For Europhiles who wish they were smoking Gauloises on a balcony somewhere, the plunk-plunk of DJANGO REINHARDT’s (1910-53) simple but completely original jazz stylings evoke a more romantic time. However, Reinhardt’s cultural appeal is more complex than that. Despite a handicap that might have stymied lesser men (he lost the use of three of his fingers on his fret hand in a caravan fire), Reinhardt was a master guitarist — and one of the fathers, not just of modern guitar jazz, but jazz as we know it. Additionally, during one of the most dangerous periods in history for a Belgian gypsy, he composed songs that exuded a plucky, live-for-today sweetness. I challenge you to listen to a song like “Finesse” without breathing a sigh of appreciation for the short time we have here on Earth. If only we we all could face impending doom with Django’s sprezzatura.
— Text and illustration by Joe Alterio. To view a gallery of Alterio’s HiLobrow illustrations, click here.
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