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Django: The Life And Music Of A Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni

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Despite being recognized as one of the founders of modern jazz guitar, Django Reinhardt has remained somewhat of an enigma to all but his most serious fans. With Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, Michael Dregni has created a compelling portrait of this colorful musician, one that gives equal time to Reinhardt’s fascinating story as well as ample musical analysis

Dregni chronicles all of the major events of Reinhardt’s life, including the fire that left him without the use of the fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand, to how a broken string led to the meeting of Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, and the eventual formation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. The author shows great attention to detail, but manages not to get too caught up in any one period of Reinhardt’s life. Perhaps most compelling is the telling of Reinhardt’s Romany gypsy upbringing-he was raised in a caravan, constantly traveling between Belgium, Algiers and France.

Dregni also does a good job recounting Reinhardt’s complicated relationship with America, as well as the true “jazz” lifestyle that Django led, all the way until his death at the young age of 43. At the end of the book, Reinhardt remains somewhat of a mystery, but you get the feeling that that’s the way the author-and perhaps Django-intended it to be.