Jazz ‘Hot’: The Rare 1938 Short Film With Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt

Here’s a remark­able short film of the great gyp­sy jazz gui­tarist Djan­go Rein­hardt, vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li and their band the Quin­tette du Hot Club de France per­form­ing on a movie set in 1938. The film was hasti­ly orga­nized by the band’s British agent Lew Grade as a way to intro­duce the band’s unique style of gui­tar- and vio­lin-based jazz to the British pub­lic before their first UK tour. As Michael Dreg­ni writes in Gyp­sy Jazz: In Search of Djan­go Rein­hardt and the Soul of Gyp­sy Swing:

The Quin­tette was unknown to the British pub­lic, and there was no telling how their new music would res­onate. So, Grade sought to edu­cate his audi­ence. He hired a movie crew to film a six-minute-plus pro­mo­tion­al short enti­tled Jazz “Hot” to be shown in British the­aters pro­vid­ing a les­son in jazz appre­ci­a­tion to warm up the crowds.

That would explain the didac­tic tone of the first two and a half min­utes of the film, which plods along as a reme­di­al les­son on the nature of jazz. It opens with an orches­tra giv­ing a note-for-note per­for­mance of Han­del’s “Largo,” from the opera Xerx­es, which the nar­ra­tor then con­trasts to the free­dom of jazz impro­vi­sa­tion.

But the film real­ly comes alive when Djan­go arrives on the screen and launch­es into a jazz arrange­ment of the pop­u­lar French song “J’at­tendrai.” (The name means “I will wait,” and it’s a rework­ing of a 1933 Ital­ian song, “Tornerai” or “You Will Return,” by Dino Olivieri and Nino Rastel­li.) Although the sequences of Rein­hardt and the band play­ing were obvi­ous­ly syn­chro­nized to a pre­vi­ous­ly record­ed track, Jazz “Hot” is the best sur­viv­ing visu­al doc­u­ment of the leg­endary gui­tarist’s two-fin­gered fret­ting tech­nique, which he devel­oped after los­ing the use of most of his left hand in a fire. To learn more about Rein­hardt and to watch a full-length doc­u­men­tary on his life, see our August 2012 post, “Djan­go Rein­hardt and the Inspir­ing Sto­ry Behind His Gui­tar Tech­nique.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Djan­go Rein­hardt Demon­strates His Gui­tar Genius in Rare Footage From the 1930s, 40s & 50s

How Djan­go Rein­hardt, After Los­ing Two Fin­gers, Devel­oped An Inno­v­a­tive Style & Inspired Black Sab­bath Gui­tarist Toni Iom­mi to Do the Same

Hear Lost Record­ing of Pink Floyd Play­ing with Jazz Vio­lin­ist Stéphane Grap­pel­li on “Wish You Were Here”

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