- Reinhardt, Django (Jean-Baptiste)
- (1910-1953)Born in Belgium, though he spent most of his life in France. Musician. Reinhardt was in fact his mother's surname, while his father was called Weiss. As a young Gypsy musician, Reinhardt began his career busking in Paris. In 1920, a French accordionist heard him playing his guitar and offered him a professional engagement in a dance hall, from where he earned his first real money. Jack Hylton, the famous British bandleader, traveled to Paris twice to find him to offer him a contract. The night of their meeting, tragedy struck when a candle set fire to Reinhardt's caravan and his left hand was burned. It was a year before he could play in public again. Yet, because of this disability, he spent hours working out how to play with the three fingers usable on his left hand, and his technique was said to reinvent guitar playing. At this stage, he discovered jazz and formed a quartet with his brother Joseph and two non-Gypsies, Louis Vola and Stefan Grap-pelli. A fifth player was added, and they formed the quintet, which gained fame as the Hot Club de France.In September 1939 the quintet was playing in London on the eve of World War II, which prompted the guitarist to return to France. When that country was conquered by the Germans, jazz was condemned as "Negro music." Concerts were no longer advertised as jazz. While playing later in occupied Belgium, at the Club Rythmique de Belgique, Reinhardt was asked to tour Germany. He knew Gypsies were being arrested there and sent to the death camps, so he avoided this danger by requesting 120,000 francs per concert, knowing the Germans would not pay such an amount. Toward the end of the war, he sensed danger again and moved from Paris to near Thonon-les-Bains at the Swiss border, where he once dared to play "La Marseillaise" in front of German officers. From there he tried to slip across the border, but was arrested and found to have a membership card of the British Society of Composers. The German officer who interrogated him was a jazz fan and let the musician go free.His being cut off from the international world of jazz in occupied France led to a lukewarm reception in New York when later he did play there in 1946. Café society there no longer felt jazz was an art with mass appeal, and the Reinhardt name was not enough to make up for his lack of professionalism. On his return to France, he began to learn the electric guitar but died in Samois after refusing to call a doctor when suffering from a brain hemorrhage.Contemporary performers of Gypsy jazz include Lollo Meier, Andreas Oberg, Ritary Gaguenetti, and Matcho Winterstein, as well as others who are listed individually in this dictionary.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.