The Life and Music of A Gypsy Legend

Book - 2004
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Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Yet there is no major biography of Reinhardt.
Now, in Django, Michael Dregni offers a definitive portrait of this great guitarist. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt was a character out of a picaresque novel. Born in a gypsy caravan at a crossroads in Belgium, he was almost killed in a freak fire that burned half of his body and left his left hand twisted into a claw. But with this maimed left hand flying over the frets and his right hand plucking at dizzying speed, Django became Europe's most famous jazz musician, commanding exorbitant fees--and spending the money as fast as he made it. Dregni not only chronicles this remarkably colorful life--including a fascinating account of gypsy culture--but he also sheds much light on Django's musicianship. He examines his long musical partnership with violinist Stéphane Grappelli--the one suave and smooth, the other sharper and more dissonant--and he traces the evolution of their novel string jazz ensemble, Quintette du Hot Club de France. Indeed, the author spotlights Django's amazing musical diversity, describing his swing-styled Nouveau Quintette, his big band Django's Music, and his later bebop ensemble, as well as his many compositions, including symphonic pieces influenced by Ravel and Debussy and his unfinished organ mass inspired by Bach. And along the way, the author offers vivid snapshots of the jazz scene in Paris--colorful portraits of Josephine Baker, Bricktop, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and countless others--and of Django's vagabond wanderings around France, Europe, and the United States, where he toured with Duke Ellington.
Capturing the extraordinary life and times of one of the great musicians of the twentieth century, Django is a must-read portrait of a true original.
Published: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2004.
ISBN: 9780195167528
Branch Call Number: B REI
Characteristics: 326 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill. ;,25 cm.


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Nov 29, 2017

I never heard of Django Reinhardt until, on a whim, I purchased a cd of his work. I Know Him Now! And now, having discovered him, suddenly I`ve become aware of how many references there are to him (he cited as the idol of one of the swing kids in the movie of the same name.) This biography is loooong overdue to an original without which....there wouldn`t have been Les Paul and his electric guitar and eight-track recording, there wouldn`t have been Elvis, or Rock`N`Roll, the Rock Revolution, or the other countless artists who unknowingly tread in Django`s enormous footsteps.

umschneider Feb 20, 2013

Great picaresque bio, written by a musician. The anecdotes have a Woody Allen/Wes Anderson kind of flair. Django liked cars, and he wrecked a lot of them. The writer is a musician himself, so his descriptions of the music of the times and Django's evolving style are incredibly deft. The last quarter drags a little, as it seems to force the rest of the discography in there, but Dregni's affectionate account of Django's last days is touching. There's a message here.


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