* Scroll down for G.Benson and Django Reinhardt.



{article also contains The Truth about the Jet Harris Tracks }

Johnny Mac we called him. I first heard of John around 1962/3. I was working with " The Man with the Golden Trumpet " - Eddie Calvert at the time. I, like many guitarists, was involved mainly in Rock, C& W, and various other styles of Music. But this name McLaughlin kept popping up." Have you heard McLaughlin, have you heard McLaughlin " was the cry. And ,the voices were filled with genuine excitement and admiration for this as yet unknown guitarist. Of course I had never heard of him. Most people hadn't. So I forgot about the name until it started popping again up in London. The first time I met him was on a gig at a U.S Army base with Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys, sometimes affectionately known as " Johnny Duncan and His Blue Assed Flies." Anyway, we didn't have a double bass player for the gig and at the last moment we picked up this Guy who was working as a salesman at "Selmers" music store in Charing Cross Road. "Hi, I'm Joe Moretti" I said. "Hi, I'm John Mclaughlin " He replied. And that's how we met. John borrowed a bass from the music store for the gig and off we went. John wasn't a steam bass player by any means, but he needed the money which was about seven pounds. The great drummer Johnny Butts was with us too. I didn't connect the name McLoughlan with the guitarist I'd been hearing so much about, and he gave no indication that he played guitar, so after the gig I forgot about the guy. On Saturday mornings all the guitarists would flock to the music stores to try out new guitars, talk shit, and invariably show off what they could do. Then word started getting around that a certain guitar salesman at " Selmers" was blowing everybody away. Guys would go in there full of themselves and leave totally destroyed by what this Gentleman was laying down.


But he sure sold a lot of guitars for the store. John was already into Tal Farlowe, Jimmy Rainey, Django, Wes, and just about anyone who had something of value to say musically. His hand co-ordination was incredible. No one else had that blinding technique,and he used a little fat plectrum called a pear drop as opposed to the usual flat pick. Combined with the great technique was an insatiable appetite for Harmonic development. John was never satisfied. He knew even then that musical devlopment was literally infinite and as he got a grip of one thing he just kept moving on. Oh, don't get me wrong. John could play Rock, R&B, and jam in any style, but these were tributaries, all leading to the the Great Ocean that incorporates all music. Just--- Music. One of his early influences was Dick Morrisey, that wonderful sax player who, with Jim Mullins, formed the Morrisey/ Mullins band. A terrific band. Actually Dick would pass the info to Glenn Hughes, and from there Glenn would pass it on to John. Glenn was a terrific Baritone sax player who featured with many of the top UK bands including Georgie Fame at the " Flamingo Club" in Wardour St. But don't let me get too far ahead.In 1963 I quit Nero and the Gladiators after recording " Bleak house" -the follow up to " Hall of the Mountain King" and joined The Jet Harris/ Tony Meehan Band . And here's a bit of info. Just to keep the "records " straight. Jet didn't feature on "Scarlett O'Hara " and " "Applejack" -l did. Jet was too " ill " at the time. He just couldn't function any more, and was going through a lot of personal problems including a divorce. Why did I do it ? Well, I really felt sorry for Jet. He was a helluva nice guy and the danger was that if I hadn't cut those tracks the whole band could have fallen apart, and six guys would have been out of work. I got an extra five pounds a week to keep my mouth shut, and I needed the Money to support my Wife and Child. Also I was never proud of those crummy tunes. As far as I was concerned it was shit music. The hurtful thing about that period is that in his articles Meehan doesn't even mention that I was a member of the band. As if I had never existed. So I got a wage while Meehan laughed all the way to the bank.  