Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pete's Pantheon: Jazz Phoenix Django Reinhardt

Django, his name is a verb, the Romany word for "I awake" He and his foil, the violinist Stephane Grappelli were the first European Swing musicians to be taken seriously by the American Jazz aristocracy. Their band, The Quintette of the Hot Club of France, swung with a jaunty sparkle and phenomenal virtuosity between WWI and WWII. Django spilled melody out in ferocious runs in spite of the fact that he had maimed his hand in a fire which left him with essentially two fingers to fret with. He retaught himself to play and reached a level of mastery that enabled him to survive in occupied Paris despite his Romany heritage and his stardom in a field of music condemned by the Nazis. If you want a parable for the redemptive power of art, look no further. If you want to hear music that is passionate, melodic and elegant they still play Jazz Manouche in Paris, where it has outlasted the Nazis by half a century and counting.

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