While rooting around online recently, I discovered this fantastic 1938 film short titled Jazz “Hot,” featuring Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
Reinhardt and the band have a starring role in the film, though it’s not immediately apparent. The short begins as a sort of remedial music lesson explaining the difference between classical music and jazz.
It goes on to note the evolution of jazz itself, from the “straight” jazz of the Twenties to the “hot” interpretative jazz of Django and his ilk. The group appears at the 2:30 mark and remains the focus for the rest of the film’s six-plus minutes.
Jazz “Hot” was put together by the Hot Club’s British agent, Lew Grade, to promote the band in the U.K. ahead of its first tour there. Michael Dregni writes in his book 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.”
The film features a staged scene in which Django and violinist Stéphane Grappelli appear to spontaneously play “J’Attendrai” while hanging out with their poker-playing band mates in a hotel room. From there it segues into an onstage performance of the song.
Things get interesting around the 4:37 mark, when Django begins to solo. The footage includes some great shots of his fretting hand, which moves deftly among the strings while performing blazing runs that belie the fact that his ring finger and pinkie are crippled.
In particular, check out the incredibly fluid run he performs at the 5:20 mark, a combination of incredible speed and melodic expression that is a pure delight to see as well as hear.
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