Django Reinhardt was known for his virtuosity on the guitar – leaving an impact on jazz music that influenced countless musicians.
As Gracey Tune, artistic director of Arts Fifth Avenue in Fort Worth says, that includes such famous Texans as Willie Nelson and Bob Wills. But Reinhardt’s ties to the Lone Star State don’t stop there.
That’s because Tune is in the midst of preparing for the 20th Annual Django Reinhardt Festival, held Jan. 26-28 in Fort Worth. The festival draws attendees from around the world and many musicians take part to celebrate and play the music of Reinhardt.
Tune – along with jazz musicians Trio Blanc, Kim Platko, Mark Menikos, Rex Bozarth and Slim Richey – started the festival two years after the opening of Arts Fifth Avenue.
“It’s for our love of Django, and we all loved him and loved his music,” Tune said. “So, we just went together – you know, it’s like, what is that old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland quote? ‘We have a barn, let’s put on a show!’ That’s how I work, honey.”
Reinhardt was an active musician as Europe headed into World War II. As a Romani, he was particularly at risk as one of the ethnic groups targeted by the Nazis.
However, he was able to survive the war and his blending of traditional Romani musical styles with jazz ended up leaving an indelible mark on the genre. His style of play, made all the more remarkable because of his inability to use some of his fingers due to injury, inspired numerous guitarists.
“People even wrap their fingers, you know, wrap them up so that they can try to play like Django played – without all his fingers,” Tune said.