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Django Reinhardt -- His playing style lives on

Belgian-born guitarist Django Reinhardt was raised as a traveling gypsy, a vagabond who never called one place home before settling in Paris near the age of 20. He would bring the gypsy folk music of his youth to bear on the jazz music he heard and learned in the Paris of the 1930s. Teaming with violinist Stephane Grappelli in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Reinhardt created a body of work deeply complex and celebratory, much of its genius based on the sublime interplay between his peerless guitar playing and Grappelli's eloquent violin lines.

Badly burned as a young man by a fire in the caravan he shared with his wife, Reinhardt was permanently disfigured, the tendons in his left hand having been withered and shrunken by the severity of his burns. He was forced to relearn the guitar with only the two functioning fingers of his left hand. In the process, he created a wholly unique style punctuated by still-unbelievable displays of rapidly picked melodic lines, unusual harmonies and fluid runs played in unison with Grappelli.

Not surprisingly, Reinhardt's musical imprint has endured and even grown in stature in the nearly 60 years since his death. You can hear his spirit in the playing of jazz giants like Wes Montgomery, rock players like Jimmy Page, and even the modern bluegrass of artists like Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.

There are several solid Reinhardt compilations still in print, among them "Djangology" and "Quintette du Hot Club de France: 25 Classics 1934-1940," both on Capitol. Check out some rare footage of the maestro in action in a clip on www.YouTube.com, where Reinhardt and Grappelli perform in a grainy black & white clip, shot in a smoky Parisian bistro. Tres sublime!-- Jeff Miers

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