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Gypsy Jazz Guitar

Updated on February 28, 2013

Django, actual live film.

Gypsy Jazz Guitar

There is a rare clip of the great Django Reinhardt playing before WW2 available on Youtube - there is almost no surviving footage of Django playing, but plenty of anecdotes passed down from Stephane Grappelli, his long-time violinist.

The DVD Life in the Jazz Century features many interviews and historical background provided by Stephane. The Amazon capsule lists this for a mere $56,000, which seems expensive. Fortunately, many recordings were made of Django over a long career, despite his conviction that recording would never catch on!

  • Jazz literally saved his life when captured by Nazis while trying to cross the border from France - the officer in charge was a jazz fan and recognised him. Django loved the music of Louis Armstrong, and elements of his style were incorporated into the Gypsy music that surrounded Django in Belgium and France.
  • Django was badly burned in a caravan fire, and was left with about 2 or 3 working fingers on his left hand - he then had to relearn how to play the guitar
  • Django could not read or write, and used to sign with a cross, although Stephane tried to teach him
  • Django missed a Carnegie hall concert and went fishing instead. He used to drive people nuts with his unreliable and capricious nature!
  • Guitar was only No.2 in his priorities - billiards was No.1
  • When travelling he insisted on first class, while his brothers went second class and had to carry his guitar...he could be a bit mean!
  • He missed his first recording session, saying that recording would never catch on!
  • His record Nuages, a great composition, became a big hit in Paris during the 1940s, despite the Nazi occupation.
  • Other great Django tunes include Manoir De Mes Reves and Tears - both great compositions and well worth learning.

The second video is of Bireli Lagrene, a contemporary player who may be one of Django's distant relatives, not sure about that 100% though. He is a great gypsy jazz style player, but also plays standard guitar jazz on electric guitar. An amazing musician, in a stunning band.


Grappelli A life in the jazz century


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    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 5 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Bireli video got blocked!

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 7 years ago from UK

      Fabulous - I love Gypsy Jazz Guitar.

      This guy is pretty cool as well:

      Here he is in performance....

    • Jon Green profile image

      Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      Yes - I saw him live and he was great, definitely a Benson and Wes Montgomery influence.

    • Lorenzo E profile image

      Lorenzo E 7 years ago

      Got to love that grove Bireli lays down. He reminds me of a young George Benson. That same natural sense of time, grove and melodic lines, combined with some serious chops.