Django Reinhardt

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Django Reinhardt in the New York jazz club Aquarium, late October 1946.

Jean "Django" Reinhardt , baptized Jean Reinhar (d) t (born January 23, 1910 in Liberchies , Belgium , † May 16, 1953 in Samois-sur-Seine ), was a French guitarist , composer and band leader . He is considered a founder and pioneer of European jazz .


The son of Manouches (French-speaking Sinti ) from Alsace , Django Reinhardt grew up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Paris ( 13th arrondissement ) after the family had lived in Nice, Italy, Corsica and North Africa from 1914 to 1918 .

Django Reinhardt learned to play the violin, banjo and finally guitar at an early age and began his career as a professional musician at the age of twelve with accordionist Guérino. In 1928 he accompanied the accordionists Jean Vaissade, Victor Marceau and Maurice Alexander on their first recordings.

On November 2, 1928, Django Reinhardt suffered serious injuries in the fire in his caravan after the celluloid flowers in the caravan that Django's wife at the time (Florine "Bella" Mayer) wanted to sell the following day, caught fire. Django's right leg was paralyzed and his left hand was badly burned; he also suffered severe burns on his body. Doctors planned to amputate the leg, but Reinhardt recovered from the injuries. In the following year and a half of rehabilitation , Django Reinhardt developed a new virtuoso playing technique in which he only used the index and middle fingers to play the melody. For chords he could use the ring finger and little finger to a limited extent, so he used the thumb extensively. The treatments and rehabilitation measures were completed in the spring of 1930. The relationship with his wife failed.

“Honeysuckle Rose” - Paris session 1937 by Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli , Coleman Hawkins , Alix Combelle and Benny Carter

In the early 1930s Reinhardt played in the orchestra of violinist Michel Warlop and appeared in Parisian cafés; he recorded with this, but also with Louis Vola , Jean Sablon , André Ekyan , the accordionist Vetese Guerino and the singer Germaine Sablon . Pierre Nourry and Charles Delaunay discovered him in 1934 for the Hot Club de France . They had the idea of ​​putting together an ensemble made up of only string instrumentalists, allegedly they introduced Reinhardt to the violinist Stéphane Grappelli . After rehearsals at the Hotel Claridge, the legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France was founded, in which, in addition to Reinhardt and Grappelli, the rhythm guitarists Joseph "Nin-Nin" Reinhardt (Django's brother) and Roger Chaput, as well as bassist Louis Vola, in whose orchestra the musicians played until then played regularly.

This quintet was a sensational success and remained - except for a change of line-up (Roger Chaput was replaced by Pierre "Baro" Ferret ) - in its original form until the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, when the formation made a guest appearance in London. While Grappelli stayed in London until the end of the war, Django Reinhardt played in Paris in the following years with changing line-ups in a changed quintet format: solo guitar (Reinhardt), a rhythm guitar, clarinet instead of the violin, bass and drums (and partly piano); Hubert Rostaing played the clarinet , occasionally Alix Combelle , André Lluis and from 1943 Gérard Lévêque . In the spring of 1942 he was able to make a few recordings in Belgium, including a. Record with the orchestras Fud Candrix and Stan Brenders for the Rhythme label .

In 1943 Django Reinhardt tried to get to Switzerland, but was turned back at the border. Returning to Paris, his fame and the popularity of his music with the French population (and also with some occupation officers, such as Dietrich Schulz-Köhn ) saved him from being persecuted as gypsies and murdered in a concentration camp, like many of his relatives. Until the end of the war he remained unmolested in Paris, but kept a low profile and avoided the public in the capital, as Schulz-Köhn reported.

In 1944 he recorded a gypsy mass composed by Django Reinhardt, which his then clarinetist Gérard Lévêque put on paper. The mass, recorded on a church organ by Léo Chauliac , was published much later. Lévêque also wrote down a symphonic composition by Reinhardt. According to Charles Delaunay, this symphony contained harmonies so daring that it posed problems for the conductor Jo Bouillon . The score went missing; some compositions from it were used in a jazz context, especially the well-known Manoir de mes rêves .

Reinhardt and Duke Ellington in November 1946.
Reinhardt with musicians from the Duke Ellington Orchestra : Al Sears , Shelton Hemphill , Junior Raglin , Reinhardt, Lawrence Brown , Harry Carney , Johnny Hodges in the New York jazz club Aquarium, around November 1946.

