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Django's U.S. Tour 1946 Info wanted...

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  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    I agree. Travel between gigs in the U.S. without the status he enjoyed in Europe was probably something for which he was totally unprepared. It's likely the reason for his quote. I would say that many times we build up a vision of what a place is going to be like in our heads, and when we get there find it's not up to our expectations sometimes. If you came to K.C. or most American cities that he visited expecting the exciting Jazz venues talked about only to find that they were gone and maybe nothing like what you expected, it would be deflating to say the least.

    I watched the Les Paul 'Chasing Sounds' DVD the other day, and he talked about meeting Django, who he called the 'greatest guitar player' he ever knew'. So, I'm not sure that the reviewer of the Carnegie hall concert was all that correct. He maybe was a bit disappointed with the 'wait' or the way Django was incorporated into the show.

    I still believe the tour to be something worthwhile to know about, since it's reflective of a part of his life, and like others have said - his transition period.

    Keep the info coming if you have anything to share.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    JazzDawg wrote:
    I

    I still believe the tour to be something worthwhile to know about, since it's reflective of a part of his life, and like others have said - his transition period.

    I think Django's visit to America was very significant to him and the way his music developed in that (a) it destroyed the totally unrealistic aspirations he had always nurtured and, as a consequence, he was emotionally never quite the same person again (b) he became even more aware of how jazz was developing and his move away from the pre-war string quintet style of playing accelerated. He loved Be-bop and after he heard it first hand in America, that is what he wanted to play, not gypsy jazz as we currently call it. He was never a hard bop musician but his post America playing was heavily influenced by that style. In fact, I feel his playing on those Ellington recordings is surprisingly modern and significantly different from anything he had done previously.

    Although Django was appreciated by many guitar enthusiasts in USA, the majority of jazz fans there considered him more an interesting curio and certainly not a convincing jazz performer, partly because Americans at that time believed that only Americans could really play jazz and many thought only black Americans. The influential US based jazz critics were either lukewarm towards Django or positively antagonistic. Leonard Feather when reviewing the Carnegie Hall concert said rather patronisingly that " .....Django was a pleasant surprise because I had expected so little, but to others he was a big disappointment because they had expected too much." He then went onto compare Django unfavourably with "....Oscar Moore, Barney Kessel, Chuck Wayne, Mary Osborne, Johnny Collins and other top people in jazz on this instrument". So even though the majority of the people who attended these concerts seem to love Django's playing despite his fecklessness and appalling time-keeping, the critics killed it for him.

    The overall visit was poorly organised and destined to failure probably because Django arranged it without involving Charles Delaunay, an omission that permanently damaged their relationship. The subsequent lack of Delaunay as a mentor/manager possibly contributed to Django's fall from popularity but I do not think the American trip per se was responsible. It was simply that Django went out of fashion.

    I would very much like to know more about Django's trip to America because the information we have is so sketchy and conflicting. There is no doubt that he was never the same man or the same musician after the visit but that is not to say he did not continue to be a great guitarist and produce some brilliant playing. It is just that is was different and did not fit what people wanted or what they expected of him at that time. To suggest that Django lost his flair and creativity after the visit as many critics do is utter nonsense.

    By the way, here is the quote you mention from Les Paul:-
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    JazzDawg wrote:
    Thanks for that info Teddy. As I watched that documentary again, I could see that it was probably just editing, and using clips with most probably one of the tunes recorded during that Chicago concert.
    Here is the clip exactly as it appeared in a May, 1946 French newsreel:-

  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    Teddy,

    I think you've said it very nicely. I agree completely, and thank you for your input.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 658
    Teddy sums it up pretty well. Dregni devotes nearly 20 well-researched pages to the tour and that's a whole lot more than anyone else ever did. But Teddy's musical analysis is his own and I think he's right on the money. After the war Django was behind the curve and never really caught back up. Not that he didn't create some of his best work after the war. He simply wasn't out in front any more.

    To better understand N American thinking about European jazz musicians, and in particular the thinking about Django, try reading a good comprehensive history of jazz. One of the best is James Collier's "The Making of Jazz". Django's appeal in the USA, then as now, was primarily to guitarists, who even then seemed to be more eclectic than most other musicians. Guitarists would play anything that appealed to them. DR did not have as much appeal to the jazz critics here, as Teddy noted. This appeal to guitarists (as opposed to jazz musicians) never changed - even today, very few of the many people devoted to playing Django-related music came from a true jazz background. Most would simply describe themselves as guitarists, I think. And many of them play many different styles of music, too - just like the guitarists in the past. Likewise, there is not much interest in this kind of music except from guitarists.
  • JazzDawgJazzDawg New
    Posts: 264
    Finally, found an article that appeared in Time magazine in Nov. 1946 about Django's visit. Here are a couple of quotes from that article (the author is not listed):
    Most guitars are strummed, but Django developed a one-finger picking style because his left hand was badly burned in a fire and became useless for chords.
    Ellington first heard Django in 1939 in La Roulotte, Django's cabaret in Paris' Rue Pigalle. Last month the Duke paid Django's airplane passage to the U.S. for a six-month visit (Django's 250-lb. gypsy wife stayed behind).

