Al Young title

DJANGO 100 ~ Celebrating Django Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953)



Button-Play-32x32 Django Reinhardt “et son orchestra” at Bal Tabarin, 1944 ~ A dance sequence inter-cut with shots of Marlene Dietrich (and off-camera laughter possibly from French jazz pundit Charles Delaunay), this is footage so rare that you’ll even spot a colored GI in uniform with a colored partner out there on the dance floor, jitterbugging like everybody else. Through all of it, the nimble two-fingered Django tears up Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”

  • A Django Reinhardt Filmography
  • djangocloseup Courtesy photo

    Django Reinhardt

    spkr-icon Djangology

    spkr-icon Minor Swing

    spkr-icon Nuages (Clouds)

    spkr-icon Body and Soul

    spkr-icon Blues for Ike

    spkr-icon Honeysuckle Rose
    With Duke Ellington, Django goes electric)

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    Button-Play-32x32 DJANGO mjq ~ The Modern Jazz Quartet in live performance at the Zelt Muzik Festival; Freiburg, Germany, 1987 ~ John Lewis, composer and pianist; Milt Jackson, vibes; Percy Heath, drums; Connie Kay, drums. A classic musical tribute to the brilliant Gypsy jazz guitarist



    django bio dregni michael dregni
    Django biographer Michael Dregni’s affectionate interview at Jerry Jazz Musician

    Django Reinhardt: The Famous Jazz Guitarist Documentary Film at Guitar Wow

    Django at WNEW 1947

    Mosaic Records

    Limited edition boxed set]

    Al Young

    al-age-13-hutchins-detroit Courtesy of Dan I. Slobin Archives

    The poet at age 13, Detroit 1953


    From the moment the sound of Django Reinhardt reached my conscious ears, a whole, old world arose in me that felt instantly familiar. That my record-collector father, a tuba and bass player, was crazy about jazz music, sweet or hot, was a given. I’ve written of this at length in Bodies & Soul, the first of four books of musical memoirs, all of them collector’s items now like those those scratchy, exquisite 78’s Django & the Quintette du Hot Club de France recorded so long ago. Not only does time float by like those clouds of Django’s wistful ballad “Nuages,” time teases memory and shades events. Now that I’ve lived long enough to understand how each event is actually a process wiggly and meaty with back-story, I celebrate this brilliant, unlettered Gypsy guitarist.

    Surely in the run-up to World War Two, music — like wind and sea, like sunshine and fog — oozed through the belly-membrane of a starch-eating pregnant girl hurrying out of Mississippi rain to a dry, warm place. I like to imagine the prenatal me who soaked up measureless shares of songs and melodies that hovered in the air, soothing or ruffling our blood while my mother carried me here. Some might say Django takes his cue from such early American jazz guitarists as Eddie Lang and Carl Kress. But when the Oklahoma guitarist Charlie Christian heard those Hot Club disks, he fell under Django’s spell and morphed some of what he’d heard and liked into electrifying solos he recorded with Benny Goodman.

    CharlieChristian spkr-icon Charlie Christian, 1941

    As a poet who still operates under the influence of music, I love traveling through Django’s veins back to places that no longer exist: a room, a rendezvous, nights of pleasure and panic, visits with idols like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, German soldiers dancing outside the Paris club where the gig and Nazi-occupied Paris herself was all yours, rushing by taxi from the wartime London club where you and Grappelli are playing “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” for the very first time,  then during the break between sets, rushing by taxi with violinist Stephane Grappelli to Berkeley Square, where, according to Grappelli, you two sat on a bench and, listening hard for that nightingale, heard nothing but foot and car traffic.

    In friendship, new and ever renewable, here’s to another century, Django.

    © 2010 Al Young

    Peter S. Beagle

    Peter S Beagle © Jayme Lynn Blaschke


    My father was no jazz fan. He didn’t not like jazz; it just wasn’t something he listened to, or – as far as I could ever tell – thought about much. He didn’t object to my listening to jazz LPs or radio stations, when I could find air checks of Count Basie, whom he vaguely knew, and Louis Jordan, whom he didn’t. But it was my dad, all the same, who introduced me to Django Reinhardt, on a few old 78s from the Hot Club days. “Sweet Sue” was one, as I remember it, and there was a tune with Rex Stewart on trumpet, called “Solid Old Man.”  There was almost more surface noise than there was music … but not quite.

    “They sound almost Jewish,” my father said. “If you listen.”  He told me then, for the first time, about the itinerant klezmer bands that used to play for weddings and other celebrations in Matsev, the desperately poor Polish shtetl where he was born. I remember this in particular, because he almost never talked about Matsev – he couldn’t, not without crying. But Django’s sound, and Stephane Grappelli’s violin, and the distinctive chunk-chunk rhythm of the rest of the Quintette – Django’s brother Joseph, Roger Chaput and Louis Vola – brought back something warmly thoughtful that I’d never heard. “They played together,” he said, “gypsies and Jews, in those bands. They understood each other’s music, so they understood each other.”

