Recently, I watched “Django Reinhardt: King of Jazz Guitar,”
a one hour and 49-minute documentary on DVD.
Although Reinhardt’s first instrument was the banjo,
he achieved iconic status with the guitar. Narrated by
Sterling Wilson, and beginning with a profile of his
Gypsy youth, this film discussed all of the key elements
of Reinhardt’s life, as well as his collaborations with
other musicians, especially violinist Stephane Grappelli
In lieu of the standard interviews with “talking heads,”
this film used a collage of photographs as a narrative, with
various pictures peeling away, accented by footage of
various sets of hands playing the guitar. The second part
of the film featured valuable excerpts from Reinhardt’s
(1910-1953) many recordings. Early Jazz musicians, such
as guitarist Eddie Long, electric guitarist Charlie Christian
and violinist Eddie Smith were also discussed. Reinhardt
probably began playing the electric guitar during the 1940’s.
While Christian may have used this instrument first, he
embraced a different playing style, and never eclipsed
I particularly enjoyed the three examples of Reinhardt
playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, during the
1940’s. Until I watched these clips, I was unaware that
they had worked or recorded together.
The bonus extras for this 2005 release on the
Quantum Leap label featured an extensive biography,
and a history of the types of instruments Reinhardt used.
Although originally conceived in French and translated
into English, this film still warrants a strong recommendation.