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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 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 Stephane 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.


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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 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 Stephane 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.

30 review for Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

  1. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

    This was a very personal book for me. Django is my favorite guitar player of all time--and I know whereof I speak--my most significant relationship barring my current one was with a genius guitar player who is now a professional teacher of guitar who also jams with bands such as Wilco. So I have heard A LOT of guitar in my life and Django has always been my favorite. Add to that the fact that he was Romany and you have pretty much a human I can't resist. Besides the educated musicians in my life This was a very personal book for me. Django is my favorite guitar player of all time--and I know whereof I speak--my most significant relationship barring my current one was with a genius guitar player who is now a professional teacher of guitar who also jams with bands such as Wilco. So I have heard A LOT of guitar in my life and Django has always been my favorite. Add to that the fact that he was Romany and you have pretty much a human I can't resist. Besides the educated musicians in my life, I have never met anyone who was a huge fan the way that I am. I have many LPS and cds (as many as I could find) but in all my years of collecting I have never found any books on Django's life. There are now others, but this will probably be the definitive bio. Written by a writer for a guitar magazine, the book explores Django's life through music--you get all the personal details there are to get, but you also receive the musician's point of view, which I think is all important as Django himself spoke through music. As his music would indicate, Django was impulsive, warm, wild, and above all gifted. As well as guitarist he was also a painter (a true Fauve). He could barely write and could read even less, yet he managed to change the world of music, especially jazz in really important ways. He had the gift that only true musicians have, that of being able to hear something once and instantly re-create it--this gift was what allowed him to play with Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and his most frequent cohort in music, Stephane Grappelli and not even be able to read music. I learned so much about music and about Django himself through this book and it made me treasure both his music and his personal legacy even more than I already did. One of my favorite things that I learned from this book is that no matter his fame, no matter how much money he accrued, he never lost his Romany self--he frequently took off for the road with his wife and eventually his son in their caravan just to go fishing or to meet up with his many Romany cousins and live the Romany life--he was never totally comfortable in a house, as he loved to hear the rain on the roof of his caravan and to know he could just step outside his caravan and be in the wild. He never lost himself no matter the accolades and he left a legacy of music for his Romany brethren that has been picked up and carried on (including by his sons Babik and Lousson) so that "Gypsy Jazz" will never be lost.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    HA, conquered you, book. -- Okay, real review time. Real talk. So.... I found this kind of really problematic. As biographies go, I mean, it shouldn't have been bad. The bio part. I like biographies. But then it left a bad taste in my mouth, too, because it was kind of... well, I don't know how to put this nicely. Filled to the brim with stereotypes? Rather ethnically insensitive? Insensitive thing beneath the spoiler: (view spoiler)[Did we really have to go full out "LOL ROMANY PEOPLE STEAL THING HA, conquered you, book. -- Okay, real review time. Real talk. So.... I found this kind of really problematic. As biographies go, I mean, it shouldn't have been bad. The bio part. I like biographies. But then it left a bad taste in my mouth, too, because it was kind of... well, I don't know how to put this nicely. Filled to the brim with stereotypes? Rather ethnically insensitive? Insensitive thing beneath the spoiler: (view spoiler)[Did we really have to go full out "LOL ROMANY PEOPLE STEAL THINGS AND ARE PROUD OF IT" before page 50? I mean, come on. Judging by the fact that it took me two months to get around to writing this review, that kinda got to me. (hide spoiler)] And it sort of just ruined the tone of the entire book for me. I hesitated on writing a review on this at all, but I should at least be able to say why I gave it three stars. It felt researched, but since we got our hands dirty with stereotypes before we even really got into the book, it kind of made me feel like I should doubt everything from there on out. The author wrote another book, more general on Gypsy Jazz and I was going to read that, but it took a month to get through this one because it made me so uncomfortable, so I can't in good faith pick up another one that's probably going to do the same thing. Not for a long time, anyway. Anyway, so that's why the three stars. For the record, I don't like the over-romanticization of the lifestyle either. You're talking about people who were targets of genocide. That's not romantic in any sense of the word. And moving around a lot isn't the same as traveling a lot. One of those is because you want to. The other is because you don't have a choice. There's nothing romantic about it. You're talking about people, not a thing. Additionally for the record, I'm struggling with the three star rating, LOL. No typos, no grammatical errors, stuck to its subject point just fine, was informative (maybe? like I said I have a hard time trusting it because of the bias) and all of those things usually mean a good rating. But I cannot in good faith give it the rating that the writing would indicate it would receive. The rating might change later.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Highly recommended for people interested in Django's life and times. This was a highly researched book with lots of detail; the author really sweated the details. It provided a great background and milieu of 1940's WWII Paris, and details about many of the players Django worked with. So many musical references I would have liked to have a Reinhardt CD Anthology next to me to play along with the ever-evolving music. So satisfying I read it twice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lemar