In January 1945 Django Reinhardt was with the Glenn Miller All Stars in the record studio; from October to December 1945 he recorded a number of pieces with the American Air Transport Command Band under the direction of Sgt. Jack Platt (arrangements: Lonnie Wilfong), including Djangology and the Uptown Blues . These recordings were live recordings for the AFN , which were later released on record.

In 1946 Django Reinhardt went on tour in the United States with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Four recordings of the performance on November 20 at the Civic Opera House in Chicago have been preserved, which were released as The Great Concerts: Duke Ellington: Chicago 1946 on double CD.

From 1947 Django Reinhardt mainly played an electrically amplified guitar , with the melody lines z. Some of them were significantly more bop-oriented . In 1947 he took up - with acoustic guitar - again with Stéphane Grappelli on a number of tracks (including How High the Moon ). In addition to a series of sessions with electrically amplified guitar - u. a. for Eddie Barclay's label Blue Star  - would be the outstanding recording session of Django's big band Django's Music on April 16, 1947. While the Minor Blues was recorded in full big band, a sextet consisting of members of the big band (Django Reinhardt, solo guitar; Michel de Villers , alto saxophone and clarinet; Eddie Bernard , piano; Joseph Reinhardt, rhythm guitar; Willy Lockwood, Bass; Al Craig, drums) on four tracks ( Peche A La Mouche , Clair De Lune , Lentement, Mademoiselle and Melodie Au Crepuscule ), of which those with clarinet stand out.

Some of the highlights of Django Reinhardt's recordings with an electrically amplified guitar were recorded in the RTF studios in Paris in 1947. The sessions on September 22nd and November 13th, 1947 are worth mentioning.

In December 1948, a concert by the quintet in the Théâtre des Galeries in Brussels was recorded with the help of a tape recorder bought by Django Reinhardt. The line-up: Django Reinhardt (solo guitar), Hubert Rostaing (clarinet), Henri “Lousson” Baumgartner , Django's son from his first marriage (rhythm guitar), Louis Vola (bass) and Arthur Motta (drums).

In January / February 1949 Reinhardt and Grappelli recorded a total of 67 tracks in Rome with a three-piece rhythm section (Gianni Safred, piano; Carlo Pecori, bass; Aurelio de Carolis, drums), some of which are among the best recorded by Django Reinhardt ( Troublant Boléro , Nagasaki , Vous qui passez sans me voir ). According to Delaunay, Django was not very satisfied with the Italian rhythm section, which did not have the drive of the old quintet from 1934 to 1939 but did its job effectively.

A second stay in Rome followed in 1950. This time Reinhardt was accompanied by André Ekyan (alto saxophone, clarinet) as well as Ralph Schécroun (piano), Alf Masselier (bass) and Roger Paraboschi (drums). The group recorded a total of 30 titles.

Memorial plaque for Django Reinhardt in Samois-sur-Seine

1951 Django Reinhardt moved into the at Fontainebleau located Samois-sur-Seine . In February of the same year he appeared with a new band at the Paris Club St. Germain-des-Prés, made up of bebop- influenced young musicians such as the brothers Hubert (alto saxophone) and Raymond Fol (piano), Bernard Hullin (trumpet), Pierre Michelot (bass) and Pierre Lemarchand (drums). When he wasn't playing with this band, Django Reinhardt now devoted himself mostly to family, friends, painting, fishing and playing billiards.

1951 was also the year in which he appeared on the occasion of a broadcast on Radio Luxemburg with the l'Orchestre (Symphonique) National under the direction of Wal-Berg (actually: Voldemar Rosenberg) (the recorded piece was Django Reinhardt's own troublant Boléro , the Orchestra arrangement came from Wal-Berg). After that, Django Reinhardt only recorded sporadically, the last session was on April 8, 1953.

On May 15, 1953, he suffered a stroke in the Auberge de l'Ile café in Samois . He was immediately taken to Fontainebleau Hospital but could not be saved. Django Reinhardt was buried in Samois .


Many of Reinhardt's family members are still musically active. Django's son from his second marriage to Sophie "Naguine" Ziegler, Babik Reinhardt , developed into an independent jazz guitarist. Django's great-nephew, the violinist and composer Schnuckenack Reinhardt , contributed a lot to the maintenance and further development of the musical achievements established by the Quintette du Hot Club de France . Django's first son from his marriage to Florine "Bella" Mayer (later married Baumgartner), Henri "Lousson" Baumgartner (1929–1992), was also a musician with a very independent profile. This tradition is also preserved in the third generation: Django's grandson David Reinhardt is also a guitarist. He performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia in 2010 - mainly with compositions by his grandfather.


