He inspired B.B. King and Carlos Santana; celebrate 100 years of Django Reinhardt

by Heather Newman on January 19, 2010

In this video, Reinhardt plays with Stéphane Grappelli:

The University of Michigan Press’ new book by Benjamin Givan, The Music of Django Reinhardt, explores the musician’s singular style and technique.

Givan January 23, 2010, marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Belgian-born Manouche gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.

‘Django was to the guitar what Louis Armstrong was to the trumpet or Art Tatum to the piano,’ recalled the American cornetist Rex Stewart, who recorded with Reinhardt in 1939 and 1947. ‘He inspired the playing and thinking of countless hundreds of guitar players all over the world.’

Among the American guitarists who sought out Reinhardt on visits to France after World War II were Charlie Byrd, Les Paul, and Barney Kessel. Others who subsequently cited him as an influence include the premiere hard bop guitarist Wes Montgomery, country musician Chet Atkins, bluesman B. B. King, fusion pioneer John McLaughlin, and even rock-oriented artists like Carlos Santana and Vernon Reid.

Reinhardt’s legacy encompasses a stylistic range that has few parallels among his swing-era contemporaries, encompassing banjo recordings from the late 1920s with accordion-led musette trios, his classic acoustic guitar improvisations alongside violinist Stéphane Grappelli in the famed all-string Quintet of the Hot Club of France, and his final years as a bebop-influenced electric guitarist.

Where his influence is today most apparent, however, is in the so-called ‘gypsy jazz’ genre. Gypsy jazz’s best-known exponents, like Biréli Lagrène, Boulou Ferré, and Stochelo Rosenberg, hail from western European gypsy communities, but it has today gained a widespread following of musicians and listeners who keep Reinhardt’s music throughout the globe.

{ 1 comment }

Janice May 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

Thanks for this memorial. Reinhardt was an outstanding musician.

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