Django : The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend
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 partnership with violinist Stephane Grappelli--the one suave and smooth, the other sharper and more dissonant--and he traces the evolution of their novel string jazz ensemble, Quintette du Hot Club de France. Indeed, the author spotlights Django's amazing musical diversity, describing his swing-styled Nouveau Quintette, his big band Django's Music, and his later bebop ensemble, as well as his many compositions, including symphonic pieces influenced by Ravel and Debussy and his unfinished organ mass inspired by Bach. And along the way, the author offers vivid snapshots of the jazz scene in Paris--colorful portraits of Josephine Baker, Bricktop, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and countless others--and of Django's vagabond wanderings around France, Europe, and the United States, where he toured with Duke Ellington. Capturing the extraordinary life and times of one of the great musicians of the twentieth century, Django is a must-read portrait of a true original."
- 01 Dec 2004
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford, United Kingdom
- New ed.
"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 Sun"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"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"A compelling portrait of this colorful musician, one that gives equal time to Reinhardt's fascinating story as well as ample musical analysis."--JazzTimes"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 illumniated 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; a
About Michael Dregni
Michael Dregni is a writer for Vintage Guitar magazine; his work has also appeared in Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player, and The Utne Reader, among other publications. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.