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Today is the 1st of November, 1928, All Saint’s Day, late in the evening. The Reinhardt family shares this holiday with the souls of the deceased, particularly with a young one, only lately deceased, for whom the caravan has been decorated with artificial flowers. Young Django Reinhardt is returning from a concert, most probably preoccupied by an offer by Jack Holton, the English master of symphonic jazz, to move to him to England and play in his orchestra. Fate, however, had decreed otherwise. He lights the candles, and with them the flowers, and immediately the whole caravan catches fire; the family is glad to escape with their lives. For the young, promising musician, this incident is a catastrophe. His left leg is badly burnt, it will later have to be operated on, but what is worse, two fingers of his left hand remain unable to function, which is to lose the basis of existence for a goldsmith or a musician. But not Django Reinhardt. A fanatic love of music had already rooted in him, and a present – a guitar which should support his therapy – makes it break out. Notwithstanding his handicap, an inner need to express himself via music makes him return in all his virtuosity within one and a half years, equipped with additional, original means of expression. His new technique arouses amazement and curiosity with a whole generation of guitarists and musical researchers. It is difficult to judge the role of his handicap in this still significant– mainly among the Roma – school. Evidence of his pronounced solo character can be found also in the time before his accident; it can be heard in every single recording. He never subordinates himself to fashionable styles, resounding from juke boxes and bars at a particular time, but still does not lose the ability to play consonantly in a team. The famous American jazz saxophonist Benny Carter once said that Django Reinhardt simply was not able to play off key. Also on a general level, America is in ecstasies about him; his jazz quintet is the only European one to be featured in CBS’ documentary series on jazz. Some even consider him as the first European jazz musician with supra-regional influence. The instrumentalization of Django’s proper ensemble, the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" is also extraordinary. The violin is at that time a very unusual jazz instrument, and the combination with the guitar is practically unique, as is the lack of any kind of percussion, rejected as being too monotonous. It also disturbs because it is usually played the whole time through. Even the best drummers of that time were not able to dispel these conceptual reservations. The melodic emphasis, in most ensembles constituted by trumpet or saxophone, has to be replaces by the imaginativeness of the brilliant soloist Django Reinhardt playing the guitar and Stéphane Grappelli playing the violin. After the war, he is not fascinated by the new jazz styles which had developed outside of occupied France, but this is by no means a sign of exhausted creativity. That can be seen by the enthusiasm and virtuosity with which he takes up the electric guitar. His musical genius is finally revealed when he, in the 1950ies, effortlessly gains the upper hand over younger musicians after a long absence from the musical scene by quick passages or by casually played complex harmonies which are too difficult for the other musicians. The common denominator of his eccentric demeanor in everyday life and his musical creativity may be his inability to see what is common, what is right and proper, how to play, in short, what is "normal". Obviously, he has never gone beyond the limits on purpose, he just did not perceive them at all. This was his way to play the "unplayable".
on the outskirts of Paris. and very soon by standing in for relatives at performances. There. wooden huts. his cousins' Eugene Vées und Joseph "Piton" Reinhardt. Django Reinhardt’s capacity for understanding is praised by everybody. Thus. but he grasped music from an early age on. like at Porte d’Italie. At first. As a diversion. he imposes hard work upon himself. they quickly learn that it is not -2- . Also. and later the banjo. As an adult. and later also for evening shows. at the so-called "Musette balls". or Porte de Clichy. incidentally. his virtuosity was not handed to him on a plate. Charles Delauney. and the cravans of the Manouche. but for many members of the Roma minority it is almost inevitable. and he is a source of inspiration for his brother Joseph. Thanks to the painter Émile Savitry’s connections. based on a repertoire of musical themes. He becomes particularly involved in the valse manouche. for a basket full of food. The club’s manager. During their visit in Paris. A jazz session is. he makes miniature models of caravans. it is enough to refer to several competitions where he won first prize. The young Django threads his way into the dance scene of Paris in the 1920ies. Reinhardt and Grappelli. Playing together with the academically trained talent is a challenge for him. the methods of learning were very different. whether French. the "Hot Club de France".Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani. who then replaces him quite often – without loss for the audience. whose influence on Django Reinhardt can not be overestimated. Django’s way to music may seem unusual. Django has never stood in front of a music stand. thanks to his origin. and he buys himself a gramophone and learns to play the piano. things change. Musician and Artist For a member of a European majority population. for money. Belgians or Germans. they performed together with bass guitarist Louis Vola. Additionally. which for him easily ties on to the banjo. and the guitarists Roger Chaput and Joseph Reinhardt. for alcohol or tobacco is a tradition. never to humiliate himself. apparently together with other families. always wanting to keep pace. they play incidental music for silent films together. thanks to his ethnic origin. they can perfectly well play improvisations on the basic themes for forty minutes. like normal concerts. that is the Non-Roma. At the same time. [→ Roma Groups] In the time after the accident. always wanting to prove himself. On such a basis. to a large extent. flashy and courtly. and additionally the inner tension between these two full-blooded jazz musicians are at the center of the famous "Quintette du Hot Club de France". but arises form a strong will. the Reinhardt family. oral tradition and conservatory education. by listening and repeating. the guitar appears on the scene.uni-graz. unless one of them was replaced by a high-ranking guitarist like Baro Ferret. For them. But he does not get his education just like that. stopped off in certain quarters. Most of the time. offers him an engagement for recordings with the company Ultraphone. but these are only the common elements that help the musicians to communicate. This arrangement works beyond linguistic boundaries. hard work with the instrument. in Paris. jazz appears on the musical scene. but then jazz won’t go out of Grappelli’s mind. he intensifies his musical relationship to violinist and autodidact Stéphane Grappelli. both uneconomic no man’s land with coal deposits. for a dinner. playing together with an American jazz musician poses no problems. Django’s brother. puts together the first version of the Quintette in 1934. playing one étude after the other. "zones". originally an accordion player. so to speak the "gypsy waltz". and untiring. He does not have to prove his skill in playing the violin. later in the one-step and foxtrot. playing for the Gadže.at/rombase Django.
traditions. but the Roma are one whole as far as common culture. or Duke Ellington. the new jazz which had developed outside of the area occupied by the Germans is not quite to his liking – it is as if an insurmountable wall had been erected between the two sides of the front.-Maries-de-la-mer. To a limited degree. On a certain level. fellow musician Roger Chaput. – "Django’s Music" – comes true. who differs only in so far as the latter set down his ideas on paper. Louis Armstrong. and the Netherlands. "La Roulette". Thanks to his reputation. During the war. Coleman Hawkins. as he was painting. and his friend Amédée Pianfetti: painting. Django lets himself be influenced by bebop. no matter how expensive his hotel rooms – sometimes he even stayed right at the Champs Elysées -. Benny Carter. he would like to revive the famous Quintette. His wish – an own jazz orchestra.g. Django Reinhardt and the leading lights of the American jazz scene. But he always continued to play. and particularly landscapes and – very uncommon for a Rom – nudes. Contrary to other groups of Roma they are still to a large extent -3- . his artistic creations are prolific. sought each other during their concert tours in Europe and America. unique works of art came into being. and Algeria. the talented clarinetist Hubert Rostaing. St. values and professions are concerned.uni-graz. Django. he always was a member of the Roma. During their joint sessions in studios and concert halls. He rarely records in the studio.at/rombase necessary to be afraid of a public concert without previous rehearsal. He does. but it is an electric one. Also. but it is never performed. the souls of the musicians are in accord with each other. Django feels to be in accord with Johann Sebastian Bach. On the basis of texts by the French poet Jean Cocteau he composes the opera "Le manoir de mes reves". Right from the start. language (→ Romanes). which is not occupied. His interest is aroused to such an extent that some visitors find his guitar covered with a thick layer of dust. that is France. He also impresses the experts with an organ mass which he had composed in 1944 in honor of the French Roma’s – Manouche – holy place of pilgrimage. The painting of landscapes arises from his love of nature. which opens up new space for experiments. He founds his own club. or – how the group calls itself – the Manouche. he discovers a new passion which brings him into contact with his brother Joseph. and journalist are laconically told not to talk about music.Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani. the Rom No matter how much Django frequented Non-Roma. The times. and go their own way after the war. but in the evening he has more than enough gigs – jazz being considered a form of protest against the occupying forces’ regime. also. At the same time. and not even the famous jazz ensembles of the pre-war period can easily get engagements. e. In many Romani dialects this term signifies "human" and its members are close relatives of the → Sinti. do not favor jazz anymore. the piano for a change. the Provence. both with the original violin player Grappelli and with his new friend. Its members unfortunately do not have a permanent position. but he gets his inspiration mainly from the electric guitar. Eddie Smith. Both groups have considerable differences to other Roma groups in common. He tours Belgium. a whole that has been native to the European continent for centuries. but he fails to do so. later called "Chez Django Reinhardt". in short. Belium. they cannot even be disturbed by the fact that the Bohemian Django leaves his guitar at home. believing that he will find one there. After the war. he always returned to his caravan. The Manouche mainly settle in the French-speaking and the adjacent Flemish-Dutch area. on the Riviera.