    Another quote attributed to Duke Ellington from the article:
    "Django is all artist. Jazz isn't exactly the word for it. Jazz was that raggedy music they used to play about 1920. Nowadays, jazz must be classified according to who's playing it. I call Reinhardt's playing Django music. He's one of those musicians who is unable to play a note that's not pretty or not in good taste. Sure he's a great virtuoso."

    More as I find it...
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    edited December 2009 Posts: 768
    Hello!

    Here are a few infos on Django Reinhardt tour with Ellington:

    "Aquarium gets Duke for 5G; Spot is "in" - New York Aug 24 - Ellington is penciled in for the Aquarium for 4 weeks beginning October 10 at $ 5.000 per week. Owner Ben Harriman snaring of the Duke seems to put the clincher on the question of whether the streetfront spot is the type which should be played by top name bands. When Joe Glaser and Harriman originally started to put name bands into the location, many bookers, leaders and other location owners thought Glaser was nuts."

    (Aquarium Restaurant was situated in Manhattan on 701 7th Avenue New York)

    "Django on Duke's concerts -New York - Oct 19 - Django Reinhardt, French Jazz guitarist who is being brought over to the United States by the William Morris Agency, has been set to play as a single with the Duke Ellington Ork on its series of concerts which begins on november 23 and 24. Concerts will also feature Ellington's newest serious works, Deep South Suite"

    "21 Dec 1946 - Duke Ellington ork drew 1300 persons for $6 per couple in one-nighter at New Castle PA. last week"

    On Django's last concert with Duke...

    "ELLINGTON 9 1/2 G - 21 Dec 1946 - Duke Ellington drew a near capacity house of 4.400 people at Masonic Temple Auditorium Saturday (7). Gross was $ 9.546.

    (Masonic Temple Auditorium is situated in Detroit at 500 Temple Street)

    So Ellington drew really big audiences and was well payed for the time (a gig was payed $12/hour by musician when exceeding 3 hours otherwise $10 - "Union Scale- Jun 1945"). Ellington had recently added a sixth trumpet to the orchestra (ork) and the fact that Django was setted to play alone was already planed, it was Duke's choice.

    Other infos will follow specially with the complete dates and locations of the tour...

    Best
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    There is a review of Django's performance at Cafe Society Uptown dated 17 Dec 1946. On Edmond Hall the review is the following : "Ed Hall, made to order for the room, did a great job"... Cafe Society Uptown, opened in October of 1940, two years after the first club Cafe Society Downtown. It will close on december 1947. It was located on Manhattan's East Side at 128 East 58th Street. It was considered a pretentious, huge place (350 places, $3,5 to see and hear the Master).
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    Charles Delaunay said Django's playing did not really appeal to the Cafe Society Uptown audiences and his attitude tended to alienate them. This article appears to confirm that. It was clearly not an appropriate venue for him and Ed Hall's band was quite the wrong group for him to be performing with.

    The problems were probably compounded by the fact that Django felt deflated and anticlimactic after the Ellington tour.
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    Hello Teddy!

    There are a lot of stories about the Cafe Society Uptown, Mary Lou WIlliams said the place was not a good one and that the audience was hard to catch. She finally tried to compose tunes on the zodiacal signs when she was there but she said that after 4 tunes she was litterally out of inspiration. Billy Holiday was the one that help the place to close after she sang "Strange Fruit" there. The owner had a lot of problems after that and his incomes short after went down up to 45%. One year after Django's venue the place was definitively closed.

    I think the article is emblematic Django was among all an inspired concertist and the place ("nitery") was in fact a night club with a trully eterogeneous affiche: there was Django probably seen as an unknown but famous jazz guitarist, Pete Johnson the well known boogie pianist that was also accompanied by Ed Hall "heavy drummer" (described as a "skin beater"). But there was also Roberta Lee a pretty sexy female singer that sang 4 tunes and Imogene Coca a competent comic and satirist that registered with the audience and "received swell hands" even if making nothing new. There where also from two to three shows a day so hardly Django could have overplayed there in the States were even half an hour had a price. It was a "tutti frutti" show where Django had nothing to do...

    A few terms are interesting in the article first Django's description as a fat and calve man with
    a Chaplin moustache but also the fact that he played (or "plucked") with a plectrum an acoustic guitar with an amplification not properly working (gutbox = noun for acoustic guitar). He also indicates that Django had no preparation for such a show (nitery preem is used to say that Django appeared to be a sweet small baby thrown in a night-club for the first time). So Django might have used for his second day in Cafe Society Uptown (he started on Dec 16th, 1946) the Selmer that Delaunay gave to Django (and also dammaged during the travel to the States) as a gift from Henri Selmer himself. There is a photo with Django and Paul Witheman that was shot during the first day Django played there showing he had a different guitar.The term gutbox shows that it was funny for an american guy to look at such a strange guitar as they were acustomed to smouth sounding electric guitars.
    The periodist clearly analyses Django performance as a virtuose but his music was not adapted for a night-club and also says that Django made no presentation of what he did. In fact we know that Django was not an entertainer able to introduce his music as Duke was able to do "And now Ladies and Gentlemen we will play for you a very special number" and to add "I love you madly" when the final aplause arrived.
    The periodist also indicates that the audience was a silly one more interested in drinks than in music.

    To end for now here's an interesting photo of Ed Hall at Cafe Society Uptown ...
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