    Dregni provides a context for the emergence of one the first non American to make a huge impact on jazz. He beautifully relates how when Django, then clad in characteristic gypsy neckerchief playing violin and guitar/banjo at french out door cafes, first heard Louis Armstrong. the young man was overcome with emotion, sat down and wept. The rest of his too short life was spent creating a genre of jazz often called gypsy jazz or Jazz Manouche ofter the tribe he belonged to. This is a fascinating a Dregni provides a context for the emergence of one the first non American to make a huge impact on jazz. He beautifully relates how when Django, then clad in characteristic gypsy neckerchief playing violin and guitar/banjo at french out door cafes, first heard Louis Armstrong. the young man was overcome with emotion, sat down and wept. The rest of his too short life was spent creating a genre of jazz often called gypsy jazz or Jazz Manouche ofter the tribe he belonged to. This is a fascinating and well researched biography presenting a balanced and loving portrait of a truly great man and an unsurpassed musician.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ray Campbell

    I came across Django back in college. I was largely earning my tuition playing music and switched to a music major for a time. Despite my humble state school having a modest music department, I was able to pick guitar as a major instrument. So, when I had to write a paper for the History of Jazz, I picked Django. At that time, the early 80s, there was enough material to write a paper, but no authoritative biography. Michael Dregni has filled that gap. This is a straight forward biography, no atte I came across Django back in college. I was largely earning my tuition playing music and switched to a music major for a time. Despite my humble state school having a modest music department, I was able to pick guitar as a major instrument. So, when I had to write a paper for the History of Jazz, I picked Django. At that time, the early 80s, there was enough material to write a paper, but no authoritative biography. Michael Dregni has filled that gap. This is a straight forward biography, no attempt to novelize or recreate dialogue. Dregni does a nice job of story telling and inserting quotes from various sources, but the tone is scholarly and straight forward. Having made note of that, the story is riveting. From his birth in 1910 until his death in 1953, Django survived the Great Depression, the Nazi occupation of France and played guitar in ways no one had ever imagined. Dregni's documentation is overwhelming as he describes performance after performance down to the songs played. Anyone who loves Jazz will find this fascinating. A reading who is not a fan would still find the story wonderful but will likely skim the set lists and band line-ups. The first thing I learned about Django back when I was in college was that he played with a terribly scared hand and two paralyzed fingers on his left hand - the hand he frets with. This should have made it impossible to play and yet Django may be one of the finest players to have ever blessed us with a song. It is hard not to marvel at this, but it is ultimately irrelevant. Django's music us so beautiful, fresh, imaginative and revolutionary, that it stands as an artistic achievement rivaled by few. For all it matters, Django could have had extra fingers, his legacy comes from something far deeper than his hands. As Dregni tells Django's story, he stopped making reference to his hand after simply telling the tale of the injury. The focus of this book is on the man, his music and the gift he has left for us. Well done!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Django and Hendrix are the most revered guitarists in history and this book is very helpful in giving insight into Django’s life from the world of the Caravan through Vichy France to Samois-sur-Seine. Some cool reasons to read/buy this book? It explains musette reeds on French accordions, that D’s repertoire was hundreds of tunes – he was a human jukebox. Stephane played 6 hours a day for two years. Venuti rarely improvised. Stephane improvised on the melody while Django preferred to improvise o Django and Hendrix are the most revered guitarists in history and this book is very helpful in giving insight into Django’s life from the world of the Caravan through Vichy France to Samois-sur-Seine. Some cool reasons to read/buy this book? It explains musette reeds on French accordions, that D’s repertoire was hundreds of tunes – he was a human jukebox. Stephane played 6 hours a day for two years. Venuti rarely improvised. Stephane improvised on the melody while Django preferred to improvise on the chords often finding the most “daring” note for each chord. Michael refers to Django’s glissandos as “32nd note chromatic runs”. Jazz was opposed in Germany because it made people dance. Michael tells the interesting story of why Hitler sought to exterminate the Roma. However on page 222, Michael also says that Django preferred light gut strings. This is simply not true -Django Reinhardt used very light silk-and-steel strings ( .010 to .046) on his guitar, generally from Argentina. In the end the best way to study Django is first hand through harmonic, dynamic and rhythmic analysis of his work but it was also useful to read this book for a historical grounding and better understanding of Django’s “periods”. In the end this book gets four stars; it’s well written and it can help us Django fans feel closer to the man but it's not the last word because it has so little about his actual music. If you can play five Django solos note for note with dynamics you probably already know more about Django than someone who only read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alistair