improvisation is difficult for those who are accustomed to certain rules. For the audience.uni-graz. Gusti Malha and Mattéo Garcia. and the plectrum in the right hand? Django’s Personality Those character traits that were praised in public life. Or instead of him. and as traveling about was prevented in the communist countries of Central and Easter Europe by brutal reprisals. for that it was not necessary to be a Rom. On tour. during breaks. We do not know how Django’s wife dealt with this later on. Roma musicians from Romania and Hungary influenced composers from the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy in the 19th century. Still.Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani. the Vées family. It is quite paradoxical to talk about Django as one of the first really successful white jazz musicians. When talking at home to his parents. But not only the new immigrants. then he would defend his bright red shoes by declaring that red and black went together well. quite a few "typical" museum exhibits come. Also his family had reason to complain. to friends. Also later. remote club or in New York’s famous Carnegie Hall – who expected him at eight. artistic events played an important role for him. To a game of cards. in truth. which is even more notable as their equally itinerant Sinti "brothers" have been murdered almost completely. Already at an early age. his fellow musicians. but again not in the way that was expected. that are the "Spanish Roma". also the Manouche – this music in their way. But not only the new immigrants. As examples of Manouche families of musicians in whose repertoire the valse manoushe can be found. were cursed by many in private life. Baro Ferret. Django Reinhardt’s family. to making music. his mother had to wait for him at the concert’s exit. were pioneers of this music. According to Hubert Rostaing. liked this musical genre. Living the life of a Bohemian was part of being an artist. he would appear dressed like a dandy. The direction of influence between the Roma’s interpretation of "white" music on the one hand. and the Ferret family can be cited – Django owing the latter family a loyal member of the "Quintette du Hot Club de France". He himself did not attach great value to his origin. relatives of the Reinhardts. Clothes were also very important to him. he suddenly demanded to play together with Dizzy Gillespie. and he arrived at nine. One time. or when he had difficulties in expressing himself in French when talking to intellectuals. only to disappear again from the stage shortly after. he might have felt a Rom. both members of the Calé (Kalé). in order to secure the family’s fee. and then to be made aware of his origin. -4- . the best way to hear Django Reinhardt was to wait after the concert on the other side of the street – there you could probably hear him.at/rombase itinerant. for instance. while playing billiards. from the Roma. Liszt and Haydn. [→ The music of the Roma in Hungary] Roma from these areas who were living in Paris during the 1920ies performed – completely different from the Manouche – this music in their way. such as. also the Manouche which had been living in France for a long time. And how did he feel when he held his guitar in the left. he probably was French. During a tour of the United Stated. a so-called cousin. the organizers – in a small. not wanting to hear that the latter was living at quite a distance. Or he arrives. similarly. and the influence of the Roma’s way to play on Non-Roma composers on the other cannot be determined.
jazz in general lost some of its importance. Jazz has the taste of freedom. contrary to Grappelli who decides to stay. First. and soon rumors of Gestapo members sitting next to British -5- . not occupied. In the time after his accident and the one and a half year break. and also the Manouche’s Romanes was strange to them. and thus offered him space for improvisation and. It was always he who told them what to play. The Swiss border guards. Many events have a touch of prohibition about them. The music styles of the 20ies. were beginning to fade. Immediately. of memories of the time before the occupation. At first. a vast number of groups of immigrants to America. and Russian folklore. Django flees from the occupants to the South of France. Today. He got his first insight into the world of the Gadže through the teenagers who danced on the occasion of the Musette – balls in the 1920ies. Paris was a fertile ground. not only blacks. the musette. because he had gambled away his fee. not only music. The guitar had replaced the banjo. The nature of these changes are reflected in the wishes of the club audience: suddenly they wanted to listen. this time to neutral Switzerland. and did not want to dance anymore. without the slightest hesitation. Hungarians. it was more or less completely in the hands of a few very dominant musicians who are in a class of their own. Later. Paris. the Quintette immediately had to obey. and that he did not even greet them on the train. but also emigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. that city held the World’s Fair in 1937. in order to avoid an impending tour in Germany. Romanians or Manouche. the jazz industry’s structure changed drastically in the United States. Django’s colleagues also had to accept that he would travel first class and they third on returning from a trip to Italy.at/rombase His immediate surrounding had to get accustomed to his pride. the land of promises. expel him because his application for political asylum was denied.Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani. Moreover. it is not clear which language they used to communicate. space for his virtuosity. at that time stronghold of all artistic activity. and secondly. This style also attracts some members of the occupying forces. and as soon as he started tapping his foot. the occupation can be seen as fertile ground. consequently. The immigrants probably spoke little French. among them certainly Roma. and jazz had matured. he was yet more dominant. he tries again to flee. definitely also played an important role in Django’s international success. but luckily nothing bad happens to him. that did not make a difference. For the birth of jazz. we remember the chansons from the heydays. everybody ready to break up the session and restore the atmosphere of an “innocent” concert. Django and His Time & Sphere Django’s youth takes place in the Manouche's holy sphere.uni-graz. When performing with the "Ersatz"-Quintette which he had put together during the war. the family circle. They had had to lend him the money for the fare beforehand. and it took quite an effort to make good the "insult" when the Quintette was announced in the United States as "Stéphane Grappelli and the Hot Four". This époque of Django’s Quintette ended with a clear cut by the outbreak of World War II. Django returns home from his England tour. allegedly also because he appeased the guards with his play. Even if he had contact with immigrated Roma. he beat time. where gypsies were in demand. however. For jazz. but soon returns to Paris. At that time. like "gypsy music". but also Jews from this region. like Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong. but jazz was second to none. had been godfathers.
and he does not learn to read and write. went fishing and made music. in order to be able to write autographs and read contracts. Manouche. on the 1st of November. his brother Joseph "Nin-Nin" plays the guitar. and he performs in various hotels in Paris. he unexpectedly dies in Fontainebleu because of an heart attack. Philippe / Odi. His musical isolation during the war is felt most strongly by visitors immediately after the war. Later. Is it possible that music and games of chance have some fundamental feature in common? He is described as an untamed. later also the banjo and the guitar. Django’s continuing success earns him a high standing with Paris’ Haute Volée. Mythos und Realität. slowly starts. already at that time including guitars. His success at games of chance was similar to his success in music. Joelle (1997) Django Reinhardt. Their traveling life makes it impossible for him to go to school. he’ s in it.at/rombase Secret Service men can be heard. Jean Baptiste Reinhardt – the Man On the 23rd of January. traveling in Liberchies (Belgium).uni-graz. together. he played cards and games of chance. In 1952 he withdraws from the music business. known particularly for his own technique of playing the guitar. give birth to their son Jean-Baptiste Reinhardt. Williams. He is mainly famous for his ensemble "Quintette du Hot Club de France". Paris. and Jean-Baptiste "Django" plays the violin. This passion for gambling and his zest did not leave time for sleep. 1953. and on May 16th. In 1928. and guitarist in general. Grappelli). At first. he watches awhile. Patrick (1991) Django Reinhardt. the French National Anthem. and in no time. Even if they managed to ask their way to him. Jean-Baptiste’s sister Sarah Tsango plays the piano. -6- . "But we had put our hearts into it!" (St. without taking fashion very much in account. the communication failed both linguistically and musically. he is injured on his leg and hand. Subsequent generations of jazz guitarists. will have problems to avoid his technical and artistic heritage. He developed his own style from various contemporary music trends. he is always received warmly. in 1943 he marries his partner of many years. In his free time. born one year after the marriage. Any game. and he has to be very late to get a negative press at all. is the band leader of a "gypsy band". he teaches himself. The father. By the Americans. he lives on his family’s campsite with his wife Bella and their son. A joint venture with Stéphane Grappelli shortly after the war is not allowed publication: the newly recorded Marseillaise. with a penchant for billiards and games of chance. impulsive and generous person. a violinist. Paris. in French Vées." Together with his brother Joseph they are an invincible team.Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani. Spautz. Sophie "Naguine" Ziegler and they raise their son. Roger (1983) Django Reinhardt. but nevertheless becomes one of the most important jazz musicians of his time. however. 1910. Singer and guitarist Georges Ulmer remembers: "Django is the greatest gambler. Luxemburg. the mother Laurence "Négro" Reinhardt. For more information on Django Reinhardt Du Peuty. and the father Jean-Baptiste Eugene Weiss.
uni-graz. Czech Republic -7- .at/rombase Peter Wagner July 2003 / Prague.Data » Personalities » Django Reinhardt http://romani.
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