Anyway, the original lineup for that band was : T.Meehan-Drums, Jet-6 string bass guitar, John Paul Jones { aka : John Baldwin }- bass guitar, Glenn Hughes- Baritone sax, Chris hughes- Tenor sax/flute / arranger, and myself on guitar. Now comes the interesting part. Eventually Jet had to quit, so I went out front on lead. It was too late to do anything about the situation, short of blackmailing that fucker Meehan, and as I say Jet was on the skids and I didn't want to hurt him any more. But we needed a rhythm guitarist and Glenn came up with the name of a guy who was looking for a steady money- paying gig, so guess who came in on "rhythm guitar" ? You got it - John McLaughlin ! Oh what a change came over that band. Within a month we had transformed our Repertoire, apart from our two chart hits. " Jazz " took over from the pile of Shite we were playing up until then.Of course the kids came to hear our pop music, and when they didn't get it they started to stay away. Within a couple of months there were no more bookings. John, like everyone else { apart from Meehan} hated the fucking gig. I remember coming off the stage one night to find Johnny Mac crying in a corner out of sheer musical frustation. I wept with him and made up my mind that night to quit and take my chances in the session business. The band folded soon after that. I've heard numerous people, mainly guitarists, put Johnny Mac down. For various reasons including : " Too Technical "" Too Busy " and other such stupid statements. Want my opinion ? -They don't deserve to lick his boots. His music goes right over their fucked up heads. Mc Loughlan can be a Master of understatement when it's required. Minimalism is one of John's greatest assets, witness that first LP with Miles. Sheer Musical Understatement, and he gets that message across. But when it's required he can lay down a string of Hemi, Semi, Demi fucking quavers enough to blow your mind. The guys who criticise him just don't know where he's at. You can say you don't LIKE what he's doing but NO Way is he a BAD Guitar Player. That's just ignorant crap. Let me give you a small example. If one wants to stay in the 3 chord bag then ok. There's nothing wrong with that. John will play mind blowing music on one mode if that's what's going down. But if you want to get into altered changes, scales, then Baby you better do your homework or get the fuck off the stage. Take this example. A piece of music may contain changes like : Bm7b5, E7#5#9, Am9, D7b5b9 resolving to Gmajor #11. How the fuck can you get through these changes if you don't know what's going on ? And these changes are the norm for the average "Jazz" Musician. If you don't know these changes, OK. there's no shame in that. But don't put a guy down because of your own ignorance ! John has paid his dues many times over.


                          John. my place London 1966

He has banged his head against the wall and suffered musical heartbreak to get to where he's at today. I worked and learned from him for a number of years and I know what his contribution to pure musical development has been. And still is. Why should anyone go through all this ? Like the proverbial Mountain- because it's there. Because you owe it to THE MUSIC. But once you are on that path there is no way back. You just keep going. John walked around for months with a " Squash" ball in his hand. Actually He would exercise his hands and fingers just squeezing gently on the ball, but for hours every day. Of course he would have periods of rest. But that was it, squeezing for months, until he built up amazing strength in his wrists and fingers. But He never hurt his fingers by overdoing it. Anyone who tries this should be very careful. He had also to retain that incredible agility. As his career grew He also exercised so that he became extremely Physically Fit. Combined with this was a Great Spiritual Awakening for John. So there you have the necessary ingredients for an exceptional talent to explode onto the music scene. Superb Physical fitness, a technique second to none, an insatiable appetite for music, and a spirit that was totally relaxed and calm and yet could turn the power on to an astounding degree. John was always amazed and delighted by the miracle of being alive. My doorbell rang one morning, and it was John on one of his visits back to the UK . He was with "Lifeline"at the time. When I opened the door He was standing with a "Gibson " guitar around his neck. London was reasonably safe in those days, and John just went everywhere with his guitar. On the Metro, walking in the streets, - everywhere. Playing, playing, playing. When all is said and done, it's simply because you love Music. That's the bottom line. John's contribution to Music is immense. Immeasurable. And when I listen to him one thing stands out above all else. The sheer joy of playing. It's as simple as that. Beyond the incredible technique, the superb musical construction there is that - The Sheer Joy Of Making Music. I love the Guy. May he continue to play for many years . Through his dilligence and perseverance he has influenced the lives and music of countless musicians. Long may he continue to do so.    (Check out his discography).

