Cover image for Django : the life and music of a Gypsy legend
Django : the life and music of a Gypsy legend
Dregni, Michael, 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
326 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Awakening, 1910-1922 -- Panam, 1922-1928 -- La musique diabolique, 1926-1928 -- Wanderings, 1928-1934 -- Le hot, 1934-1935 -- Djangology, 1935-1936 -- Swing, 1937 -- Ruling Britannia, 1938-1939 -- Nuages, 1939-1944 -- Echoes de France, 1944-1946 -- Pilgrimage, 1946-1947 -- Schism, 1947-1950 -- A new man, 1951-1953 -- Afterword: Gypsy Jazz.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML419.R44 D74 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 Stéphane 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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-53) is the most famous Gypsy of all time. That he was very much a Gypsy--uncomfortable living in a building or one place for long, prone to blowing off engagements when he had enough money or something more interesting came up, infuriatingly proud and insouciant, reckless and hedonistic--is his most delightful aspect as a biographical subject, for from it springs a wealth of hilarious, outrageous, and touching stories. His career began during the rise of the bals musette style of French popular dance music; flared with unparalleled brilliance in the never-quite-formal Quintette du Hot Club de France, in which he and violinist Stephane Grappelli spurred one another to become the first European peers of Louis Armstrong; and peaked, paradoxically, in wartime Paris. Dregni couches Django's story in sketches of the musical styles and persons that crucially affected him, and vice versa, so that, despite anachronistic solecisms (e.g., gothic sentimentality, medieval guillotines ) and grammatical gaffes, this biography is a splendid history of early European, especially French, jazz. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this carefully researched biography, rich with details from interviews with family members, friends and musicians, Dregni, a writer for Vintage Guitar magazine, brings legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) into the spotlight. Born in a Belgian caravan, Django began performing in Parisian dance halls at 12. In 1928, after a fire turned his left hand into a clawed hook, he learned to work the frets with just two fully mobile fingers, creating new chord forms and playing with stunning dexterity. With his brother and three other musicians including celebrated violinist St?phane Grappelli (staid, suave, classically trained, St?phane was in many ways Django's opposite) he formed a string jazz ensemble, Quintette du Hot Club de France, which started informally in 1934 and was, by 1937, nearly "falling apart under the strain of [its] own genius." But they kept playing, and their fame spread. Spared by the Nazis because a German kommandant liked his playing, Django became a national hero when one of his compositions, "Nuages," became the unofficial anthem of occupied France. Dregni casts Django as a mercurial, charismatic Romany innocent, alternately transfixed by gadjo life and dismissive of it. Colorful descriptions of the nightclubs of jazz-age Paris and sensitive appraisals of Django's musicianship add to the book's appeal. Agent, Paul Bresnick at Carlisle & Company. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fifty years after his death, Django Reinhardt remains one of the most influential guitarists. His playing has touched blues players like B.B. King, jazzers like Charlie Christian, and even rockers ? la Jerry Garcia. Reinhardt was born into a true gypsy world not easily accessible to outsiders, and his personal life has been a mystery until now. Dregni, a features writer for Vintage Guitar magazine, has fully researched the jazzer's background in and around France prior to World War II. He describes the gypsy life, reinforcing some myths and dispelling others. Dregni interviews many who knew the guitarist personally, including relatives, accompanists, fellow musicians, and close friends. What emerges is a rags-to-riches story of a unique talent whose works continue to touch aspiring guitarists of all genres. Of the few other books available about Reinhardt, all focusing on his music, the best is Charles Delaunay's Django Reinhardt. As the first examination of his life, Dregni's book is a fine companion. Recommended for all public libraries and specialty music libraries. Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.