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Django Reinhardt

Wikipedia, as usual, sums it up nicely:

Often regarded as the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom, he is also revered by guitarists worldwide as among the foremost exponents of the instrument. Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.”[1] Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages”.

Here is a bio that accompanied Ken Burns’ jazz documentary on PBS. Reinhardt’s Wiki is appropriately called Djangopedia. Great examples of Reinhardt’s genius, as the Wikipedia entry suggests, are Nuages and Minor SwingThe video from the latter is from a version of Alice in Wonderland released in 1933. It doesn’t appear that the song was part of the soundtrack, but it is interesting. The actress is Charlotte Henry. Honeysuckle Rose may be more familiar to American audiences. An item on Reinhardt should mention Stephane Grappelli, who co-founded  Quintette du Hot Club de France. Grappelli, in a long and distinguished career, played with everyone from Yo Yo Ma to Vassar Clements.

The above short bio has some footage of Reinhardt, which seems to be rare.

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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