Django Reinhardt is one of the undisputed guitar jazz masters. Is he the most important jazz guitarist of all time? I don’t even know who else would be in the running for that…. Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian? Django’s pretty close to the top, by anyone’s reckoning. Reinhardt gets extra coolness points for being a gypsy, for possibly being illiterate, and for losing the use of his ring finger and pinky in a fire when he was 18 years old.
That fact, of Django’s maimed hand, has heightened interest in his technique, because if nothing else it forced him to rethink his approach to the instrument.
In 1939, a promotional film in English was made for Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France. The title of the video is “Jazz ‘Hot.’” It’s possible that the video was generated for a tour of Britain the Hot Club would do that year. The first half of the video is a little introduction to jazz; the second half of the video is a performance by the Hot Club. If you’d like to see Django’s fingers dance all over the guitar with a camera placement designed to showcase it in all its glory, here’s your chance. Stéphane Grappelli, of course, also appears on violin.
Absolutely astonishing footage.