Django (Django Reinhardt)

Dimensions90 cm x 70 cm x 18 cm
Materials Sanblasted glass, cast glass, bronze, wood,
Collection Mr. & Mrs. Sussman, Miami, Florida

Django Reinhardt was a French Romani jazz guitarist. Although he was born in Belgium, he spent virtually all his life in the surrounds of Paris, principally in Samois-sur-Seine. During his youth he lived in the traveling encampments of his Romani family and acquired the name Django, a diminutive of his given name Jean. He started playing violin, banjo, and guitar around the age of ten with family members as his teachers. When he was 15, he started “busking” with his brother Joseph who also played guitar. His reputation began to draw attention and he made his first recordings as a sideman when he was 17. The following year he was severely burned in a fire in his caravan. His young wife escaped but Dango received burns over more than half of his body. This resulted in permanent damage to his fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand. This forced him to take time away and virtually relearn his craft using only the index and middle fingers on this disfigured hand.

In 1934 Django formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Stephan Grappelli.  Grappelli had been playing at the Ambassador Hotel in Paris and had learned a swinging sound from the violinist Joe Venuti and the guitarist Eddie Lang. Reinhardt and Grappelli took this sound and moulded into what became their sound which is revered and copied today, “Jazz Manouche”. They continued to play together becoming the most popular jazz group in Europe. At the outbreak of WWII Grappelli left for London but Django stayed in France, several times escaping being sent with other Romani to German concentration camps.

Django reunited with Grappelli after the war. In 1953, walking from the train station to his home after playing a gig in a Paris club, Django collapsed and died of a brain hemorrhage  at the age of 43.