Music genre

What was new and special about Reinhardt's music was the mixture of three different styles of music: he created a new style of music from the already popular New Orleans jazz of the 1920s, the French waltzes ( valses musettes ) and the traditional way of playing the Sinti ( gypsy music ) , the gypsy or Gypsy Swing , which is in addition to the jazz proper rhythm by chord and moods, as in the more modern classical example for Debussy or Maurice Ravel are typical. From 1937, since the Chicago recording , he was without a doubt the best European jazz musician. His harmonic understanding, his remarkable technique and his rhythmic sense made him an excellent companion right from the start of his career. But he also developed into a unique soloist with a special flair for the varied design of a concert without endangering its stylistic unity.

Reinhardt's guitar playing has a high recognition value ; this is u. a. in a number of recurring playing techniques that are particularly evident in his solos . These techniques are due in part to the obstruction of his grasping hand; Here Reinhardt succeeded in making a virtue out of necessity.

  • Reinhardt's handicap led him to use the fingerboard vertically rather than horizontally. He also used the technique of downstroke sweeping , in which notes on adjacent strings are struck with a single quick movement. Sweeping has just become very modern again in guitar music in recent years (in jazz e.g. with Frank Gambale ).
  • Besides Reinhardt runs from has octave - double stops inserted in the jazz. Sound movements are performed with the whole hand, Reinhardt's handicap was not a disadvantage here. Another jazz musician known for playing octaves was Wes Montgomery ; but since he struck the strings with his thumb, they sound softer with him than with the pick player Reinhardt.
  • Another trademark Reinhardt is the tremolo - Picking , which consists in a rapid upward and downward movement of the picking hand. Reinhardt used this technique for both chords and single notes. Reinhardt mostly realized the latter as a fast chromatic run by sliding his left hand over the fingerboard synchronously with the movement of the right hand (“tremolo glissando ”). Again, this is a technique in which the crippling of his left hand was not a hindrance.

A good impression of Django Reinhardt's technical abilities and his virtuosity is given by improvisation no. 1 , an improvisation for solo guitar.

Although Django could not read music himself, he composed - partly in collaboration with Grappelli - a number of pieces that became jazz standards: for example Nuages , Daphné , Manoir de mes rêves and Minor Swing . Even today his music is heard and played by numerous Sinti and non-Gypsies. His jazzed-up version of the Marseillaise , Echos of France , created after the end of the Second World War , was censored by the French Ministry of Education and banned for ten years "as an insult to the French nation".

The piece Django of the Modern Jazz Quartet , composed by John Lewis , pays homage to Django Reinhardt, builds in its first bars on the beginning of Django Reinhardt's Improvisation No. 5 on.

Acoustic guitars

Until 1947, Reinhardt mainly used acoustic guitars from the French company Selmer, designed by the Italian guitar maker Mario Maccaferri and built in Paris . These guitars are characterized by a high volume thanks to an additional built-in resonance body inside. After Maccaferri left Selmer in 1933, the guitars were changed in some details: The additional sound box was omitted and the transition between body and neck was moved from the 12th to the 14th fret . In addition, the previously D-shaped (“grande bouche”) soundhole was now oval (“petite bouche”). This modified Maccaferri construction became Reinhardt's main instrument. From 1947 onwards he played mainly electrically amplified, but recorded several times with his unamplified Selmer, for example at a session in 1947 with Stéphane Grappelli and - again with Grappelli and an Italian rhythm section - in Rome in 1949.

Django Reinhardt's last Selmer guitar - a model from 1940 with the serial number 503 - is now in the instrument collection of the Cité de la musique in Paris.

The famous photos of William P. Gottlieb , which show Django Reinhardt with an archtop guitar, were taken in 1946 during the USA tour. This guitar is an unamplified Swedish Levin Deluxe. It belonged to Fred Guy , the guitarist of the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the time.

Electric guitars

After his US tour, on which he had used various electrically amplified archtops (whether for the first time, it is not entirely certain) , Django Reinhardt mainly played electrically amplified from 1947 onwards. His Epiphone with the serial number 3442, which he brought to France from the USA (according to the American guitarist Joe Sinacore, he got it as a gift from Epiphone), deserves a special mention here. This Epiphone "Zephyr" was given in 1967 by Babik Reinhardt , Django's second son, the American guitarist Fred Sharp , who restored it and partially rebuilt it (including cutaway).