God Bless John McLaughlin, A True Musical Phenomenon. (c)




Born March 22nd 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   I first heard George Benson in the 60's. Among all the great artists we were listening to - Miles, Trane, Bill Evans, Wes, Joe Pass - the name George Benson appeared. The album was  "Cookbook" and the World was ready {almost}  to welcome a new " Guitar Star". "Cookbook"  was an indication of what was to come, Music wise, from George, and a beacon declaring where he'd been. Great though "Cookbook" was, nobody realised it was the fuse to a musical H - Bomb, except of course, George himself. The World would soon wake up to the fact that Mr Benson was much, much more than a " Guitar Star ".  George regards himself essentially as an entertainer and who am I to argue with that.  Entertainer, guitarist extaordinaire, incredible vocalist, composer,  that's the problem with categories, they just don't cover my subject - George Benson. You can't put George in a bag.  Blues, Jazz, Rock, Pop,  laid -back ballads and the old Be-Bop !   Groove, Straight, Funky, Super Chops, Classical Orchestras, George has covered the lot. As a Musician - a guitarist -  well, the Gentleman is simply a Virtuoso. An incredibly broad harmonic knowledge wrapped up in a Formula One technique plus an incredible ability to communicate on a deep and personal emotional level, all this goes to make George Benson what he is - a GENUINE SUPERSTAR.  Let's examine some of those attributes and see what we come up with. Super Chops.-{Technique}.  If you're a budding young "speed " guitarist and you enjoy firing from the hip, don't ever get on Stage with George and try to out-gun Him - ever. Take my advice and don't be a silly man. George carries a Musical ' Magnum' and you'll end up dead kid. I saw a t.v show featuring a young man who had attempted just that and he left the Gig a much humbler and wiser man.  If that crazy idea should ever enter your head have a listen to a track called " No Sooner Said Than Done"  and think again. This track can be found on the  C T I label, produced by Creed Taylor. I've just played it again and all I have to say is " Get off George, go on - get off ! " No-one is that good !  Aw Man !  But that's the thing about George, He is that good ! 

He has the ability to groove with any guy on the street yet produces music that's admired, studied, copied, respected and revered by thousands of his fellow musicians World - Wide. " No Sooner Said Than Done " was re - released on an album called " Space" and is now available on cd etc. If you can get it then get it !  All the tracks are a knockout, including "Summertime" "Octane" "Sky Dive" and a very groovy version of that great number" Hold On, I'm Coming".  Special mention must go the engineers { Dave Hewitt and John Venable } for "Summertime" and "No Sooner Said Than Done". These tracks were recorded live at Carnegie Hall and You can hear George at his best combined with sound production of the highest quality. On that " Space" re-release Album, [ 33 rpm], there is an excellent photo of George before He really made it big. The Hollywood Dentists hadn't got to him yet and He's playing a beauiful " D'Angelico" guitar.  Brilliant.  Among the accompanying musicians are such Luminaries as : Eric Gale, Phil Upchurch, Randy Brecker, Hubert Laws, Steve Gadd, Frank Vicari, Don Grolnick and many other fine musicians. George's first connection with a stringed instrument began with the ukelele and he also danced and sang when he was a child. Not just at home, but in a night club.
Oh yes, George was an entertainer from the word 'go'. He took up the guitar at the tender age of eight. His stepfather was a great jazz fan. Charlie Parker and Charlie Christian were just two of the many musical influences in George's childhood. He won a singing contest when he was four years old which led to him making regular radio appearances billed as " Little Georgie Benson...The Kid from Gilmore Alley" !! In the early stages of his childhood guitar playing, he worked with his cousin's vocal group and led his own blues band in Pitsburgh.  At the age of 11 He made his recording debut on RCA's "X" Label, all vocals, so you see George has been around for a long while.  In 1961, when He was still only eighteen He worked with Jack McDuff.  Jack McDuff. An incredible Organist who helped usher in that great Guitar and Organ sound of the 60's. Those two instruments go so well together.  George was essentially blowing over basic blues changes at this time and virtually didn't play standards. Jack McDuff changed all that, or rather added to it, turning George on to the wonders of Harmonic Change. Of course it must have have been going on his nut all the time, it just needed that key to open the door. And when it opened it released a torrent of Musical Magic. Those are magic tracks indeed and You can hear Wes' great influence on an eager, hungry, ambitious Young George Benson eg the "New Boss Guitar"  Album. Get this,  He stayed with Jack McDuff for three and a half years then in 1965 He made several guest appearances on various albums, with various artists, including Miles Davis'  " Miles In The Sky ". Now that's an indication of how fast He developed as a musician.  He also cut two albums for " Columbia' in 1965. I've already mentioned "Cookbook" and told you how great I thought it was, essentially as an indication of the great potential George was showing as a guitarist.  I won't go through  the discography bit of those early days , you can find all that on the web.  Let's move on .
