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Album Review

That Django Reinhardt was an original and a virtuoso was impressive enough. But what is astounding about his playing is that it was accomplished by someone who only had the use of two fingers on his left hand; he had been severely burned as a young man and lost the use of his ring and pinkie fingers. 45 years after his death there are still French guitarists who, in an attempt to get the same sound that Django had, will only use two fingers when they play. Nuages is a collection of recordings from the late '30s featuring Reinhardt's Quintet du Hot Club de France at its peak. The standards are all here: "Minor Swing" (in a statelier, more deliberate version than one normally hears, but one which still swings solidly), "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Swing Guitars." But there are also some unusual treats: a couple of novelty tunes featuring singer Freddy Taylor, a lovely version of "Farewell Blues" on which Django is accompanied by the Benny Carter orchestra, and two tracks with the legendary tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Essential.


Born: January 23, 1910 in Liberchies, Belgium

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Django Reinhardt was the first hugely influential jazz figure to emerge from Europe -- and he remains the most influential European to this day, with possible competition from Joe Zawinul, George Shearing, John McLaughlin, his old cohort Stephane Grappelli and a bare handful of others. A free-spirited gypsy, Reinhardt wasn't the most reliable person in the world, frequently wandering off into the countryside on a whim. Yet Reinhardt came up with a unique way of propelling the humble acoustic guitar...
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