Looks like we missed a big one last month when we forgot to wish a happy 100th birthday to the man who made “hot jazz” an international hit, Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt. Sure, the guy may have passed on to that great caravan in the sky some 57 years ago, but his importance and influence have not dimmed in the interim.
The Belgium-born guitarist, who’s third and forth fingers on his fret-playing hand were famously paralyzed by a fire, became a world sensation with his “Quintette du Hot Club de France”, a “hot” swing group featuring violinist St´phane Grappelli that was all the rage in 1930s France. Innovative, catchy, and highly danceable, Reinhardt’s music laid the ground for a European invasion of swing bands in the U.S., as well making him one of the earliest jazz musicians to be a success on vinyl as well as in the clubs. While his own compositions were a mix of New-Orleans influenced jazz, Spanish, and French music, he remains one of the most popular Roma recording stars ever and an icon to an entire subculture of music dedicated to recapturing his beautiful, frantic sound.
For a list of events and artists honoring Reinhardt, check out this article at the Los Angeles Times. For coverage of Chicago jazz, Ethiopian swing, and all the music scenes in between, pick up a copy of our “Music + Travel Worldwide” book today.