Django Reinhardt

Regarded by some as the greatest guitarist of all time, Django Reinhardt (Django is the Romany word for "I awake") overcame all manner of social and physical problems to invent a whole new style of playing that became known as "hot jazz" after his trailblazing group Quintette du Hot Club de France. Born into a family of Manouche gypsies who made cane furniture for a living, Reinhardt spent most of his early life in encampments around Paris and, from an early age, displayed an instinctive musical talent on violin, guitar and banjo, learning from other gypsy musicians. His first known recordings, in fact, feature him playing banjo and, without a formal education, he was earning his living as a musician by the time he was 13. Reinhardt was living in near-poverty when he was badly burned when the caravan in which he was living caught fire and, suffering first and second degree burns and partial paralysis, was told he'd never play guitar again. One of the most extraordinary things about his subsequent success was that two of his fingers were useless for the rest of his life and he played his solos with only two fingers. Discovering the American jazz of Louis Armstrong and others inspired him in a new direction, further triggered by his friendship with the brilliant Parisian violinist Stephane Grappelli. They initially formed a loose musical partnership jamming with other musicians which ultimately evolved into the Quintette du Hot Club de Paris; with Reinhardt's brother Joseph and Roger Chaput on guitar, Louis Vola on bass and Freddy Taylor as occasional vocalist. The string-driven swing and improvisational style found favour with the jazz world and Reinhardt worked with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Adelaide Hall and Benny Carter. Many gypsies were killed by Nazis during the war, but Reinhardt survived to renew his partnership with Grappelli and the two toured extensively to huge acclaim across America and Europe, although Django found the disciplines of formal concert appearances difficult, preparing to play in Paris jazz clubs, where he occasionally turned to electric guitar. Walking home from a club session one night in 1953 he collapsed and died from a brain haemorrhage, aged 43.

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Stations Featuring Django Reinhardt

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