Retrospective: Django Reinhardt

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By Alex Wood on 9.10.2023

Retrospective: Django Reinhardt

As the summer draws to a close and the festival season goes with it, it has become ever clearer that the mainstream music scene is being dominated by a wave of indie, folkie alternative bands, hard-hitting hip hop, rap and heart-racing electro. This is all well and good, it’s mainstream for a reason, but it sometimes seems all too easy for the consumers of all this current music to forget the immense wealth of talent that has washed over the sound waves in the last centuries. Of course, in the case of classical artists, composers and the like, their legend is timeless, and with good cause, but what about the multifarious performers and musicians who did great work in their time, but slipped through the cracks?

One such artist is Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist who came to prominence with his unique style of zippy picking and fast finger work. Despite being Belgian by birth, Django (real name Jean) came from a long line of roving Gypsies and spent most of his professional career roving around Europe, playing with his band, ‘La Quintette du Hot Club de France’. Reinhardt’s fast-paced virtuoso guitar solos, accompanied by weeping and whining violin work, was the sound of the dancehalls of mainland Europe during and after the War and still features in popular culture today. Notable references include the soundtrack to the 2000 film Chocolat as well as multiple adverts in the UK and the Godfather video game soundtrack.

So individual was Django’s style that he is attributed with founding the small but particular ‘Jazz Manouche’ or Gypsy Jazz genre. The popularity of his sound and his superb talent gained Reinhardt safe passage throughout WWII, supposedly living comfortably under the protection of an admiring officer in Paris, though the validity of the fact is debatable. After the War, Django played a host of concerts in Britain before being called up to go on tour with the legendary jazz musician, Duke Ellington. He returned to France where he played out the rest of his days, recording and performing live until his life was tragically cut short by a brain haemorrhage.

Though his discology is short and his works unbeknownst amongst today’s youth, Django Reinhardt’s music is perfect for dinner parties or soirées, or even as something to tap your toe to whilst working. His more accessible tracks, and perhaps the more recognisable ones, include ‘Django’s Tiger’ and ‘Minor Swing’ though if it’s a more soulful, pensive sound you want, ‘Nuages’ or ‘To Each His Own Symphony’ could be a better choice. Whatever your taste or inclination, what is undeniable is the expertise and excellence of a musician who loved to play, and did so with a dedication and skill that hasn’t been seen, and most likely won’t be again for some time.



Comments

  • I bet the writer of this article had pube-like hair.

    By P. Nishead on 9.10.2023

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