Django is my model, my hero, and he is also for the vast majority of gypsy players.
Of course I like everything he played but I like the most his post WWII playing, acoustic and electric.
A Website for gypsy guitar fans without a word about Django would be lacking something. Django had a Busato with a nice black pick guard, and it is said that he composed Anouman on it. The guitar was given to Alain Antonietto, a true gypsy history expert, like Michael Dregni, by Django’s sister and is now in the hands of a lucky private owner.
While Woody Allen prefers the early Django years, Bireli likes the last years and so do I, from 1947 till his death in 1953, when he played a lot of amplified guitars. I would not dare judging which period was best, but it seems to me that he reached an incredible level of maturity in his later years. Also many, who are listening to his 1953 recording, are moved by his playing, giving the impression he knew he was going soon. Some musicians who recorded with him at the time felt also something strong was on the verge of happening.
There are two facts about Django, which have remained unnoticed to many, but are important:
Listen to one of the tunes he composed at the end of his life, called Keep Cool. It sounds like "birth of the cool" of Miles Davis. The only thing is that Keep Cool was composed in 1953, and Birth of the cool became a revolution in 1956 only! Juliette Greco, the French singer, said that Miles, who spent months in Paris, was often going with her to the Club Saint Germain when Django had gigs there and was a big Django’s fan. Miles did not copy Django but he might have been subconsciously influenced by him. Even the mention of the word "cool" in both Django’s tune and Miles’ one is probably not a coincidence.
In one of his radio interviews, Django was asked "in what tonality do you paint your tunes". Django replied with no hesitation "in F sharp minor". This tonality is the tonality of the Schuman resonance surrounding the earth, with which the brain of every human is tuned. As the existence of this resonance was discovered in 1954, Django had no clue that it existed, and we can say that Django was indeed connected to some cosmic source. Besides, to my knowledge he never composed a tune in F sharp minor, so why did he pick this tonality?
The endorsement by Django of Selmer guitars cut him off from other guitars, although he owned the Busato and was seen playing often Di Mauro Boogie Woogie guitars. So much for those who have not yet understood how great these Di Mauro are and how cheap they cost compared to their great sounding qualities. I have owned four of these and they are worth every dollar.
Django was a true genius, a great composer and an incredible player. His son Babik used to criticize what he called "the parrots", which play seemingly in the Django style. There is a huge difference between gypsy jazz guitar and gypsy swing guitar. I hope not to offend players and it is not my intention. I am just giving here my humble opinion.
If you play gypsy jazz guitar, you can also play jazz tunes and you play chord changes in a creative way. This is what Django did, of course, like Wes Montgomery was doing in jazz guitar.
If you play gypsy swing guitar, you would probably be lost or not at ease with more complex jazz tunes and you play an improvisation on each chords, while playing poor chords changes or none. A lot of gypsy guitar players play this way, even if sometimes their technique, speed, and feel is truly impressive. Alain Antonietto, an expert and wise man, believes there is "very little musical content" in the playing of many gypsy swing players.
There is not one day when I do not listen to Django. He is a musician’s musician and an inspiration for all of us. The Busato sound matches perfectly Django’s spirit and tone.
People like to put you in a pigeonhole. And as Django Reinhardt was the inventor of the gypsy style, and by far the best player and composer in this style, this is the image he has kept by many. This would have made him furious, as Django was so creative than he evolved musically all his life. He was not only playing gypsy swing music but he played gypsy jazz. Bireli also explores all kinds of music, while most musicians stay in this narrower style of gypsy swing music. Babik was very critical for the "parrots" as he called them, and musicians like David Reinhardt or Christian Escoudé play as well jazz music as gypsy swing.
Also, gypsy swing musicians, for the huge majority, prefer oval hole guitars with 14 frets. Django, of course, is mostly associated with the Selmer guitar, but he also played D hole, oblong hole and F hole guitars. There are numerous pictures of him with Di Mauro, Levin or Gibson ES 300 guitars. Di Mauro, Castelluccia and Busato made great F hole guitars.
One of my very best Busato Gran Model has a round sound hole. It kills most of the best gypsy guitars ever made. I would assume that some purists only get the kick out of being seen playing an oval hole. Django did not care.