Django : The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

3.95 (212 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 partnersshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 20mm | 480.82g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 8 pp halftone plates
  • 0195304489
  • 9780195304480
  • 419,751

Review quote

"Uncovers the influences that helped fuse Reinhardt's unique talent and background with a developing music scene that would eventually become a lasting art form."-Vintage Guitar Magazine "Dregni...not only has managed to break into the French milieu of jazz aficionados and sects in which Django worked but has penetrated the Gypsy, or Romany, world from which Django emerged-a clannish world whose existence, well into the nineteen-fifties and sixties, was still largely furtive, outdoors, vagabond, and, occasionally, criminal. Dregni clears up the two much mystified areas of Django's life-what exactly he did during the Second World War, and what really happened on his one trip to America, in 1946-and he sorts through the music and, nice bonus, manages to suggest plots for at least three fine French movie musicals."-Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker "The book is alive from beginning to end, and after awhile you feel like you were there as Django's career unfolds. Dregni insures that the story behind the music will not fade. Musicians, guitarists, students of the history of WWII, and those who love a good biography will love this book."-Frank Forte, Just Jazz Guitar "In this carefully researched biography, rich with details from interviews with family members, friends and musicians, Dregni brings legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt into the spotlight.... Dregni casts Django as a mercurial, charismatic Romany innocent, alternately transfixed by dajo life and dismissive of it. Colorful descriptions of the nightclubs of jazz-age Paris and sensitive appraisals of Django's musicianship add to the book's appeal."-Publishers Weekly "The great strength of his book is his tireless research into the world of Django's gypsy roots. He has tracked down and interviewed as many of Reinhardt's relatives as he can find, as well as older gypsies who knew and worked with him. The result is a more complete portrait of Reinhardt's inner life, including his relationships with his parents, his wife and many other women, and two sons. There is even a detailed account of the tragic fire that cost him two fingers.... Django is a remarkable book, and its outsider's perspective is part of the reason."-New York Sun "There was only one Django Reinhardt, and Dregni supplies a vivid, detailed portrait of the man behind the guitar.... Dregni has given us Reinhardt the man-rascal, scoundrel, transcendent improviser, failed human being."-Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle "Dregni's biography does his complex subject justice.... His immersion in the period's history enriches his storytelling and our understanding. The panoramic results present Django Reinhardt as he has never been seen.... Dregni clarifies a lot of history while weaving an illuminated web of contexts around his subject. He vividly describes Gypsy life and mores, and anti-Gypsy bigotry; unearths new aspects of Reinhardt's life and work; discusses Parisian musette, American 'hot' jazz and bebop, and classical music; and insightfully details the music Reinhardt made and the instruments and people he made it with."-Gene Santoro, The New York Times Book Review "In many ways the book jazz enthusiasts have been waiting for.... Fascinating and well-written. Dregni's musical analysis will send fans running to the stereo, digging out the old recordings and listening with fresh ears. Guitarists will have a feast reading about Django's technique and his famous Selmer Maccaferri guitar. Although Django will always be a larger-than-life figure, Dregni has given us a much clearer picture of the man behind the myth. 'Django' is, for now, the definitive biography, and we are in Dregni's debt for considerably advancing our understanding of the remarkable Django Reinhardt, his music and the world he lived in."-David French, Los Angeles Times Book Review "An encyclopedic account of the Gypsy jazzman's life and times that provides an abundance of new information, finds new connections between what was already known, and clears up many misconceptions along the way."-Guitar Player "A compelling portrait of this colorful musician, one that gives equal time to Reinhardt's fascinating story as well as ample musical analysis."-JazzTimes "A rags-to-riches story of a unique talent whose works continue to touch aspiring guitarists of all genres."-Library Journal (starred review) "Extremely informative.... An important appreciation of an oft-forgotten musician.... Dregni carefully dissects Reinhardt's virtuoso playing style without resorting to technical jargon, and he spends plenty of time tending to Reinhardt's passionate soul-artistic, gypsy and otherwise."-Mitch Myers, DownBeat "One of the most satisfying jazz biographies in recent years.... Dregni writes lyrically of a place where the crosscurrents of art, music and fashion collided to produce a cultural richness that happens only once or twice a century, if humans are lucky.... Rich and rewarding."-Baltimore Sunshow more

About Michael Dregni

Michael Dregni is a writer for Vintage Guitar magazine; his work has also appeared in , , and The Utne Reader, among other publications. He lives in Minneapolis, more

Rating details

212 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 30% (64)
4 41% (86)
3 25% (53)
2 3% (6)
1 1% (3)
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