What you need to know about LA’s Django Reinhardt guitar fest

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, 10361 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Tickets: Free-$75

Information: 310-286-0553, www.theatreraymondkabbaz.com

French jazz guitarist and composer Jean “Django” Reinhardt’s life is the stuff of legend. Two of his fingers became paralyzed as the result of a fire early in his career, but he persevered and went on to develop the “hot” jazz guitar technique and pen nearly 100 songs, including “Minor Swing” and “Nuages.”

Reinhardt, who was born in Belgium of Romani background, died of a brain hemorrhage at age 43 in 1953 and is still considered one of the greatest guitarists of the 20th century.

“Django is one of the best, the top player in the world in that style,” Theatre Raymond Kabbaz Executive Director Pierre Leloup said. “He has inspired so many people. He’s a great, great, great guitar player … and how can you play that good with just a few fingers? He is like a god.”

Theatre Raymond Kabbaz in Los Angeles will be toasting the guitar great with the Los Angeles Django Reinhardt Festival June 17 and 18. The event will include master classes and workshops, open jams, shopping and performances by Yorgui Loeffler, Samy Daussat, Tommy Davy and more, as well as a screening of the film “Les fils du vent” and a lecture by Michael Dregni, author of “Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend.”

Guitar workshops

Many of the artists will be coming from their homes in France for the event, including Daussat, who will perform with his Samy Daussat Quintette Saturday night. On Sunday he will lead a workshop covering a range of topics, such as harmonies and how they determine the music style, improvisation skills and solo guitar play.

Daussat said that he has to adjust his playing style to get the right sound and feel for Reinhardt’s music.

“I constantly have to refer to his son Babik (Reinhardt) and grandson David’s (Reinhardt) state of mind, with whom I played a lot,” Daussat said via email. “I always have to pay attention to remain calm and to swing as much as I can. It’s a constant discipline. I can’t perform his music without feeling I am involved and responsible. I don’t have the same feeling if I play a Brazilian tune or a country music piece.”

The impact of Reinhardt’s music

Along with other Reinhardt fans, Daussat is on the fence as to whether the guitar legend’s music should be considered a genre on its own. Reinhardt was the first guitarist to integrate the classical harmony of Ravel and Debussy into jazz, Daussat said.

Toward the end of his life, Reinhardt began playing electric guitar and blending bebop into his style. Daussat isn’t sure if he would have made as much impact on bebop and other electric music, as he did on the Gypsy jazz scene.


“He gave so much to the music,” Daussat said. “An artist has inevitably some conceptual limits. The electric music, even the electronic music, is rather distant from the Gypsy way of life. But I can be wrong. He left his mark on the French musette jazz songs, so why not.”

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