In addition to the Epiphone , Django Reinhardt can be seen in photos with the following electrically amplified archtops:

  • Gretsch Synchromatic 400, which belonged to the American guitarist Artie Narvaez of the Artie Shaw Orchestra
  • Gibson ES-300
  • an archtop of the Swiss brand "RIO"
  • an Italian Mogar with a pick-up (at the sessions in Rome 1950)

Django Reinhardt also played his acoustic Selmer model 807 with a stimer pick-up.

Django Reinhardt used as an amplifier (photos after close):

  • a Stimer M10 amplifier
  • an Electar amplifier from Epiphone
  • a Gibson EH150 amplifier (Club St. Germain)



Festival in Samois named after Reinhardt, 30th anniversary in 2009

In Samois-sur-Seine , a festival takes place every year at the end of June in honor of Reinhardt, which is considered the meeting point for everyone who is interested in his music worldwide . In his Belgian hometown Liberchies there is also a Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival every May. In North America, the west coast of the United States hosts a number of annual Django festivals.

In Germany, the Django Reinhardt Memorial takes place in May in the Parktheater Augsburg-Göggingen and the Django Reinhardt Festival in Hildesheim in July .


There is a half-hour documentary about Django Reinhardt by Paul Paviot from 1957, in which many musical companions also play.

Sergio Corbucci named the title character of his spaghetti western Django after Reinhardt.

In the film Swing Kids , Django Reinhardt is one of the great role models for the protagonists. After his hand was mutilated by the National Socialists, the young Arvid, spurred on by his idol, teaches himself the three-finger game.

In the film Sweet and Lowdown (1999) by Woody Allen , Django Reinhardt is the idol of the main character, the fictional jazz guitarist Emmett Ray. Reinhardt only appears briefly in one scene in the film, played by actor Michael Sprague .

The animated film The Great Race of Belleville (2003) begins with a musical scene with stage appearances by Fred Astaire , Josephine Baker and Django Reinhardt (all three in drawn form).

The documentary film Djangos Erben by Suzan Şekerci about Reinhardt's descendants, made in 2008, was awarded the Grimme Prize in 2009.

In 2017, the French feature film Django - A Life for Music by Étienne Comar opened the 67th Berlin International Film Festival , in which Reda Kateb took on the role of Django Reinhardt.

Admission to halls of fame

Django Reinhardt was accepted into the following halls of fame :


In Seattle there is a nationally known gypsy jazz band, Pearl Django , which is named after him.

The Python web framework Django is named after him.

In the video game Mafia , some of the titles on the soundtrack are from him.

Discographic notes

Chart positions
Explanation of the data
Swing de Paris
  FR 146 10/20/2012 (5 weeks)
HCQ Strut
  FR 176 08/03/2013 (1 week)
Échos de France (La Marseillaise)
  FR 104 10/12/2013 (1 week)
Minor swing
  FR 121 07/12/2013 (1 week)


  • Noël Balen: Django Reinhardt. Le génie vagabond . éditions du Rocher 2015
  • Charles Delaunay: Django Reinhardt: Souvenirs. Paris 1954
  • Michael Dregni: Django. The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend. Oxford University Press; Oxford, New York 2004 (engl.)
  • Michael Dregni: Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz. Speck Press, Denver 2006 (Eng.)
  • Michael Dregni: Gypsy Jazz. In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing. Oxford. University Press; Oxford, New York 2008 (engl.)
  • Benjamin Givan: The Music of Django Reinhardt . University of Michigan Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-472-03408-6
  • Patrick Williams: Django Reinhardt. Editions Parenthèses, Marseille 1998 (French)
  • Patrick Williams: Les quatre vies posthumes de Dj. R .: Trois fictions et une chronique. Parenthèses, Marseille 2010 (In French)
  • Francois Billard: Django Reinhardt. Un géant sur son nuage. Lieu Commun, Paris 1993 (French)
  • Roger Spautz: Django Reinhardt. Myth and Reality. RTL Edition, Luxembourg 1983
  • Dietrich Schulz-Köhn : Django Reinhardt. A portrait. Pegasus, Jazz Library , Wetzlar 1960
  • the same: Django. In: Guitar & Laute 5, 1983, No. 6, pp. 439-444.
  • Alexander Schmitz, Peter Maier: Django Reinhardt. His life His music His records. Oreos Verlag (Collection Jazz), Gauting-Buchendorf 1985, ISBN 3-923657-08-0 .
  • Paul Vernon: Jean 'Django' Reinhardt: a contextual bio-discography 1910–1953 . Ashgate Publ., Hampshire 2003 ( Google Books )
  • Victorine Martin and Philipe Doudou Cuillerier: Django Reinhardt - Voyage en Guitare (2011)

