Born into a gypsy family, he travelled extensively and began playing guitar in a touring show. In his late teens, he suffered severe damage to his left hand in a caravan fire. By the time he began working in Parisian clubs, he had accommodated his injury and the resulting technique alone marked him out. More important even than his prodigious technique were his brilliant ideas and this made him a significant musician. He had decided to play jazz but brought to the genre his own wholly original concepts and through this became the first major, innovative jazz musician to emerge outside the USA. In Paris he encountered violinist Stéphane Grappelli and they formed a band they named the Quintette Du Hot Club De France. The group's records had an enormous international impact and Reinhardt was highly respected worldwide. He also recorded with visitors, including Coleman Hawkins. The Quintette folded at the start of the war and he spent the early 40s playing throughout Europe while managing to avoid imprisonment by the invading German Army. In the late 40s he briefly visited New York but then reunited with Grappelli in a new version of the Quintette. In the late 40s and early 50s, Reinhardt played electric guitar to considerable effect. Even so, his records from the 30s remain outstanding examples of his work and have inspired many followers. The Quintette has also been an inspiration through into the 00s, with like-minded bands found in Europe, Scandinavia and the USA. His sons, Lousson and Babik Reinhardt, followed in his footsteps, the latter appearing often at annual Reinhardt tribute festivals.
Followers: Oscar Alemán, Babik Reinhardt...