                                               George Benson
Few if any members of the UK public had ever heard of George Benson at this time. His early appearances in England were at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club and He was playing hard Bop guitar. Within a year or so He was  packing the audiences in at the Royal Albert Hall, London. What happened ?   "Nature Boy" - that's what happened. That track exploded onto the music scene internationally. The Music Charts and the public had a new Superstar. That track turned everything upside down. Up until then Stevie Wonder was the main guy laying down the Soul/ Blues/ Jazz  in the charts, the main guy with Superstar Status who was loved by everyone from Joe Soap in the street to the most respected names in Jazz. George was suddenly catapulted to that level of international recognition vitually overnight. Wallop !  Sure He'd been working for years but when the moment came........Zoom...a new Superstar who could actually play the guitar.  Play the guitar ? !!!  Are you serious ? Here was a guy who could fire from the hip, be cool and sentimental,  nibble at the Ladies' ears with his tender sexy vocals, have the kids dancing  again and..... make you weep with his sincere soulful singing of a sweet sad song.  From White Hot  Agressive Fire to absolute tenderness and Love, George covers the whole emotional range. As I've already said, musically he's a master, a virtuoso.  He has a beautiful voice. He aint bad lookin' . What more does a guy need ?  Staying power, that's what. George had plenty of that and still has. I understand he's a God fearing man, or rather a God Loving Man, and in my opinion that great sense of reverence shows in his performances, there's no triviality or shallowness when He sings and plays. Be it either a soft romantic Ballad or hard belting Bop, his sincerity and devotion to his music is there, and underpinning it is his spirituality. The listener feels it.
There it is, emotional and Spiritual communication. Not only in the words of the song  and the story they tell, but in the performance. George Benson has that great capacity and talent that marks a truly oustanding Artist....HONESTY.  His Shows at 'Sun City", South Africa, were sensational, and here George proved his worth as a phenomenal artist, as he'd been doing all over the planet. What you heard on Record was what you got live, and more. You were in the presence of  a Master. No cutting, no editing, yet every performance a masterpiece. A video was made of one of George's hits at that time, and that was the only occasion on which He mimed to a backing track there. He had to. He was on roller skates. Yes, there was George with his GB 10 round his neck zooming around Sun City on roller skates, singing all the while, with the African Staff  lining the streets and cheering and dancing.  George was smiling, everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy. That was a knockout Video, I wonder who has a copy of it. If you want another example of George's musical magic, and there's so much to choose from, have a listen to his rendition of " Take Five " originally recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.  George takes it at a much faster tempo, plays the head, and goes soaring into space with a solo that will leave you gasping. I say solo, when in fact it's a string of choruses, but here George demonstrates his great talent for musical development.  As you may know, " Take Five " is in 5/ 4  ie.. five beats to the bar, a very infrequently used time signature in Western Popular music.