    This is a well researched and fascinating biography Of Django Reinhardt the brilliant Gypsey guitarist . That a man could play such fluid melodical and original guitar is remarkable but unfathomable when you know that he lost two fingers in a fire before he became an international star . The Paris night club settings , the meetings with other American jazz greats , his travels , romantic life style of living in the moment and having a dismissive attitude to authority are brilliantly captured . H This is a well researched and fascinating biography Of Django Reinhardt the brilliant Gypsey guitarist . That a man could play such fluid melodical and original guitar is remarkable but unfathomable when you know that he lost two fingers in a fire before he became an international star . The Paris night club settings , the meetings with other American jazz greats , his travels , romantic life style of living in the moment and having a dismissive attitude to authority are brilliantly captured . He would spend his last penny on a flash car and damn the consequences . This does not take away from the writer's knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the jazz of the era and the promoters and other record company owners . If I have one slight reservation it is that Django is given a bit of a light ride over the bad things about his character which one can only guess at from the story . He seems a bit too good to be true and his life too romanticised .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Django Reinhardt was one of the first musicians to turn the guitar from a rhythm to a lead instrument and to make jazz for strings. Due to his Gypsy background, which has an oral tradition (rather than written documentation), his life has always been shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Michael Dregni has done the finest job yet in penetrating Gypsy culture to present the man and musician in the kind of detail and context that no one else has managed. He also has a firm grasp on the period m Django Reinhardt was one of the first musicians to turn the guitar from a rhythm to a lead instrument and to make jazz for strings. Due to his Gypsy background, which has an oral tradition (rather than written documentation), his life has always been shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Michael Dregni has done the finest job yet in penetrating Gypsy culture to present the man and musician in the kind of detail and context that no one else has managed. He also has a firm grasp on the period musical styles and milieu, in which Reinhardt was formed and of the characters by whom he was surrounded and influenced, all of which he presents in a clear, authoritative style. His grasp of the music is equally precise and he can describe it with the kind of shrewd analysis and poetic feel which brings it alive for the reader. This book is simply the best document we have on Reinhardt and his music yet. - BH.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    Django, and this biography, bring guitar, jazz, and gypsy music to life. Where, now, is a Django Reinhart box set of recordings? Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Harrison Saich

