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What is it About Django?

rsclossonrsclosson New
in Technique Posts: 6

I posted something similar to this on another guitar site. I wanted to get some input from the GJ experts so here I go: As brilliant as Django Reinhardt's technique was, there are modern players who outplay him in speed, etc. Of course, he was no slouch for speed and technique.

I am totally dazzled when I listen to Joscho Stephan, Jimmy Rosenberg or Frank Vignola for example. All of them and others are brilliant! However, after listening to all that great playing, when I go back to Django, its like I just re-acquainted with an old friend. He is just so satisfying to listen to. (Of course, this is a subjective opinion and I could be totally off base.)

So what is that intangible that makes him head and shoulders above the brilliant players who lovingly play tributes to him every day.



  • WillieWillie HamburgNew Old french mystery
    edited April 14 Posts: 348

    When he played fast, he did not play fast just to play fast.

    rsclossonTeddy DupontBucorudolfochristrad
  • Posts: 171

    It's not a competition. Speed doesn't matter.

    What makes him special is his sense of swing and timing. Along with the notes he chose.

    It's really hard to replicate his sense of time. Copying his notes and speed is the "easy" part.

    Louis Armstrong I think is a similar case. Players after him could play higher and faster. But no one has relocated his sense of time.

    WillieTeddy DupontBucoBill Da Costa WilliamsMichaelHorowitzrudolfochristChrisMartin
  • Posts: 3,526

    I feel the same. Short answer Django was a musical genius. These guys are incredible musicians, just brilliant like you said but Django was a gift to music that happens very rare.

    One thing I notice from a technical stand point is he changed directions in his solos so often. He rarely played copy/paste when it comes to say 3/6/2/5 passages or similar. Stuff where you can use the same phrasing in different position. He'd usually give it another lift. Other players are very good at covering the neck. Django does that that too but what he brings additionally is this constant hop and skip dynamic. And he had a flawless sense of harmony, listening to him transports you to the musical dreamland. He really embodied everything that's beautiful about music.

    WilliersclossonTeddy DupontBonesvanmalmsteenBill Da Costa WilliamsJSantabillyshakesrudolfochristChrisMartin
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • WillieWillie HamburgNew Old french mystery
    Posts: 348

    And times have changed since then: the gipsy jazz events nowadays are for listening, not for dancing. In a dancing situation, you improvise to extend the song/dance in the first place. In a concert situation, you improvise to impress the audience (and the collegues) in the first place.

  • He's innately musical. I agree with some of the other folks that the technical portion of the playing in this style is impressive. The average listener is also impressed by dazzling technical ability as well, but it can fatigue the ear. Melody always rules the day, in my opinion.

    WilliersclossonTeddy DupontBucoBonesLango-Django
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,136

    Timelessness for one thing. Ground breaking. Genius. Creativeness. He could play essentially the same phrase with just a little change in timing and it sounds totally different. Etc....

    rsclossonTeddy DupontWillieBuco
  • juandererjuanderer New ALD Original, Manouche Latcho Drom Djangology Koa, Caro y Topete AR 740 O
    Posts: 151
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 249

    He played with a sense of memory of what he had been playing up to then in the song, and referred back, varying harmony, rhythm, etc. Many brilliant technical players seem to play with no acknowledgement of what they played two seconds earlier.

  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,221

    Django had imagination and good taste in his playing, he could make simple things sound great by selecting just the right notes and phrasing. I agree that Louis Armstrong had a similar skill, and probably influenced Django in that way.

    Often times you transcribe some Django phrase that sounded fresh, and then you're surprised how simple it really was. Might be just a fragment of an arpeggio with one color note thrown in, but the magic comes from little details that are easy to overlook - beginning the phrase mid bar, lingering on one note a little longer than you expected, a dash of vibrato on the color tone - these kind of details are possible for most players to prepare in a composition, but Django seemed to have the ability to improvise such minutiae on the spot.

    I think this is the thing missing in the other players you've mentioned. Perhaps, lacking the resourcefulness of Django, we compensate by playing too many notes - and it can be fun to play that way, even if the music ends up sounding too busy to be beautiful.

    I try (and too often fail) to focus on having this "tact" in my own practice, because that's also a learned skill, I think. But it's not simply an attitude of "less is more", either: if you're exercising restraint and playing simple things, but you haven't added the necessary seasoning, then it just sounds boring.

    So that's why I think Django still outshines every modern player, he's got this wealth of ideas on his palette and is able to combine all the musical elements in a way that really catches your ear. When you compare that to a guitarist who brings only impeccable technique it really reveals the poverty in their playing.

    vanmalmsteenBucoWilliersclossondjangologyBill Da Costa WilliamsMichaelHorowitzbillyshakesBonesrudolfochrist
  • Posts: 3,526

    A little bit off topic but I think the problem with guitar and guitar players (acoustic, not electric) is the lack of sustain. Compared to wind instruments, violins or other bowed instruments...a guitar has very little sustain. And when guitar players play live and improvise, it's the silence that scares us. Other instruments can vary the sustain of a single note to a much larger degree so they can play less notes but not have a long period if silence. When it comes to Django, that also tells you about the conviction he had musically.

    WillieBill Da Costa WilliamslittlemarklostjohnBonesrsclosson
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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