There are no bar lines for George, yet everything is so beautifully constructed, it's a composition. Instant on the spot creation, improvisation, spontaniety, with great clarity of thought, application, and the ability to " look ahead " while still playing for the moment.  Bloody Magic Mate. Yeah. If there's one word that might cover all I'm trying to say it's the word "Magic".  There. I've put it in bold type and underlined it. Listen to "Marakesh Express" and here George shows his talent for spotting a good melody, and doing his own thing with it. It really doesn't matter where a song comes from or how simple it is, C & W, Blues, Pop, Jazz , Classical etc. It's the content of the song or melody that's important.  As in life, there are no rules in music regarding the origin or circumstances involved in a beautiful melody being born, what makes a thing "good' or "bad".   If there were, the World would be a much sadder place. I've always liked " Marakesh Express ". To use a corny old phrase, - " Hey Man, I think it's neat ". Chet Baker said " There's only one tune - the Tune Of Life ".  Yep, and each man in his time plays his part. In the music, and in Life itself. If there's one thing that really pisses me off it's when people, especially so-called Music "Critics" [ essentially non playing ones ] have the audacity to pick out George's so-called " weaker Points " eg  : selling out to commercialism, choice of material etc etc etc - they said the same things about some of Wes' tracks. I have only one thing to say to them. " Please fuck off. I'm saying it in the nicest way I can think of - I said please - but I repeat... fuck off". George Benson doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. It's like telling the guys who landed on the Moon - " Hey , that was great but you have to keep doing it every year otherwise it's not such a wonderful achievement" !!!!!!  I have just read what I've written and I'm rolling on the floor with laughter because it's so stupid, so ignorant and so true. How ridiculous.
If George has proved anything, He has proved that he's a musical tour de force, a giant, a Man and Musician who is loved, revered and respected by his fellow musicians. His Peers. Look at it this way. If you had gone to Miles and said " Oh sure, George Benson is ok but I think there are areas where he's a sell-out and he ain't so great .......... "   Don't think you'd have got any further than that.  No, it's hard to talk when you're rolling on the floor suffering from a heavy kick to the balls, and you'd have asked for it. In the "Guitar world"  you only have to use George's first name and the guys know who you're talking about, like Miles, Canonball, Duke, Ella, Sarah, Django etc. When someone said " Have you heard George's new album ?" - that only meant Mr Benson. As I have already mentioned, he worked with many renowned Jazz greats in the sixties including the above mentioned Miles Davis, plus Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Stanley Turrentine,and in those early days his musical development grew at an incredible rate.
By the seventies George Benson was one of the most accomplished bop guitarists on the planet. With all that experience and knowledge inside him, all he needed was the right vehicle to carry it, how to be commercial and still retain his musical values and, as I said , "Nature Boy"   gave a foretaste of George's enormous  potential regarding both these aspects. In the 70's George had a whole string of hits including "Masquerade" - a masterpiece of composition by Leon Russell. This is a track from the million selling Platinum Album -" Breezin" and really established George worldwide. This is essentially the track that turned him loose on the 'singing along with the guitar' thing. Other great hits include : " The Greatest Love Of All" :" On Broadway" " Love Ballad" "Give Me The Night" " Ghetto " "Turn Your Love Around" and many more.  "On Broadway" turned a lot of guitar players on, and turned their heads around too. George showed that one can be an incredible technical musician yet still " get down". Just about every guitar player I know has been influenced by Mr Benson, his music is just so infectious. That's all to the good. If an idea is good, take it, copy it, use it, then do your own thing with it.  George came up with some really beautiul music in the 80's and 90's working with Earl Klugh and the esteemed Count Basie band. If there's still any doubt in anyone's mind about just how great a musician George is let Me use this quote from Ruby Braff  "
George Benson is the greatest Jazz Guitar player I have ever heard ." Personally I don't agree with the " this guy is better than that guy " thing,  I believe every man / musician should be accepted for what/ who he is, but those words from Ruby Braff give you some idea of George's great influence in the world of jazz . No, no, no. No-one can put George down.  If you are not familiar with George's early 60's work I recommend you get a hold of  the "Cookbook " "Benson Burner " and "It's Uptown" Albums. You know, I find it amazing that when he first started doing the "singing along with the guitar" thing, most folks just didn't want to know. When he tried it out in the studio the first reaction was " forget it, it doesn't work man", Ah, how wrong everyone was. His teaming up with Producer Tommy LiPuma changed all that. George knew that what he had was something else, Mr Li Puma recognised it, they cut " Breezin", and the rest, as they say, is history.  As I said earlier, it's impossible to put George in a bag, he has too much going for Him, but perhaps the term "Total Musician" might cover it. Miles said " I'm not the same guy I was yesterday" meaning every day we move on, musically, and as people, or we should do. George echoes that. Music is a Universe.
