Thursday, January 28, 2010

Django Reinhardt: The postwar years

Django Reinhardt 100: The prewar period ( English) Django Reinhardt 100: De vooroorlogse jaren ( Nederlands) Django Reinhardt 100: The postwar years (English) Django Reinhardt 100: De naoorloogse jaren (Nederlands)

Djangology - Django Reinhardt Centennial (1910-2010)
DJANGO REINHARDT 100: The postwar years
Jørgen Larsen

Django Reinhardt is unique, a Gypsy guitar genius, who became an icon of the swing jazz period in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Django is world famous for his command of the guitar, although he had to overcome the handicap of missing full use of all fingers at his fretting hand. Further, he is also famed for his compositions, some of which have become part of the jazz standard repertoire, like Minor Swing, Nuages and Djangology. Django was a personality larger than life according to the many anecdotes and stories told about him, his biography has always been surrounded by the myth of a legend. Here we will keep to facts about his career. Today the postwar years.

Django Reinhardt (photo courtesy: Herman Leonard )

1939 found the Quintet touring in England when the war broke out. Django returned to Paris while Stephane Grappelli remained in England and continued performing with English musicians. Django played and recorded throughout the war years in a new formation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France ( = QHCF) substituting Hubert Rostaing's clarinet for Grappelli's violin. In 1940 Django composed his best known composition, Nuages, to be heard in a later recording here:

Django avoided the fate of many of his fellow Gypsies who went to their deaths during the German occupation in the Nazi concentration camps. After the war he was rejoined by Grappelli and they again played and recorded together occasionally.
In 1946 Django toured briefly with Duke Ellington in the US, the tour, however, was not the success as expected, but Django's appearance with Ellington helped him establishing a name and contact with an American audience that confirmed his reputation as an extraordinary musician. There exist some recordings from sessions in the states, where Django was forced to play an electric amplified guitar. He returned homesick and disillusioned to Paris where he continued his career in various settings until 1951.
Django retired partly from the music scene for longer periods in 1951 devoting much of his time to art painting and fishing, now living in a small village outside Paris, Samois sur Seine. However, he continued playing gigs occasionally and was now featured with musicians attracted by the new be bop jazz. His last recordings from 1951 to 1953 clearly show the inspiration from incorporating a be bop approach, but also a more economical use of his still splendid technique now worked out on an electric guitar. His last recordings were made a few months before he passed away on the 16th of May, 1953. Django suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Fontainebleau.
The music world suddenly had lost a unique guitar genius, but his legend and legacy has affectionately been taken care of by numerous jazz fans and other musicians till this day. Django's music will remain an important contribution to jazz.
Jørgen Larsen

The above is based on the next sources:
Joseph Dinkins' profile of Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) at

The History of Django by unknown at the Django Swingpage,

Django by Michael Dregni, see articles at

Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) - gypsy guitarist of world reputation by Georg Lankester, unpublished article (2009)

If you enjoy reading articles like this about Django Reinhardt, you should inform yourself about the blogs to come. This year we remember the fact that Django Reinhardt was born 100 years ago in Liberchies (Belgium) on the 23rd of January, 1910. If you don't want to miss any further contribution about these celebrations, please register.

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