Reinhardt, Django [Jean Baptiste]
- Michael James
(b Liberchies, nr Luttre, Belgium, Jan 23, 1910; d Fontainebleau, May 16, 1953). French jazz guitarist. The son of a travelling entertainer, he grew up in a Gypsy settlement outside Paris. He first played the violin and later took up the guitar, and began working professionally in 1922 with the accordionist Guérino. In 1928 he was badly burnt in a caravan fire; the resulting mutilation of his left hand, which deprived him of the use of two fingers, led him to devise a unique fingering method to overcome his handicap. After a period of convalescence he worked in cafés in Paris and in a duo with the singer Jean Sablon. In 1934 he was a founding member, with Stephane Grappelli, of the ensemble that became known as the Quintette du Hot Club de France; in the years before World War II the group gained considerable renown through its numerous recordings, and Reinhardt became an international celebrity. He appeared throughout Europe and recorded with many important American musicians who visited the Continent. During the war, while Grappelli lived in Britain, Reinhardt remained in France. He led a big band, then achieved considerable success as the leader of a new quintet in which the clarinettist Hubert Rostaing took Grappelli’s place; he also became interested in composition and, with André Hodeir, arranged the music for the film ...