Paris pays homage to gypsy jazz great Django

Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:33am EST
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By Sophie Taylor

PARIS (Reuters) - Not even two paralyzed fingers could prevent Django Reinhardt, born 100 years ago in a caravan, from becoming one of the world's greatest guitarists.

The founder of gypsy jazz, with its driving rhythms and nimble solos, grew up just outside Paris and lost the use of his fingers in a fire.

Doctors said he would never play guitar again.

But the accident only drove the 18-year-old Reinhardt to come up with a unique style involving lightning-fast solos and chord changes that still baffle guitar teachers today.

Paris is marking the 100th anniversary of Reinhardt's birthday with a torrent of concerts and commemorative events.

Several jazz clubs are putting on Django extravaganzas and on Thursday a square -- just a few meters (yards) from where Reinhardt's family once parked their caravans -- was named after him.

"He was a Roma, he was a rebel, and he is someone who represents the culture of traveling people," said Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe during the naming ceremony at the St Ouen flea market north of Paris.

Behind him, a band made up mainly of Reinhardt's descendants played east European-tinged gypsy pieces in the glacial grey air against a backdrop of passing cars and bleak social housing.   Continued...