A never ending story, and for those who are interested it's waiting there to be explored. It's an experience that will last you all your lifetime, and for many more beyond, if you're a believer in such things. George keeps in touch with the young guitar players of today. Like Miles, he knows that the future of music lies with the young and he regularly invites the promising to discussions and playing get-togethers, so he keeps chops sharp -and his brain. The combination of George, Tommy LiPuma and the Warner Brothers label provided us with some of best Albums ever produced. George has eight grammies under his belt and still has the capacity to pack audiences in wherever he appears. When George and Tommy got together on the "GRP" label, they came up with one of the best Jazz Guitar Albums ever produced - " That's Right".  I think the secret of it all is that George enjoys himself when he plays and this turns his audiences on so that each concert is just one big ball. I'm finding it difficult to get out of this article. I've written 3 pages on George and I've literally just scratched the surface of Mr Benson's career. To close I'll name just a few of his albums. Just a few.  "Give me The Night" "In Your Eyes" "While The City Sleeps" "White Rabbit" "Body Talk" "In Flight" " Weekend In L.A" "20/20" "Big Boss Band" " Love Remembers" - as I say, there are many more. George is possibly the most successful Jazz guitarist ever. His most recent contribution " Absolute Benson" has him re-united with Tommy LiPuma, the producer of " Breezin' ". His newest cd " All Blues" is composed mainly of jazz standards.  Check out George's complete discography on the web. Long may he continue and continue and continue.  God Bless George Benson and his Music.   (c)       May 2003.   

Born in a Gypsy caravan at the village of Liverchies in the Southern part of Belgium. Gypsy. One of an ancient race of people whose origins are lost in the great mists of time. Wanderers. A people who found it difficult to fit in with 'normal society' and, equally, 'normal society' found it difficult to accept them. Django, { if you will forgive me being on first name terms with Him so early in my story} was the prime example of a man really beating the odds in life. It is not my intention to write a documented biography about Django, there are lots of those already on the web. My contribution to the memory of Django comes from the heart 'cause that's where He hit me, right in the heart. That's where he hit everybody. The blinding technique wasn't just a thin veneer of flash with nothing of substance underneath it. The incredible technique aside for a moment, through all of Django's music there is a Lyrcism, an incredible sense of Heartbreaking Beauty that wakens the listener to feelings and yearnings that He or She may have thought were long forgotten. When I hear "Nuages" my mind swings back to over forty years ago, in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland. I didn't take up guitar till 1956 and even then guitarists were few and far between in the U.K. Or so I thought. In among all the early Rock and Roll, Blues, C&W in Scotland there was a name that was absolutely revered by the Scots people and by musicians in particular - Django Reinhard. In my ignorance in those early days I thought that I was an oddity, a bit funny because I played a guitar. Well, most of my School friends became engineers or mechanics. My first influences were Les Paul and Hank Williams. The Tommy Steele competition changed all that, dozens of guys turned up, Alex Harvey among them, and he introduced me to Django's music. I bought my first Django 45 rpm in 1958 and the tracks were "Nuages" backed with " Minor Swing". I was entranced. Totally swept away by the compelling beauty of Django Reinhard's composition and his performance. Forgive me if I wax lyrical but it was like the first time I kissed a girl. My head swum, my heart started bursting, and I felt an unbelievably beautiful pain in my soul. Joy mixed with sadness, bittersweet nostalgia, and all I wanted was to play guitar like Django. I wanted to hear more and more, and I'd play the same tracks over and over again. The incredible thing was that each play sounded brand new and fresh. I can only attribute this to the honesty of spirit, musical content, and the incredible spontaniety which are the Hallmarks of Django's musicianship. There are tracks where Django will wind up a series of choruses to an almost ferocious pitch then break your heart by coming