The Music of Django Reinhardt

Benjamin Givan

An in-depth analysis of the music and life of a gypsy music legend


Description

When most people think of the great jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, they conjure up the unusual details of his colorful life: a childhood spent in gypsy encampments outside of Paris; the tragic caravan fire when he was eighteen that rendered his left hand nearly unusable; and his survival during World War II, when gypsies were massacred by the hundreds of thousands. The amazing story of Reinhardt’s life even became the basis for Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown.

Yet, it is the music of Django Reinhardt that made him one of the most original guitarists in history. In particular, his partnership with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, in the Quintette du Hot Club de France, brought him international renown and the attention of some of the most important American jazz musicians of the day, including Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Duke Ellington.

The Music of Django Reinhardt explores the story of the man and his music as never before. Benjamin Givan shows how one of jazz's greatest guitarists created his unparalleled sound. This book is an analytical study of his music, including his process, his improvisational style, and his instrumental technique.

The book features transcriptions from records of the 1920s through the 1950s and includes detailed discussion of selected performances from one of the most important guitarists in history.

"The Music of Django Reinhardt is an impressive contribution to the field of jazz studies. The book offers a penetrating view into the music of one of jazz's most intriguing early figures."
—Keith Waters, coauthor, Jazz: The First Hundred Years

"An important addition to the literature on jazz, Givan's book provides many insights into Reinhardt’s solo building and unorthodox guitar playing; it is richly illustrated with many excellent musical transcriptions."
—Thomas Owens, author of Bebop: The Music and Its Players

"Givan has painstakingly assembled an analytical interpretation of Reinhardt's music that is rigorous, compelling, and illuminating. This book makes a unique contribution to the field of jazz studies and guitar music in general."
—Brian Harker, author of Jazz: An American Journey

Cover art by Heidi M. Dailey based on image © William P. Gottlieb; www.jazzphotos.com

Benjamin Givan is Assistant Professor of Music at Skidmore College. His writings on jazz have appeared in scholarly publications such as Current Musicology and the Musical Quarterly, as well as the popular jazz magazine Down Beat. He received his Ph.D. in music theory from Yale University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Givan has painstakingly assembled an analytical interpretation of Reinhardt's music that is rigorous, compelling, and illuminating. This book makes a unique contribution to the field of jazz studies and guitar music in general."
    —Brian Harker, author of Jazz: An American Journey

  • "The Music of Django Reinhardt is an impressive contribution to the field of jazz studies. The book offers a penetrating view into the music of one of jazz's most intriguing early figures."
    —Keith Waters, co-author of Jazz: The First Hundred Years

  • "An important addition to the literature on jazz, Givan's book provides many insights into Reinhardt's solo building and unorthodox guitar playing; it is richly illustrated with many excellent musical transcriptions."
    —Thomas Owens, author of Bebop: The Music and Its Players

  • "The theoretical detail in this well-researched book will be difficilt of the less-experienced readers to understand. But those with substantial knowledge will find it engaging."
    —C Wadsworth Walker, Choice
     

  • "I was fascinated by the book and the descriptions of many of the sides were vivid enough that I could hear the music in my head..."
    Jazzbeat

  • "One of the most satisfying analytical overviews of a musician ever written….Ben Givan sets a high standard for all who follow."
    —Scott DeVeaux, University of Virginia, American Music

Supplemental Materials

Music Samples

"I'll See You In My Dreams"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "I'll See You In My Dreams," recorded on June 30, 1939. One of Reinhardt's most famous recordings, this three-minute version of Isham Jones's 1924 theme spotlights the guitarist throughout in an effortlessly inventive performance.

"Paramount Stomp"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Paramount Stomp," recorded on December 7, 1937. On a disc that also featured violinists Stéphane Grappelli and Michel Warlop, Reinhardt plays a solo notable for its long-range melodic descents.

"Festival Swing"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Festival Swing," recorded on December 26, 1940. Recorded the day after France celebrated its first Christmas under wartime Nazi occupation, "Fesitval Swing" is performed by an all-star big-band featuring the best French jazz musicians of the day, with spoken introductions by the critic Charles Delaunay.

"Django's Tiger"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Django's Tiger," recorded on January 31, 1946. An exuberant postwar improvisation based on the harmonies of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's "Tiger Rag".

"Embraceable You"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Embraceable You," recorded on January 31, 1946. A spirited uptempo rendition of George Gershwin's classic song.

"Coquette"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Coquette," recorded on January 31, 1946. A sparkling midtempo solo from the postwar record session that reunited Reinhardt with his former musical colleague Stéphane Grappelli for the first time since 1939.

"I Can't Give You Anything But Love"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," recorded on May 4, 1936. A leisurely version of the classic 1928 Jimmy McHugh song.

"Charleston"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Charleston," recorded on April 21, 1937. A rousing performance of James P. Johnson's most famous composition.

"Solitude"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Solitude," recorded on April 21, 1937. A stately rendering of a ballad by Duke Ellington.

"A Little Love, A Little Kiss"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "A Little Love, A Little Kiss," recorded on April 6, 1937. An unaccompanied presentation of the song's verse, likely inspired by Eddie Lang's 1927 solo recording of the same theme.

"The Sheik of Araby"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "The Sheik of Araby," recorded on April 27, 1937. A driving improvisation illustrating Reinhardt's technical facility in the guitar's lower register.

"Saint Louis Blues"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Saint Louis Blues," recorded on September 9, 1937. During the habanera section of this familiar 1914 composition, Reinhardt characteristically interpolates ornamental melodic passages between each phrase of W.C. Handy's theme.

"Honeysuckle Rose"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Honeysuckle Rose," recorded on January 31, 1938. A romping performance of Fats Waller's famous song, recorded during an interwar tour of Britain.

"Love's Melody"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Love's Melody," recorded on February 1, 1946. A graceful rhapsodic improvisation on an original theme.

"H.C.Q. Strut"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "H.C.Q. Strut," recorded on August 25, 1939. Recorded at the peak of Reinhardt's career, only days before the outbreak of World War II.

"Miss Columbia"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Miss Columbia," recorded in September or October 1928. One of Reinhardt's earliest recordings finds him playing the banjo-guitar in a musette ensemble only weeks before he was severely injured in a caravan fire.

"Solid Old Man"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Solid Old Man," recorded on April 5, 1939. Recorded with members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, this slow blues was the subject of one of the earliest published analyses of Reinhardt's playing, by the French composer and critic André Hodeir.

"Blues for Ike"

Django Reinhardt's guitar solo on "Blues for Ike," recorded on March 10, 1953. Only two months before his death at the age of forty-three, this medium-tempo blues finds Reinhardt playing the electric guitar in the company of several other leading French postwar jazz musicians.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Q&A with Benjamin Givan | PDF | 1/5/2010

Media Kit

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 256pp.
  • numerous musical scores.
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  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03408-6

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  • $33.50 U.S.

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Keywords

  • Django Reinhardt, jazz, guitar, improvisation, transcriptions, analysis, music, swing, gypsy jazz, hot club

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