Posts Tagged ‘paris’


Jean “Django” Reinhardt, the Story of the man Behind Gypsy Jazz

May 14, 2010

Django Reinhardt 23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953

Just over one hundred years ago, in Liberchies, Belgium, the legend Jean-Baptiste Reinhardt was born. More commonly known as “Django” Reinhardt, a nickname from his Romani roots meaning “I awake”.

Django was immersed in music from an early age, learning how to play violin, banjo, and guitar just Gypsy encampment just outside Paris where he lived. It was in these Gypsy encampments across France and Belgium that the word of Reinhardt’s musical gifts quickly began to spread, and where the young prodigies’ talents were nurtured.

At the age of only 12 Django was already playing professionally and rapidly growing both his audience and his talents as a musician. It seemed as if the future of the young virtuoso’s musical career was set to be one of great magnitude, until disaster struck the home of 18 year old Django. In 1928, after returning home late from a performance, Django knocked over a candle on his way to bed, setting his caravan on fire, quickly engulfing it in flames. Luckily, Django’s family and neighbors were quick to rescue him from the fire, but, unfortunately, he didn’t escape unscathed. Django suffered severe burns to over half of his body, leaving his right leg paralyzed and the third and fourth fingers on his left hand badly injured. Believing he would never be able to play guitar again Django fell into a deep depression.

“Django” never would regain the use of his paralyzed fingers but spurred on by the gift of a guitar from his brother he began to play again. Django, as his name suggests, had “awoke” from his depression. He had to relearn to play the instrument using only two fingers, developing an instrumental technique and sound entirely of his own.

With his new technique and second chance at pursuing his musical career, Django along with Parisian violinist Stéphane Grappelli formed the “Quintette du Hot Club de France,” one of the few well-known jazz ensembles composed only of string instruments. From then on “Django” enjoyed a full and wonderful musical career performing and touring with jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Rex Stewart.

Sadly on May 16th 1953, Jean-Baptiste Reinhardt passed away of a stroke at the young age of 43. Although his life was short, it was filled with great disappointments and monumental achievements, creating a legacy with his music and the Gypsy Jazz style he created. “Django” Reinhardt will be forever remembered as a pioneer of jazz.

See also our article on Gypsy Jazz

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Gypsy Jazz. A European Variation of an American Invention.

March 16, 2010

Jazz’s origins are distinctly American, but other forms of the genre have developed away from American soil.

Jean 'Django' Reinhardt Gypsy Jazz pioneer

Post World War One, jazz was beginning to gain popularity across Europe, with notable musicians from the USA touring and living on the continent. With jazz’s growing popularity as the fashionable music of the day, it began to infuse into all levels of society and develop its own European style. One of the most prominent of the European styles was Gypsy Jazz also known as ‘Manouche Jazz’ (Mustache Jazz).

Gypsy Jazz had many key differences to its American cousin, the most notable being the types of instruments used. The jazz played in the United states at the time had evolved using instruments used in marching bands such as trumpets and saxophones. Gypsy jazz was wholly different using mainly string instruments with the leads taken by guitar and violin. In most groups there was also no rhythm section with beats being added from the tapping on the body of a guitar, much like in many traditional Latin folk music. Gypsy jazz has traditionally been a free form of music with the practice of passing down music through demonstrations and jamming rather than writing score. This is common with aural tradition where stories are passed from generation to generation and the one of the main sources of historical record in the Gypsy and Romany communities in Europe.

The key protagonist in the beginnings and formations of Gypsy Jazz was a Belgian by the name of Jean ‘Django’ Reinhardt. Reinhardt was a Romany gypsy who with his band were one of the major players on the Paris music and jazz scene. His influence on the style was immense from the use of instruments to the way chords were played (Reinhardt was paralyzed in two fingers limiting the number of chords he could play). Django caught the attention of many American artists playing with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. His legacy continues to this day with many festivals and bands bearing his name.

Read our article on the life of Jean “Django” Reinhardt.

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JUNO Category of Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year, 2010.

March 5, 2010

The five nominees for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year are Charles Spearin for ‘The Happiness Project‘, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society for ‘Infernal Machines’, Hilario Duran for ‘Motion’, John Roney for ‘Silverbirch’ and Kirk MacDonald for ‘Songbook Vol. 1’  . Below is a brief bio of each artist and an example of their nominated album.

Charles Spearin – The Happiness Project

A member of the band Broken Social Scene, Spearin is no stranger to the JUNO Awards, previously winning two awards. This album, which is based around the spoken word recordings of his neighbors in Toronto talking about happiness. ‘The Happiness Project’s” success has come as a refreshing surprise

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines

‘Infernal Machines’ is the debut album by Darcy James Argue.  The album utilizes Argue’s 18 piece big band using traditional styles in new and innovative ways. A native of Vancouver, Argue earned his masters degree in Boston and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Hilario Duran – Motion

A performer at last years Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival with Luis Mario Ochoa, Hilario Duran has produced another JUNO nominated album in ‘Motion’. Cuban born Duran, now based in Toronto is a two time JUNO winner (2002 and 2006) for his albums ‘Havana Remembered’ and ‘Perspectiva Encuentro en la Habana’. He has also received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

John Roney – Silverbirch

A Grand Prix du Jazz nominee at the 2003 Montreal Jazz Festival and has become an integral part of the Montreal jazz scene. John has built a reputation as a talented pianist, representing Canada at the Martial Solal International Piano Competition in Paris, France. A native of Toronto, Roney has toured the world showcasing his considerable talent.

Kirk MacDonald Quartet – Songbook Vol. 1

Kirk MacDonald has numerous JUNO nominations and a JUNO award (Best Mainstream Album in 1999) as a solo artist plus several other nominations as part of other groups. The Nova Scotia native is one of Canada’s leading saxophonists and has worked with some of the finest jazz musicians around today.


December 15th is Notable as it is the Date When Two of the Greats of Jazz Died.

December 15, 2009

On December 15th 1943 Jazz Pianist Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller was on a cross country train journey across America when he contracted pneumonia. Just before arriving in Kansas, Missouri Fats passed away. News of his death spread quickly to the station where by chance Louis Armstrong was waiting in another train. T is reported that Armstrong was distraught after hearing the news and wept for several hours.

One year later, Glenn Miller boarded a flight at an RAF base in Clapham, England bound for Paris. He was on his way to entertain the troops who had just liberated Paris from occupation. It is believed that the plane went down somewhere over the English channel although no wreckage or bodies were ever found. This has led numerous conspiracy theories to surface about his death and its causes.

To find out more about these legends of jazz you can visit the following sites,

Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller

Glenn Miller

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