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A musical interlude featuring the greatest two-fingered guitarist ever.

By Curt_Anderson
October 27, 2021 7:23 pm
Category: Musical Groups

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I've always been a fan of early jazz recordings, especially those of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Billie Holliday, Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and others of that era.

I've known that Reinhardt's hand was injured and deformed by a fire, but I hadn't actually seen a clear video of him playing the guitar by chording with just two fingers until I saw the video below. I played guitar when I was younger, so I have some appreciation for what it takes to finger the frets. It's hard for me to believe what I am seeing and hearing when I watch Reinhardt's left hand.

On the night of 2 November 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the wagon that he and his wife shared in the caravan. He knocked over a candle, which ignited the extremely flammable celluloid that his wife used to make artificial flowers. The wagon was quickly engulfed in flames. The couple escaped, but Reinhardt suffered extensive burns over half his body. During his 18-month hospitalization, doctors recommended amputation for his badly damaged right leg. Reinhardt refused the surgery and was eventually able to walk with the aid of a cane.

More crucial to his music, the fourth finger (ring finger) and fifth finger (little) of Reinhardt's left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again. Reinhardt applied himself intensely to relearning his craft, however, making use of a new guitar bought for him by his brother, Joseph Reinhardt, who was also an accomplished guitarist. While he never regained the use of those two fingers, Reinhardt regained his musical mastery by focusing on his left index and middle fingers, using the two injured fingers only for chord work.

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Comments on "A musical interlude featuring the greatest two-fingered guitarist ever.":

  1. by Donna on October 28, 2021 10:33 am
    As a fellow guitarist, I can say that Django was simply amazing.

    I've sort of relearning guitar. Teaching myself finger-style blues. Watching a lot of YouTube videos on by Justin Johnson. I also plan to learn slide.

  2. by Curt_Anderson on November 2, 2021 11:01 pm
    Here is another gifted guitarist who suffered a traumatic injury that would have ended most musical careers but didn't. His obituary appeared today.

    Pat Martino, Jazz Guitarist Who Overcame Amnesia, Dies at 77
    (NY Times)Pat Martino, whose trailblazing career as a jazz guitarist seemed to end prematurely in 1980 when brain surgery left him with no memory, but who then painstakingly relearned the instrument, and his own past, and went on to three more decades of innovative musicianship, died on Monday at his home in South Philadelphia. He was 77.

    Mr. Martino’s playing began drawing attention when he was still a teenager.

    In 1967, when he was in his early 20s, he released his first album, “El Hombre,” on the Prestige label, and a series of well-regarded records followed. At the start of his career he often drew comparisons to earlier jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, but by the 1970s he was forging his own sound.

    A condition called arteriovenous malformation, a tangling of arteries and veins, was diagnosed. An aneurysm resulted in emergency surgery to remove a large tumor; when he awoke, he had no memory.

    His parents helped him relearn his past, showing him family photographs and playing him his own albums. Picking up the guitar again was another form of memory recovery.

    By the mid-1980s he was performing again. Jon Pareles, reviewing one performance, at Fat Tuesday’s in Manhattan in 1986, found Mr. Martino as virtuosic and unpredictable as ever.
    View Video

  3. by Donna on November 3, 2021 7:53 am
    Interesting and inspiring story.

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