Friday, February 08, 2008

Cat Could Blow...



Two fingers.

He did that shit with two fingers on his fretting hand. The ring finger and pinkie were almost completely paralyzed -- although you can see from this vid he did use them for chords.

There's a take of "After You're Gone" that contains the single most jaw-dropping guitar lick I've ever heard. I'll post it up after I get home to the Collection.

I'd thought that the above was the only existing footage of Django Reinhardt playing, but apparently not.

14 comments:

susan said...

Nobody like those two. EVAH.

burned in a fire, IIRC. the hand. as a kid.

Stephane's playing was pure, trascendent joy, Reinhardt exuberant soul-and the two together-magic.

I had the privilege to sit next to Mr. Grappelli on a plane many, many years back. one of the most memorable encounters of my life.

Neddie said...

True 'nuff, Susan. A fire in his gypsy caravan. Was a pretty accomplished strings player already, had to relearn all those techniques over again, with only two useful fingers. Astonishing.

(Listen to "After You've Gone" -- which I just posted -- with the thought in mind that the guy's using only two fingers. It absolutely amazing.)

The posted film clip also demonstrates that St├ęphane could smoke a cigarette with some style and flair, too. Bogey country, I think...

another Susan said...

What is the name of this piece? I've had this video on my computer for a couple of years and couldn't figure out the name. I wish info on the toobs were more informational.

But of course St├ęphane could smoke with flair. He waz Frayench, you see.

Roger D. Parish said...

After trying my hand at "Guitar Hero" this past week (at which I truly, truly SUCK!), I have a greater appreciation for the digital (as in Fingers) dexterity of these artists.

Neddie said...

I'm ashamed to say, AnotherSusan, that I don't know the name of the tune Django and the Lads are playing in this vid. From its contours and harmony, it sounds very much like a Thirties standard, but exactly which I'm afraid I don't know. I imagine I'll be listening to Rob Bamberger's "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" some time, and will sit bolt upright when another version of it plays -- a-HA! But till then it will have to be one of Life's Delicious Mysteries.

You'd think a civilization that is capable of building something so close to Black Magic as a Google would be able to create a search engine for melodies. You know: "Oh, what's that tune, it's on the tip of my tongue, it goes, da-deee-de-de-deeee, dum-de-dee, dum-de-dee, dum-de-deee..."

And it comes back with "That's Harold Arlen's 'Down with Love,' you blistering idiot -- God, who didn't know that?"

Guitar Hero -- not the same as playing guitar. Different skillz. Guitar Hero is entirely horizontal: hand-eye coordination over time. Passive. Real Guitar: vertical andhorizontal. Melody and harmony. Active.

(I suck real bad at Guitar Hero too.)

What's amazing about that Django vid, particularly in the second half, the club scene, is watching his face as he makes musical decisions, improvisatory choices. His body language, the tension in his arms, the complete unawareness of his surroundings. We're watching something like genius at work. I was stunned to find it, never expected to be able to watch this guy I've admired for decades.

Unlike rock and blues-based guitar floggers, Django is always thinking melodically, and he avoids playing in boxes on the neck, the way a rock player does. He's always got the tune going in his head, and as he improvises on it, he always makes it in service of the melody, playing variations and embellishments rather than just riffs. (This is true of all good jazzers, of course, but Django did it better than anybody, IMHO.)

And those Thirties and Forties melodies were demanding and difficult, taking pride in their harmonic sophistication. We've lost something very important, us beat-box-tolerating, cut-and-paste PostModerns.

Ezra said...

Beautiful.

The name of the ditty is "J'Attendrai." The magic of Wikipedia tells us it is based on an Italian number. Just to eff with you, here's a disco version...

Django and Grappelli are the best--but remember we had an American version a decade earlier in Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang...

Neddie said...

The name of the ditty is "J'Attendrai."

Golly, that Rina Ketty version is drop-dead gorgeous, and the Italian original ain't half-bad either, in an Nicholson-at-the-Overlook-Hotel kind of way.

I dug out my copy of Michael Dregni's Django biography, and apparently, how you viewed the Quintette du Hot Club de France in about 1935 depended on whether you thought them better or worse than Venuti and Lang: In other words, V&L set the standard by which Reinhardt and Grappelli were judged.

Another Susan said...

oooo, thank you Ezra. I like Rina's version, too. Makes me want to learn to speak French.

Gray Lensman said...

Glorious music. May I respectfully mention a name that seems to be missing in this discussion? Louis Armstrong's swing, harmony, improvisation, soloing and sheer fun are written all over the Hot Club's music. This shows just how quickly Pops and the Hot Five's recordings changed the whole world of popular music between the Wars.

Neddie said...

G. Lensperson:

From Django's biography, on the occasion of hearing Louis Armstrong for the first time ("Indian Cradle Song"):

Django was overwhelmed. "He was like a large animal, mute and dazed in the blaze of the sun," Savitry recalled. "But soon he came alive again. The intense eyes, the listening ears, hands folded on his stomach, like a prior in prayer in front of a holy image, he remained there, upright, motionless; but this statue suddenly found its incredible power of perception -- nothing escaped him. Right away, he understood Armstrong. Right away, he preferred Armstrong's formidable playing over the erudite technique of the orchestra of Duke Ellington. ... I put "Savoy Blues" on the record player, and suddenly, Django leaped to the ceiling: the guitarist who accompanied Armstrong was out of tune. 'It's just not possible!' Django was truly revolted, revolted as only very pure souls can be, and he began to sweat, almost as in fright."

Django had heard Tzigane music since his childhood, czardas and waltzes played with Romany verve, raucous javas in the bals musette, jazz in Pigalle. Now, hearing Armstrong, all of that was in the past. New fire burned. Listening to Armstrong's trumpet, Django put his head in his hands, unashamedly starting to cry. Ach moune! Ach moune!" he repeated over and over again -- a Romany expression of stupefaction and admiration, meaning, ironically, "My brother! My brother!"

So, yeah. Armstrong's important, yeah.

Neddie said...

Come to think of it, this was pretty much my own reaction when I first heard the music of Django Reinhardt somewhere in 1986. However, in my case, this was followed by a tragic certainty that, no matter how hard I tried, how often I practiced, how many scales I ran and charts I memorized, I would never, ever, ever, be that good.

Django does not seem to have been so convinced.

bobby lightfoot said...

I'm excellent at Vagina Hero.

Neddie said...

I'm excellent at Vagina Hero.

LOLs! I'm dying to know what the outboard controller looks like for Vagina Hero! Plastic labia minora, a petrochemical clitoris... As the markers fly by on the screen, arythmically, you have to thrust with just the right angle of attack and attitude of entry to produce the "ooooh" that'll score you Mondo Points... Brilliant...

Hieronymo said...

Re: your search for a tune search engine.

Have you not seen www.midomi.com? You hum a tune into your computer's mic and it goes off and searches for it. I couldn't find J'attendrai, but it works quite a lot of the time.

Also, there's www.musipedia.org, where you can key in tunes using an on-screen keyboard, piano roll, or by up-down-up contour.

Both are quite fun.