out of it all with the sweetest melancholy phrase, like the song of a little bird. Oh yes, I wax lyrical, poetic even. For, if anything, Django was a Poet, an Artist, and I have just realised that I've not said a word yet about his fingers. I mean the fact that he could only use two fingers for single line playing. If no-one had ever told me about the fire in his caravan and his physical handicap, I would have assumed He was a normal five fingered guitar player, and almost beyond belief technically at that. Difficult as it it, I won't say any more about Django's phenomenal technique.Let's just leave it at that. Incredible. No, the thing that gets me is the passion, the tenderness, the emotional content of his music and his performances, and his amazing ability to communicate all that to the listener. For me, emotion is where it's at.  Love, tenderness - technique alone can't convey these things. It takes the Soul of the musician to convey them to others. When I found out that Django had died in 1953 I felt the most dreadful sense of loss. I had missed him by only three years. That was one of of the things about Django, you felt as if you knew him. I know it sounds crazy but I find that a lot among musicians, You seem to develop an affinity with an Artist just by listening to Him or Her. Whatever their public image as people, they've done this, that, or the other - that's their business, only the music and the performance of it really reflects what goes on in a man's soul or at least gives some indication of it.  As with the Jews, the Gipsys were persecuted by the Nazis who regarded them as 'inferior races of people'. Where I lived in Glasgow as a child, there were gypsies. I was raised in a very poor area, almost poverty stricken, and many of the folks I was raised with were involved in some form of entertainment or another. my area was a mix of Irish, Italian, Scots, and down on the edge of the old coal yard lived the gypsies. When people are destined to live on the outer fringes of society with little formal education and even less opportunity, they are forced to improvise. In business, in music, whatever.
The circumstances are such that the poor people are not only excluded from 'normal' society, they are actually freed from 'normal' society and all the constraints that go with it, and, very often, they'll find themselves in show business, or making music. They make great dancers, singers, actors, clowns, whatever. Django was a master of emotion. He wasn't restained by formal musical education in his childhood, though that isn't necessarily an inhibiting factor in anyone's development. One simply doen't need to have the ability to read or write music in order to play it. He literally didn't know what a scale was in a strict musical sense. Music was simply sound. Of course, he knew exactly what was going down on his guitar board but I understand that he would have had difficulty in translating it into words.  The harmonic content of his work reflects the beautiful works of the classical composers. Incredible refinement and grace and beauty. Now comes the bit where Django does something that earns him the reputation of being the first non - American musician to make a major contribution to "Jazz". He improvises. He not only improvises but he does it with a groove. A swing. A feel. Something that formal society had almost forgotten or hadn't yet discovered. An ability to say,  "Stuff you Jack, just leave me alone to play my Guitar - My Way". Locked in with Django's incredible sense of musical freedom was an incredible musical discipline. His harmonic "knowledge" and the application of it reveal a man with a razor sharp mind.  "Tiger Rag" will show you what I'm talking about. It's a roller coaster ride of sheer emotional abandonment yet it never goes off the rails. Django, for all the wild groove, turns it into a masterpiece of a performance. I can say without hesitation that literally all of Django's choruses could be written down and presented as masterpieces of composition.  Django was an outstanding composer,  not only in the structuring of a melody, or tune, but his choruses in themselves are masterpieces. He also had the the power of development  in his choruses, so that one led seamlessly to the next and, in fact, instead of three "separate" 16 bar choruses, the end result would be more like 48 bars of pure musical development. Not many guys at that time could see that far ahead in improvisation, except in America, and I'll get to that in a moment.
