Django: A Life on the Move
Blues D’Autrefois, Thonon-les-Bains, 1943

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Django Reinhardt 11

French workers were shipped to Germany as forced factory labour. When the same policy was applied to musicians, Django received instructions to tour Germany. His unease turned to panic at the prospect, and he decided to escape to neutral Switzerland.

Leaving Paris, Reinhardt and his family visited Romani friends at Thonon-les-Bains, on the French-Swiss boarder. From there he made three unsuccessful attempts to reach Switzerland, but on each perilous occasion he was caught. He escaped further punishment once because the German commandant turned out to be a jazz fan, and at the last attempt was captured in no-man’s land by Swiss boarder guards who turned him back as Romanies were not offered refuge. (MD p.182)

Blues D’Autrefois [OSW358-1] recorded by Django Reinhardt & Son Orchestre, saw Django heading up a large swing-influenced band. Punchy brass arrangements had to be balanced against the acoustic guitar’s comparative lack of volume. This was achieved by the horns sitting back during Reinhardt’s solos, leaving him effectively with guitar, bass and drums accompaniment.