Django ReinhardtIn the World of Jazz Guitar one name towers above all others, Django Rheinhardt. Born Jean Rheinhardt in Belgium, in 1910, he spent most of his youth in gypsy encampments near Paris. His nickname “Django” is a Romani word meaning “I awake”. Early on he learnt the violin and then moved to banjo and lastly, the guitar. Despite being badly burned in a house fire at the age of eighteen, which included damage to his third and forth fingers on his left hand, he managed to become one of the first true greats of jazz guitar. He played all his solos with only two fingers and only used his damaged fingers for chord work. At 24 he met violinist Stephanie Grapelli and formed the group “Quintette du Hot Club de France” which featured three guitars, a violin and bass. The rest, as they say, is history.

Many of Django’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards including Minor Swing, Djangology and Nuages. During his career Django performed with other greats including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong. Tragically, in 1953 at the age of only 43 he collapsed and died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. Despite this, his legacy lives on and his influence can be heard in many contemporary artists work.

What I love most about Django’s music is its overwhelming optimism and playfulness. Whenever I am feeling down I just put some Django on the stereo and it’s sure to make me smile. Just listen to the song below and you’ll know what I mean…

Quintette du Hot Club de France – When Day Is Done