Django had considerable experience in playing violin and banjo. He was the son of an entertainer and music was an integral part of gipsy culture. Violin, and all the beautiful music associated with it, must have been a source for his wonderful talent for melody. I can only assume that he had heard it through early radio or records, and his gypsy music heritage would have provided excellent harmonic knowledge especially in minor keys, like the Jews and Greeks and Indians. The Classical influences and harmonic structures employed in his playing are quite apparent. The banjo, as a rhythm instrument, would have contributed to the development of his incredible right hand. One can hear this in his powerful trills and tremeloes. His rhythm playing was so strong, and on many of his recordings one can feel him saying to the other guys in the band " This is where it's at. Here's the groove" , and He just lays it down. So, so powerful. According to several reliable sources He first began working with an accordionist named "Guerino"in 1922. That means He was twelve years old at the time. In 1928 He sustained the hand injury when his caravan caught fire and, after a period of recuperation, He devoted himself to playing guitar full time, working the cafes in Paris, and at one point He formed a duo with the illustrious French singer Jean Sablon. The formation of "The Hot Club De France" in 1934 with Stephane Grappelly literally catapulted Django to international fame and the band was recorded extensively for the Decca, HMV and Ultraphone labels. The band's recordings were heard world - wide.
Django's brother Joseph was the perfect rhythm guitarist and Pierre Ferel was the most capable gentleman on steam bass.  Django also toured Europe and had the opportunity to work with many visiting American musicians. Hear his wonderful accompaniment to Coleman Hawkin's beautiful rendition of "Stardust" recorded in 1935. Stephane Grapelly stayed in Britain during World war 2  while Django remained in France to engage in numerous musical activities including leading a big band and forming a new quintet in which clarinetist Hubert Rostaing replaced Grapelly. The original version of "Nuages" features Hubert Rostain and was written  during the war years when it was impossible for Django to leave France.  With Andre Hodeir he wrote the music for the film " Le Village De la Colere" in 1946. He also took up electric guitar that same year and visited England, Switzerland, toured the U.S.A as a soloist and worked and recorded with the esteemed "Duke Ellington Band" and The "Benny Carter Orchestra. His Fame and repution were established World-Wide and many were the guitarists who came to hear Him including the legendary Les Paul.  It was only after the war that Django and Stephane Grapelly joined forces again. It was in London where they recorded "The Marseilles", The French National Anthem, for an "Echoes Of France" session. This recording was banned from being broadcast on French radio for being " Disrespectful" and wasn't heard until 1970 ! But a total reunion with Grappelly wasn't to be.  Not long after completing a record date in Paris - "Artistry Of Django Reinhardt "- He died from a stoke. There have been many discussions about Django's electric guitar playing, whether he made the switch successfully or not. Some others also question his development during the war years when "deprived of the bop influence". For those who get into all that stuff I say - "Get Real". Django wasn't a Giant. He was a Colossus. Cut all the hypothetical crap. There's just no discussion when it comes to where Dango Reinhardt is at in the Great Firmament of Music. Just to drop a few names : John McLoughlin adores Django. Joe Pass named Him as one of the "Big Three" - Django, Wes, and Charlie Christian - The Holy Trinity. Herb Ellis has recorded his work. Thousands of the World's Greatest Musician's have played and recorded Django's music and will continue to do so as long as the World loves and needs beautiful, sensitive, inspiring music.  Sensitivity.  Ahh, there's the rub. Life is so beautiful yet can be so hurtful, and you can hear all of Life's Experiences in Django's playing.  In today's jargon, Django was a SUPERSTAR. The legions of guitarists who have followed and adopted his hot club "Style" is testimony to the memory and greatness of Django Reinhardt. You can walk into any jazz club anywhere in the world and all you have to do is say " Django" and everyone knows who you are talking about. And you'll see an awe and reverence when his name is spoken that is generally reserved for discussions on Jesus Christ. No, I don't Blaspheme. Art Blakey likened John Coltrane to being an Angel, a Saint upon this Earth. That's how I see Django. I always feel a bit nicer as a person when I hear Django. Like I said in the beginning, he gets to my Heart and my Soul and I believe in the final instance that's where it's at. With Everyone. Jean Baptiste Reinhard, Gypsy Jazz Guitarist Extraordinaire died from a stroke in 1953. God Bless His Memory and His Music. ................. 
all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International