Reinhardt and the Quintet
- Django, Vol. 2 [ITI]
- Djangologie/USA, Vols. 3 & 4
A list of tunes composed by Django Reinhardt himself.
- Appel Indirect
- Are you in the Mood+
- Black and White+
- Black Night
- Diminushing Blackness
- Blues Clair
- Blues d’Autrefois
- Blues en Mineur
- Blues for Barclay
- Blues for Ike
- Blues Riff
- Boogie Woogie
- Chez Jacquet++++
- Christmas Swing
- Del Salle
- Diminushing Blackness
- Django Rag
- Django’s Blues
- Django’s Tiger+
- Double Whiskey
- Douce Ambiance
- Duke and Dukie
- Echoes of Spain
- En Verdine++++
- Fantaisie (from Danse Norvegienne)
- Festival 48
- Fiddle Blues
- Fleche d’Or
- Fleur d’Ennui
- Folie à Amphion
- Gypsy with a Song Pt1 & Pt2
- HCQ Strut+
- Improvisation #1-6
- Just For Fun
- Lentement Madamoiselle
- Manoir de mes rêves
- Django's Castle
- Castle of My Dreams
- Mélodie au crépuscule++
- Minor Blues
- Moppin' The Bride+
- Minor Swing+
- Montagne Saint Genevieve++++
- My Serenade
- Mystery Pacific
- Nuits de Saint-Germain-des-Prés
- Oiseaux des iles
- Oriental Shuffle+
- Paramount Stomp
- Pêche à la Mouche
- Place de Brouckère
- Porto Cabello
- Pour que Ma Vie Demeure
- Rhythme Futur
- Stéphane's Blues
- Stompin’ at Decca+
- Sweet Chorus*
- Swing 39+
- Swing 41
- Swing 42
- Swing 48
- Swing de Paris+
- Swing Guitars+
- Swinging With Django
- Swingtime in Springtime
- This Kind of Friend
- Troublant Boléro
- Twelfth Year
- Two Improvised Guitar Choruses
- Vendredi 13
+ By Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grapelli. ++ Always credited to DR but actually written by Joseph Reinhardt +++ The melody of this tune came from a pop song the name of which I can’t remember ++++ Tunes that Django may have authored
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