|The Quintette du Hot Club de France Paris, 1937|
We're splitting the difference this year celebrating the birthdays of two of the most significant jazz musicians of the 20th century, the guitarist, Jhango Reinhardt and violinist, Stephane Grappelli, and their Quintette du Hot Club de France. Reinhardt was born on January 23, 1910, Grappelli on January 26, 1908. Together they entertained the world with the Quintette for about fifteen years beginning in the late '30's. Reinhardt continued performing until his death in 1953. Grappelli played on for another forty-four years until his passing in 1997. Alone or together, they were magnificent:
Rheinhardt brought a guitar sound like no other, and with good reason. He was a poor Belgian gypsy who as a young man played the guitar. When a trailer fire left him with a severely injured hand, he developed a new fingering style to compensate. It was a unique sound. In the early '30s he met the violinist, Stephane Grappelli, an equally free spirit in the early days of jazz. They would go on to form the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" and make music - and music history for the next twenty years.
Reinhardt died in 1953 at the age of 43, but his impact has lived on for decades. Even today, almost every celebrity guitarist in the world of popular music, jazz, blues and rock and roll would acknowledge Reinhardt as an influence in their music.
Like his friend, Jdango, Grappelli was a self taught musician who developed a unique playing style, and made a big influence in the world of music. Fortunately, much of that influence was direct as he outlived Reinhardt by nearly fifty years and performed with perfection almost to the end of his life on December 1, 1997. He loved people almost as much as he loved music and brought his jovial, upbeat personality and style to audiences young and old, large and small.
It's interesting to note that Grappelli was almost forgotten in the U.S. until he began touring in the 1970s when he was well into his 60s. One would think that a jazz virtuoso would be well known in the country that birthed the genre. How thankful we should be that he was "rediscovered" here and lived to entertain us for another twenty years.