Web links

Commons : Django Reinhardt  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. birth certificate
  2. Balen, Noël: Django Reinhardt: Le génie vagabond , 2015, ISBN 978-2268-07759-8 .
  3. ^ Dietrich Schulz-Köhn: Django. In: Guitar & Laute 5, 1983, No. 6, pp. 439-444; here: p. 441.
  4. Tom Lord : The Jazz Discography (online, February 26, 2014)
  5. Dietrich Schulz-Köhn (1983), p. 441.
  6. The first recordings were made in 1934 with the singer Bert Marshall in September 1934 under the name Delaunay's Jazz . The quintet first entered the studio under its own name in December 1934.
  7. The last joint recordings were made on August 25, 1939 in London.
  8. The first recordings of the new Quintette du Hot Club de France were made on October 1, 1940, after Reinhardt was in the record studio with his big band Django's Music in March of the same year .
  9. Dietrich Schulz-Köhn in: Klaus Wolbers (Ed.): Thats Jazz . Darmstadt 1988, p. 335 ff. Even during the war, the author kept in contact with the founder of the Hot Club de France , Charles Delaunay, who was friends with him .
  10. Michael Dregni Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing , pp. 144ff.
  11. Django in the USA - Canada (Ontario) 29th Oct - 21st Dec 1946 ( memento of October 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) from Paul Vernon Chester.
  12. Red, Ride, Red (Tiger Rag) , A Blues Riff , Improvisation No. 2 and Honeysuckle Rose
  13. ^ Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française in the English language Wikipedia; until 1949 still RDF.
  14. ^ Louise , Django's Dream (Rêverie) , Swingtime in Springtime a . a.
  15. Dinette , Symphony , Saint Louis Blues, etc. a.
  16. Version on YouTube . Django Reinhardt recorded a second version of the Troublant Boléro with this orchestra ; this was published on VOGUE 406505 .
  18. a b c David McCarty: Gypsy Jazz. Django Reinhardt: His Enduring Legacy. Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, see section Django's Playing .
  19. Sound example from "Swing for Ninine" , (.mp3; 14 kB).
  20. sound sample "Mystery Pacific" , (.mp3; 27 kB)
  21. see the corresponding video on YouTube
  22. ^ Ekkehard Jost Jazz stories from Europe. Wolke, Hofheim am Taunus 2012.
  25. ^ Guitare "Django Reinhardt" - Henri Selmer Reinhardt's last Selmer guitar in the Cité de la musique
  26. ^ Fig. 1 , Fig. 2 , Fig. 3 William P. Gottlieb Collection in the Library of Congress
  27. Photo of Fred Guy with his guitar William P. Gottlieb Collection in the Library of Congress
  28. "Zephyr"
  29. Article ( Memento of the original from January 31, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on the website of Paul Vernon Chester  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  30. RIO guitars
  31. Django in Rome ( Memento from May 26, 2012 in the web archive )
  32. Festival Django Reinhardt ( Memento of the original from July 25, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  33. DjangoFest Northwest
  34. Django Memorial Augsburg ( Memento of the original from March 20, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Accessed March 3, 2014 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  35. Festival Django Reinhardt , accessed October 28, 2013
  36. Django ( Memento from May 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  37. ^ Documentary on Monday: Django's heirs
  38. a b Chart sources: FR


  1. Michael Dregni states that Django's father is a certain Jean-Eugène Weiss (according to Schulz-Köhn, Jean Vees , with whom Django's mother lived at the time of his birth), who signed Django's birth certificate with "J B Reinhard". Dregni explains this with the fact that Django's father was wanted by French gendarmes and wanted to conceal his true identity. Django's mother was the unmarried Laurence "Négros" Reinhardt.
  2. As rhythm guitarists, at least on recordings, Eugène Vées and Marcel Bianchi sometimes played instead of Joseph Reinhardt or Pierre "Baro" Ferret .
  3. Although it is often read that this tour was a failure, Michael Dregni proves convincingly that the tour was a success with both the public and the press.
  4. Michael Dregni According used Joseph Reinhardt in 1946 a Stimer pick-up