January 23, 2010 marks the centennial of the birth of Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt grew up in gypsy camps outside Paris and began playing violin, banjo, and guitar at a young age. A fire destroyed his caravan when he was 18 and he was badly burned. The third and forth fingers of his left hand were partially paralyzed but he amazingly relearned how to play and by the early 1930s he was recording with his Hot Club of France Quintet. All of those solos were played with only two fingers! He came to America as a soloist with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra and recorded and played with many jazz greats such as Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, and Louis Armstrong. Django Reinhardt died on May 16, 1953 but his music and playing continues to inspire to this day.
On Saturday January 23rd at 2PM the Ottendorfer Branch
will be screening the 1999 Woody Allen
film Sweet and Lowdown
. The film stars Sean Penn
in his Academy Award nominated role as the arrogant jazz guitarist Emmet Ray, who considered himself the second greatest jazz guitarist in the world, after Django Reinhardt. The fact that Reinhardt only used two fingers was never addressed in the film but it surely would not have sat well with Emmet Ray.