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Django Reinhardt

Jean-Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt (1910 - 1953), who was born the town of Liberchies near Charleroi in Belgium on January 23,1910, was truly a 'self-taught' musician. He started out on the violin and guitar playing gypsy music and at an early age performed in dance halls as part of the gypsy troupe. On November 2,1928, Reinhardt was severely burned when his trailer was consumed by fire. He lost the use of his left hand, especially the fourth and fifth fingers. Unable to finger the violin he turned all his attention to the guitar and worked out a system for reaching the frets with the remaining fingers on his left hand. When he heard a Louis Armstrong recording of Dallas Blues he took up jazz and was soon playing with local jazz groups.

Django Reinhardt continued to improve his technique on the guitar and was soon picked up for recording sessions with French singers and jazz groups. In 1934 he formed a string quintet with violinist Stephane Grappelly, two other guitars, and a string bass. The quintet appeared at the famous Hot Club of France in 1934 and was an immediate hit. As their fame spread they became known as The Quintet of the Hot Club of France.

Between 1934 and 1939 the group toured Europe and England and made a large number of recordings. When the war broke out they returned to France until the war's end. After the war Django Reinhardt toured the US with Duke Ellington. When he returned to France he continued to record and play and had just completed a recording date in Paris, (Artistry of Django Reinhardt) when he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Like Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt had an enormous influence on the guitarists who followed him. Almost all the great guitarists of the second half of the 20th century have acknowledged this debt. Some, like Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, have even recorded tributes to this great musician. And, of course, they all play Nuages.

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