Gypsy In The Morning: Django Reinhardt Alarm Clock
Continuing with our Birthday Clock series: a belated January 23rd HB to gypsy jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt (1910-1953). His large, heavy-lidded eyes reminded
me of the two bells on top of vintage alarm clocks.
He was born into a gypsy family in Belgium, hence his natural association with “gypsy music.” He discovered jazz around the age of 20. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he founded the Hot Club of France Quintet in 1934. It was a jazz band with an unusual configuration: stringed instruments only. The line-up varied over time, but Reinhardt was the central focus and kept the band active until 1948.
Artists of any stripe– or any striver, really– could find no better role model than Django Reinhardt. Why? He was badly burned at age 18. The third and fourth fingers of his left hand were left partially paralyzed. Out of necessity, he invented an entirely new jazz guitar technique: he played all his solos with just two fingers, using his injured fingers only for chording. He not only faced his handicap, he used it to achieve new heights of artistry.
Here’s a larger detail image of the Django Alarm Clock. Scroll down to listen to one of his most famous compositions.
You can find archival film footage of Django on YouTube, but it’s rather grainy and the sound quality is poor. Instead, I’m embedding a slideshow set to a pristine 1953 recording of Nuages (“Clouds”), perhaps his most famous composition. If you’ve never heard any Django Reinhardt, you’re in for a treat. I think you’ll enjoy the images, too– including some additional caricatures.
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