"Embraceable You" (Gershwin)
"Flambee Montalbanaise" (Viseur)
Untitled for Ettore Stratta (D. Schmitt)
"Sweet Georgia Brown" (Bernie, Casey, Pinkard)
"Bossa Dorado" (S. Schmitt)
"Caravan" (Tizol, et. al.)
"Minor Swing" (Reinhardt)
Django Reinhardt was born in 1910 to a family of French Gypsies. He taught himself guitar before he could read or write, but then he nearly lost his life (and badly hurt his hand) as a young man by accidentally lighting a fire with a candle. Reinhardt tirelessly rehabilitated his injured hand and taught himself to fret the guitar with two fingers. His clear, emphatic guitar — inspired in part by Armstrong and Ellington — swept the continent in the 1930s.
Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli had to disband their Quintet of the Hot Club of France during WWII. Reinhardt miraculously escaped extermination, the fate of many European Gypsies, but he died in 1953 near Fontainebleu. Django festivals live on in Europe today, and here in the U.S., the team of Ettore Stratta and Pat Phillips has been importing this popular Django Festival every season.
Lead guitarist Dorado Schmitt is a second-generation musician; his father composed traditional music, played and sang. Dorado's son is rhythm guitarist Samson Schmitt. Romanian violinist Florin Niculescu lives near Paris and plays in a family band with his daughter. Florin and Dorado both play violin on the irresistible "Sweet Georgia Brown."
Accordionist Ludavic Beier lives in Vincent van Gogh's town, Auvers sur oise, where he works in a modern jazz band, but he loves the Hot Club style. Beier says that American bands of the 1930s put the swing in the drums and the brass.
"Django provided an answer using strings," Beier says, adding that Reinhardt provided the "first answer to American jazz in design."
Emcee Brian Torff is the Connecticut bassist who toured with Grappelli in the 1970s. While many Django Reinhardt bands operate in America, Torff explains that these French musicians perform at a higher level: "It's their culture, their heritage, their artistry."
Originally recorded Nov. 16, 2007.
Django Reinhardt Festival producers are Pat Phillips and Ettore Stratta. Thanks to Kennedy Center Jazz Club's Jean Thill. Mix by Duke Markos with Greg Hartman of Big Mo Recording, with assistant Mark Barrie. Producer Becca Pulliam. Executive producer Thurston Briscoe III, WBGO.