Django Reinhardt

Biography

A violinist first and a guitarist later, Jean Baptiste "Django" Reinhardt grew up in a gypsy camp near Paris where he absorbed the gypsy strain into his music. He was known as the first hugely influential jazz figure to emerge from Europe because of his unique way of propelling his acoustic guitar into the front line of a jazz combo.

In 1934, he formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with Stephane Grappelli. The Quintet quickly became an international draw thanks to a long, splendid series of Ultraphone, Decca and HMV recordings. The outbreak of war in 1939 broke up the band.

In 1946, Reinhardt took up the electric guitar and toured America as a soloist with the Duke Ellington band. His bop escapades were poorly received. However, he held several sporadic reunions with Grappelli where the bop influences were more subtly integrated into the old, still-fizzing swing format. By 1950s, Reinhardt became more reclusive, remaining in Europe, playing and recording now and then until his death from a stroke in 1953