Kuumbwa Jazz celebrates guitarist Django Reinhardt’s 100th birthday in style
It’s hard to imagine a more daunting task for a musician than to try to fill Django Reinhardt’s shoes. Nearly 60 years after the celebrated gypsy jazz guitarist’s death, Reinhardt remains one of the world’s most revered jazz musicians. His superhuman chops are all the more impressive in light of the adverse circumstances with which the musician had to work: As most guitar fans know, the Belgian-born maestro was badly injured in a fire at age 18. The mishap rendered Reinhardt’s right leg—and, more distressingly, the third and fourth fingers of his left hand—paralyzed. Thwarting doctors’ attempts to amputate the injured leg, and ignoring their claims that his guitar-playing days were over, Reinhardt re-taught himself not only to walk within a year, but also to play guitar by way of a completely reinvented approach. He performed his intricate, high-speed guitar solos with the two fully operative fingers of his left hand, while he used that hand’s two partially paralyzed fingers to play chords.