Jazz guitar and Django Reinhardt.

The perfect sunshine conversed with a chatty breeze this morning- a morning so golden, an air so sonorous, not even new books could keep us inside. Eventually, the books came up in conversation, and Max wanted to read, so we each took our place in the puddles of sunlight and read Django: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist by Bonnie Christensen.

Jean Reinhardt’s early life was filled with travel in caravans. As a Roma, an ethnic group who originally migrated from northern India about two thousand years ago, family, music, and traditions enriched his days and extended his nights. Though known as travelers, much of the Roma’s traveling was not by choice. They were persecuted and driven from town to town. It is estimated that the Germans killed nearly one and a half million Roma in concentration camps during World War II.

The passionate gyspy dances inspired Django.

“Django”, his gypsy nickname, means “I awake” in Romany. His first instrument, the violin, is characteristic of gypsy music. When he was 12 years old, Django recieved a banjo-guitar which had the body of a banjo but the neck and fretboard of a six-string guitar.

Django struggled to learn how to play the guitar again after his hands were horribly burned when his wagon burned to the ground.

Django’s music was recorded on 78 rpm phonograph records, which could be played on both sides. You can hear the phonograph in some of the recordings.

So what is jazz guitar? And how does this music which flew from Django’s nimble fingers really sound? There’s only one way to find out.

BOUNCING AROUND by Django Reinhardt

First, we sat still, closed our eyes, and listened (and the birds chimed in).

Then, we acted out the song by moving our bodies in the way that the music made us feel.

Then, we acted out the song in the way we thought Django himself might have imagined the “bouncing around”.

Max chasing shadows.

The next tune lent itself well to a different medium.

CHASING SHADOWS by Django Reinhardt

The kids decided to color and paint “chasing shadows” while they listened to the song. This song differs from the previous one because it was recorded after Django began playing with violinist Stephane Grappelli and the Quintette de Hot Club du France. You can hear more sets of strings and even a little percussion towards the end.

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