Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz
Michael Dregni and Alain Antonietto
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Buy *Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz* by Michael Dregni and Alain Antonietto online

Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz
Michael Dregni and Alain Antonietto
Speck Press
208 pages
November 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Anyone who knows anything about the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt knows about the fire. The caravan in which he was travelling with his wife caught fire and he was severely burned, fingers charred to the stumps. Well, that's partially right. Here, you'll get the complete story and many more.

The guitarist, born Jean Reinhardt, was of Belgian descent, a gypsy born during the frozen winter in 1910. A Manouche Gypsy, Django (a Romany name meaning "I Awake") was the son of a musician father and a dancer mother. All seven of his uncles were musicians, and he quickly learned from them, bowing away on the violin, his first instrument. By the time he was 10, he was a capable banjo strummer; within two years, he was already performing in bands.

His story is filled with the imagery normally associated with the gypsy: travelling minstrels, fortune tellers, magic spells, and an itinerant's life. And the fire. The young guitarist was returning home after playing a show when his caravan caught on fire from a candle fallen to the floor. Terribly burned, he almost lost a leg to amputation; doctors swore he would never play again. His left hand, indeed, was virtually consumed by the flames. The two smallest fingers were turned into inflexible claws, and the nerves and tendons withered and could not be controlled.

Left with only a thumb, index and ring finger, he was forced to completely rethink and reinvent his playing. The style that arose as a consequence of that horrendous blaze was beyond belief. His playing took on a vertical rather than a horizontal approach; it was a sound no one had ever heard before. That technique would become legendary and later influence a horde of players like Peter Frampton.

This is more than just Django's history - it is the fable of gypsy jazz and the unique players in it. There are extraordinary photographs, posters, and album covers all contained here.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009

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