Django Shouts

In France, almost one hundred years ago, there was a twenty-two year old named Hughes PanassiĆ©. He was passionate about the music he discovered – jazz. He published his music criticism entitled Le Jazz Hot. According to Whitney Balliett, the very enjoyable jazz critic for the New Yorker, who died fifteen years ago, and who’s collected works I’m reading off and on this autumn, PanassiĆ© believed he found the most beautiful music in the world and wrote with unusual perspicacity, (my new favourite word). Look at how he describes Mary Lou Williams, ” Her style derives from the James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, but is much more fantastic and ardent. On “Night Life” she has made one of the most beautiful hot piano solos we have. Her hot, panting right hand phrases, and the swing she gets by the accentuations by the bass in the left hand, must both be admired.” By the time he was in his late twenties he came to America and tried to organize recording sessions but they weren’t as awesome as he had hoped. Back in Paris, together with his sidekick Charles Delauney, the son of Orphism artists Robert and Sophie. Together, in 1940s Paris they made jazz recordings, especially notable being those of Django Reinhardt. Balliett interviewed Delauney in the 70s when memories were still relatively fresh and he had marvellous details I never heard before about the great Django, “There were two personalities in him. One was primitive. He never went to school and he couldn’t stand a normal bed. He had to live in a Gypsy caravan near a river, where he could fish and catch trout between the stones with his bare hands, and where he could put laces between the trees and catch rabbits. He died of a stroke after an afternoon of fishing, which was the perfect ending for Django. He was full of constant enthusiasm when he played – shouting in the record studio when someone played something he liked, shouting when he played himself. You can hear him on “Bugle Call Rag.”

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