MY FAVOURITE MUSICIAN
Well here I am, yet another member of the choir to be asked by Dave who their favourite musician/composer is.
It may not have gone unnoticed that I am rather partial to the occasional strum on the old guitar.
My interest in playing the guitar was first sparked off by wanting to be in a group, following the advent of the Beatles and Rolling Stones etc in the 1960’s. However. one Friday night I saw Donovan playing acoustic guitar on the TV show “Ready Steady Go” and decided solo guitar was for me. I started scouring the record shops and discovered loads of guitarists who were recognised for their virtuosity in their own right and not just as members of a group or band. Then one day my Mum asked if I had heard of Django Reinhardt. I hadn’t, but it was not long before I purchased my first LP of the great man. It was ahead of digital remastering and although the recordings were made in the 30’s and 40’s they were remarkably good,and I was immediately smitten.
Whilst listening to the LP I started to read the sleeve notes and began to realise he was not just a great jazz guitarist and composer but an amazing character.
He was born Jean Baptiste Reinhardt in Belgium in 1910 to a family of gypsies. He grew up on gypsy settlements, and was barely literate. His first instrument was a six string banjo but he became a skilled violinist before taking up and mastering the guitar.
Aged 18, he suffered severe burns in a caravan fire which rendered the 4th and 5th fingers on his left hand partially paralysed. It was thought he would never play the guitar again but with encouragement from his guitarist brother Joseph and sheer determination, he overcame his disability by developing a new method of guitar fingering techniques which remain unsurpassed to this day.
With the formation of the first string jazz quintet the “Quintet du Hot Club de France” in 1934 and his link up with Stephane Grappelli, whose violin became the perfect foil to his guitar, Django’s brilliance soon became recognised beyond France through their performances and recordings. Interestingly, they were the first group to be credited with the concept of Lead and Rhythm guitar.
For me, Django’s most impressive period was when he and his group played acoustic instruments, prior to his period with Duke Ellington when he took up the electric guitar.However, whether he played acoustic or electric, I defy anyone to ignore the lively, melodic, and harmonious rhythm which flowed from his guitar and his compositions.
In the 1930’s he was considered too modern, yet his influence has continued to redefine the role of the guitar whether as soloist or accompanist no matter what the musical genre. I guess this is the main reason for liking Django. My musical tastes go way beyond jazz in the same way that his influence has.
By the time of his death aged only 42 he had become world famous as “Django” the greatest of jazz composer/ guitarists.
To sum him up, Django was a man who went from lowly beginnings to gain international fame and establish a living musical legacy!