    Not long before I was born, in the fall of 1938, Django, Stephane, and the others laid down four tunes with Larry Adler, the great harmonica player – or “mouth organ,” as he always preferred to call it. “Body and Soul,” “Melancholy Baby,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Lover Come Back To Me” … I have turned to those four tracks for countless years whenever I felt despairing, hopeless – blue. I can’t speak for anyone else, but there’s never been any way I could possibly remain unhappy, taking the joy in that music, that playing, into myself, not even in the worst times. That a musician with three working fingers on his fretting hand could make such a sound in the world … The late Jerry Reed said of him simply, “I’ve got the usual ten, and there’s no way in the world I could create that fire, that spirit. I don’t know how he did it.”

    Nor, of course, do I. But I think often of Django’s death, at the age of 43, on his way to play billiards in Samois-sur-Seine, where they still hold a guitar festival for him every year. The story is that he collapsed in the street from a brain hemorrhage, and might have survived if he hadn’t insisted on getting up and doggedly heading for the billiards parlor he never reached. I used to bewail his stubbornness, and curse the doctor who took almost a day to arrive from Paris. But I don’t do that anymore, not for a long time. Django was here to play music, and when he was done he went somewhere else – probably to play billiards, or to fish. He’d bail on a club gig to go fishing.

    I’ve been reminded since beginning this essay that in recent years Django has finished in 66th place in a list of the greatest Belgians – 76th, if you’re a French-speaking Walloon. But he spoke no Dutch, and very little French, and he was born in a gypsy wagon that merely happened to be passing through Belgium at the time. Django was a gypsy: he was always from somewhere else.

    Oakland, California 13 May 2010 Copyright © 2010 by Peter S. Beagle


    Jack Foley

    Poet-critic-playwright Jack Foley to receive the Berkeley Poetry Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award June 5, 2010

    Jack Foley encircledPhoto: Lucha Corpi


    Button-Play-32x32 Django Reinhardt – J’attendrai Swing 1939

    Imagine a mind as fine and all-encompassing as, say, the mind of Albert Einstein. (At the end of July 1939, Django, Naguine, and the Quintette set off again for England on their third visit in two years. Yet this tour—and Europe in general—was doomed.) And then imagine that there is no place for that mind to discharge itself fully except for one: a guitar. But the guitar is the great instrument of the Gypsies, and this particular Gypsy, whose name—like the Buddha’s—meant “I awake,” knew in his hands that the depths of every note were history, went way back into all the sounds that Gypsies had made throughout their magnificent, tragic, triumphant, banal, thieving, unwritten lives. Music was life—and battle. (“Django’s playing is so beautiful that I almost forget to play, just listening to him.” “I was unaware of his virtuosity and quick ear. To my astonishment, he proceeded not only to play the blues but to embellish them with an evocative gypsy quality.”) Watch him, expressionless, with that elegant, trim, manouche mustache, his eyes cast down, a modest man, unassertive, except with his fingers, and those damaged. There is no emotion he is not capable of with that stringed box in his hands. The fascination is in part because he is a great virtuoso—but there are other virtuosi. The fascination is because no one knows what Django Reinhardt might do at any given moment out of the vast emotional repertoire that his extraordinary intelligence has placed at his disposal—out of those myriad things that have made him the sensitive, sounding instrument that he is. He is limited (“Django spoke little English, if any…”) but his guitar is infinite. “My brother,” he said of Louis Armstrong, whose genius was the same as his. The illiterate (the illiterate) professor (professor) speaks with his guitar (speaks with his guitar) he is a dark gypsy (he is a dark gypsy) with mustache and sly smile (with mustache and sly smile) he is speaking farrrrum farrrrum (he is speaking farrrrum farrrrum) on a subject of the most (on a subject of the most) immense, immediate, life-changing (immense, immediate, life-changing) interest (interest) and his chords tell us (and his chords tell us) what we can do (what we can do) what we can do (what we can do) Improv / improves sings the guitar (Improv / improves sings the guitar) to a classroom masquerading (to a classroom masquerading) as a night club (as a night club) or a concert hall (or a concert hall) the professor (the professor) rat a tats & riddles (rat a tats & riddles) roars & rambles (roars & rambles) tells us with superb intelligence (tells us with superb intelligence) of Charlie Parker (of Charlie Parker) and of wild (and of dark)

    gypsy (gypsy)

    ways (ways)

    © 2010 Jack Foley


    spkr-icon Listen

    Django-DukeEllington Courtesy photo

    Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington, 1946

    Paul Vernon Chester ~ DJANGO ‘N DUKE: The American Dream Denied

    spkr-icon Django: One Hundred Years of Hot Jazz | Tom Cole | NPR | 23 January 2010


    Read the back-story on Django’s two-fingered soloing technique at


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