    I disagree with a lot of the reviews about this book: I believe there is quite a lot of respectful sociological analysis, and there aren't too many assumptions thrown into the mix -- if anything, this book contains too much linear information. Obviously, it is very music-heavy; if you don't like manouche you'll give it a 3, if you do it's 4 all the way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    As a long-time guitar aficionado and second year French student, I really enjoyed this book. Dregni was able to get long-forgotten resources together and present the full story of a mysterious and complicated legend. The fear and suffering that WWII Parisians endured is palpitable.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Historic accounting. Went here, went there. Played with so and so, played with them. Played here, played there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve Henley

    Although it is an entertaining read, I am having a little trouble trusting any of the author's research when he repeatedly states that Billy Arnold's Novelty Jazz Band were African-American.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mcbrearty

    In popular culture, Django is a romantic and perhaps distant musical genius, and reading this well-researched book more or less confirms and colours in that impression. At the same time, and to Mr Dregni's credit, it steers clear of cliché, and gives us as solid a picture of who Django really was as we have any right to ask for. While improvised black American music has been the most pervasive force in the musical culture of the twentieth century, Django has the rare distinction of of being proba In popular culture, Django is a romantic and perhaps distant musical genius, and reading this well-researched book more or less confirms and colours in that impression. At the same time, and to Mr Dregni's credit, it steers clear of cliché, and gives us as solid a picture of who Django really was as we have any right to ask for. While improvised black American music has been the most pervasive force in the musical culture of the twentieth century, Django has the rare distinction of of being probably the only European jazz musician whose contributions measure up alongside heroes such as Messrs Armstrong and Ellington. While his brand of swing is quite distinct in feel from that of American jazz, his genius as improviser, stylist, interpreter, virtuoso (in spite of famously losing the use of two fingers on his left hand in a caravan fire) and composer was clearly well-respected by his legendary contemporaries. Almost as legendary were his eccentricity and unreliability, of which there are countless tales. This made it very hard for his colleagues, who did much for him, from taking care of paperwork (he was largely illiterate) to carrying his guitar to gigs. Although his difficult, primadonna character became a part of his public persona, one must wish, having read this book, that he had been a bit easier - if only because that would have left us more recordings of him, especially with the great African-Americans of his era, many of whom held him in the highest regard (unlike some of the less perceptive critics of the day). This book manages to be simultaneously honest about Django's failings, and sympathetic to the humanity that caused them. At times I felt annoyed and even angry at his cavalier treatment of those around him, but I then came to realise that this was caused by the same thing that helped make him such a marvellous artist. Django, although happy to fully enjoy the fruits of success when they were there, was primarily driven by his own musical quest : to be the very best jazzman that he could be. When inspiration (rarely) dried up, he lost interest and took to travel and fishing, until the next musical challenge spurred him back to action. Although he had almost none of what we would today call "life management skills" (and considering his dreadfully poor and disadvantaged origins, why would he), he was a consummate survivor. For him, as for contemporaries such as Goodman, music was a path out of a miserable existence, and, most likely, it saved his life, as a gypsy in Nazi-occupied Paris. But, it was really the pursuit of high-level musical excellence that provided the drive that he needed - often to the exclusion of all other considerations. With all this, he was clearly neither cold nor bore ill-intentions to those close to him; it seems more that he lived entirely in the moment, spending money lavishly when it was there and surviving when it was not. He took that same spontaneity into recording sessions into concerts and recording sessions, and I am left feeling that that attitude contributes to the enduring magic of his sound. Endure it does; today he can be fairly credited with being king of his own genre, "gypsy jazz", and having inspired innumerable devotees and copyists. In the last years the style has spread worldwide, and his many beautiful compositions are played in theatres and bars, round campfires and in living rooms, worldwide. Each June, musicians from all over the world meet at his last resting place in Samois-sur-Seine, and new festivals continue to spring up worldwide. Not least, he has become a huge source of pride to European Romany people. Django's last days in Samois, his death, and the legacy he leaves, are tastefully but thoroughly covered, and I was happy to read that he ended his life content and happy. The birth of his son, on whom he doted, seems in particular to have taken the rough edges from his character, and his final years were passed simply, playing guitar mostly for pleasure. I certainly do disagree very strongly with one of this book's reviewers, who characterised Django as a "failed human being". Like many musical biographies, this book will make a lot more sense if you have at least some of the subject's music to hand while reading. I read the last pages to his, timelessly beautiful, last recordings, and was left with a sense of wonder that this man was able to rise from the most difficult beginnings, and, using his guitar, create a remarkable life for himself and inspire so many others to follow him. Thank you, Django, and thank you Micahel Dregni for doing such a good job of chronicling his marvellous life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hans Ostrom

    A fine biography. DR was one of the most influential jazz guitarists, and he did it with a badly and permanently injured left (chording) hand. Add his Rom ( "gypsy") background and mercurial personality, and what a heck of a story, well told here. I did want a little more on the music itself and what his technique was, exactly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    D. Jason

    Good, thorough bio of Django that suffers two problems, one unavoidable. Even with a ton of original research, Dregni cannot avoid substituting speculation for facts, for the simple reason that Django was illiterate most of his life, and his family were gypsies, and not prone to keeping records or talking to outsiders. So there is, especially covering the early years, a surplassage of "He must have felt this" and "He likely did that". Irritating. But, again, completely unavoidable. The other probl Good, thorough bio of Django that suffers two problems, one unavoidable. Even with a ton of original research, Dregni cannot avoid substituting speculation for facts, for the simple reason that Django was illiterate most of his life, and his family were gypsies, and not prone to keeping records or talking to outsiders. So there is, especially covering the early years, a surplassage of "He must have felt this" and "He likely did that". Irritating. But, again, completely unavoidable. The other problem I had, however, was irritating and fixable. Dregni keeps mucking with the timeline, in confusing ways, and sometimes for no apparent reason. In a chapter covering 1936-1937, he'll pause and give you a minor player's backstory from birth, then bounce back to the "present" of the chapter, then off-handedly jump forward to say Django would do such-and-such three years later, then bounce back again. A certain amount of this is unavoidable, I suppose, but he does it so often that I got the impression of, for instance, more tours of Britain than Django actually made, because one tour, and recording sessions made on it, got referenced before, during, and after the chapter that ostensibly dealt with it, and left a distinct impression of at least two tours, if not three. Those irritations aside, the biography is invaluable for anyone wanting to know Reinhardt's story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

    I didn't read this book to the end but as far as I'm concerned I'm finished with it. Unfortunately the author was writing in an awful stereotypical way that I was actually convinced the book was written some time in the 1950s! He used the terms "gypsy" and "Romany" so interchangeably that if the reader didn't know better would be convinced that gypsy is an accurate label. He also wrote as though the life of the Romany is one of high romance and the desperate need for survival is a riotous time a I didn't read this book to the end but as far as I'm concerned I'm finished with it. Unfortunately the author was writing in an awful stereotypical way that I was actually convinced the book was written some time in the 1950s! He used the terms "gypsy" and "Romany" so interchangeably that if the reader didn't know better would be convinced that gypsy is an accurate label. He also wrote as though the life of the Romany is one of high romance and the desperate need for survival is a riotous time and adventure. There was one mention of the harsh discrimination they live under, however, it was so fleeting as to be unnoticed. I'm sure the rest of this book is just a yarn from a fanciful imagination regardless of the attempt to do well by Django Reinhart.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Django Reinhardt is a compelling figure. How could a gypsy who with a maimed left hand became one of the most important guitarists ever not be? But because many of his early biographical details are murky at best -- the author admittedly takes best guesses and expounds on them -- and Django himself was a quiet sort, even after reading this book he remains a mute character. (The author's somewhat intellectually lazy caricature of him as "child-like" doesn't help.) This is, however, a good accompa Django Reinhardt is a compelling figure. How could a gypsy who with a maimed left hand became one of the most important guitarists ever not be? But because many of his early biographical details are murky at best -- the author admittedly takes best guesses and expounds on them -- and Django himself was a quiet sort, even after reading this book he remains a mute character. (The author's somewhat intellectually lazy caricature of him as "child-like" doesn't help.) This is, however, a good accompaniment to listening to the recordings of Django himself. Ultimately, it's through those recordings that Django comes fully alive and "talks."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    For some reason, I wanted to read about the life of the composer who's song I was using for a new choreographed belly dance piece. Django Reinhardt was an amazing man and an amazing musician. The writer did get hungup a bit on musical descriptions and details but one could really feel the flavor of Paris in the 20s and 30s, the newness of Jazz, and the influx of Black American musicians. As a gypsy (one of the first groups Hitler wanted to purge out of Europe), Django's life in Occupied France wa For some reason, I wanted to read about the life of the composer who's song I was using for a new choreographed belly dance piece. Django Reinhardt was an amazing man and an amazing musician. The writer did get hungup a bit on musical descriptions and details but one could really feel the flavor of Paris in the 20s and 30s, the newness of Jazz, and the influx of Black American musicians. As a gypsy (one of the first groups Hitler wanted to purge out of Europe), Django's life in Occupied France was fascinating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Django, The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni (Oxford University Press 1994) (780.92) is an impeccably researched book into the life of self-taught guitarist Django Reinhardt, who is widely acclaimed as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. Born in 1919 in a gypsy caravan in Belgium, he was there in Paris at the beginning of jazz and played with many of the greats including Louis Armstrong. Best known for his collaboration and partnership with jazz violinist Stephane Grap Django, The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni (Oxford University Press 1994) (780.92) is an impeccably researched book into the life of self-taught guitarist Django Reinhardt, who is widely acclaimed as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. Born in 1919 in a gypsy caravan in Belgium, he was there in Paris at the beginning of jazz and played with many of the greats including Louis Armstrong. Best known for his collaboration and partnership with jazz violinist Stephane Grapelli, this is a fascinating read. My rating: 6/10, finished 1/18/11.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gary Lang

    Starting with his life playing banjo in the Gypsy camps, and ending with him playing bebop electric guitar in Samois-Sur-Seine, and in between taking us through pre-war France, the founding of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, the war years when he was suspected of being a collaborator, this book covers a ton of background material that, as a life-long fan of Django Reinhardt, I should have known all along. 5 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Very engaging, vivid portrayal of Django's career. Every guitar player and jazz/popular music fan needs to know about the person widely considered the best guitarist to have walked the earth, to date. String jazz, guitar as a lead instrument, and music as we hear and appreciate it would not have developed the way it all has without Django.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert Howard

    Terrific Biography I love biographies that help challenge established mythologies about a person. In this case, the myth of Django's so called disastrous American tour. Turns out that was just hyperbole, with a little homesickness from Django. I also loved all the detail about the other figures in Parisian jazz.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara B Eddins

    Fascinating and comprehensive history of jazz from Gypsy Romany roots up to be-bop. Django Rienhardt, the guitar virtuoso and composer genius enthusiastically led in every timely change in music. The writing style is creatively descriptive of Django's talent and tells a complete story of his life and culture. Not a quick read, this book goes deep into many topics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bradbury

    An amazing job by Dregni on sorting out fact from legend about the uniquely gifted guitarist. If you read this, the the CD compilation Gypsy Jazz so you can hear what's been written about -- it features not only Django and the Hot Quintette but their contemporaries, too.

  26. 4 out of 5

    derrick white

    Interesting read in parts... At least a quarter of the book was devoted to subject matter that only a serious fan could appreciate. All in all, it opened my mind to a type of music I hadn't seriously considered before...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Juan Ramirez

    Dregni does a phenomenal job with descriptive detail on events of Django. The sources must be detailed. I have to admit as fun as it was to read, prepare to be reading a while. After the read, however, you may want to purchase some or all of Django's music.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Ah plane rides, love them. This was quite good, but I would have liked more detail about recording sessions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    I learned a lot about Django's life but didn't love the writing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    Dregni did a lot of great research for this bk but his prose is bland. Good try. The definitive bio of this giant is yet to be written.

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