The 20th century produced a number of fine guitarists in the fields of classical and popular music. And then there was Django Reinhardt. He was a poor Belgian gypsy who by the age of twelve could earn his way playing the guitar in the streets and small clubs around Paris. At seventeen a trailer fire left him with a severely injured hand but he soon developed a new fingering style and with it a unique sound. By 1930 Reinhardt developed an appreciation of American jazz and began incorporating its elements in his playing. In a few years he would go on to meet the violinist, Stephane Grappelli, an equally free musical spirit and innovator. They soon formed a new group, the "Quintette du Hot Club de France", and a "hot swing" sound that would make music as well as music history for the next twenty years. At its core was the Reinhardt style that has influenced guitarists for more than eight decades.
And here is the Reinhardt sound as part of the group he co-founded with Grappelli [readers will here more about Grappelli in a few days]:
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. Here is an entertaining musical link to an NPR Jazz Live blog expanding on Reinhardt's legacy. We commemorate his birthday today (in 1910) with this documentary excerpt:
Photos and Illustrations:
William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress