D.C. festival honors Django, gypsy jazz

The festival will feature local musicians influenced by Reinhardt, who is credited with inventing gypsy jazz. (Facebook Photo)
Who was Django Reinhardt?

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 8:32 am

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – More than 100 years after his birth in Belgium, a week-long Washington area jazz festival will pay tribute to guitarist Django Reinhardt.

DC Djangofolies 2012 will feature local musicians influenced by Reinhardt, who is credited with inventing gypsy jazz.

Reinhardt’s nimble acoustic guitar style was developed, in part, out of tragedy. His left hand was burned and partially paralyzed in a 1928 fire when he was 18.

“Django was unable to use his last two fingers on his left hand, which meant he was unable to do anything on the neck of the guitar,” says musician and festival organizer Stephan Caucheteux.

At the time, most guitarists played vertically on the neck.

“Django, with two fingers, was playing horizontally, because he could reach more,” says Caucheteux. “He was reaching up and down the neck very fast, all the time.”

But Reinhardt’s physical limitations only empowered him.

“He took advantage of this,” Caucheteux says. “He created new voicings, a new way of playing.”

With Stephane Grappelli playing violin, Reinhardt formed Hot Club of France, which lead the European jazz scene.

Despite his influence, Reinhardt’s popularity waned and he retired as audiences began to clamor for swing music.

“He had stopped playing, and he was painting,” says Caucheteux. “Just a few months before he died, he had started to record again, a little bit.”

Reinhardt died at 42, but had been honored in festivals throughout the world.

DC Djangofolies 2012 runs June 24 through July 1. See a complete list of performers and venues here.

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