Django (composition)

"Django" is a 1954 jazz standard written by John Lewis as a tribute to the Belgian-born jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. It was a signature composition of the Modern Jazz Quartet, of which Lewis was the pianist and musical director.

Instrumental by the Modern Jazz Quartet
from the album
  • Modern Jazz Quartet, Vol. 2
  • Django
  • 1955
  • 1956
  • 10-Inch LP
  • 12-inch LP
RecordedDecember 23, 1954
Composer(s)John Lewis
Producer(s)Bob Weinstock

Background and structure

I was tremendously impressed. Then I heard some record he made with members of the Teddy Hill band, Including a duet with Bill Coleman that was unbelievable. I definitely got to know his music when he came to this country in 1947 To play with Duke Ellington. He came down to a club where we were working on Fifty-second Street, and we played overtime to make a good impression. It was wonderful to watch the change that took place in his playing, from things that were made in 1937 to things he was doing at the time he died. He kept changing. And I was so sorry when he died. I would have liked to spend more time with him.

John Lewis on Django Reinhardt[1]

Lewis wrote "Django" in 1954 as a tribute to his friend, the Belgian-born jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who had died the previous year. It begins with a 20-bar theme that was described by Ted Gioia in his book The Jazz Standards as dirge-like and mournful.[2] The entry for "django" in the original edition of the Real Book only contained the chord changes for this theme. It is followed by solo sections in modified Thirty-two-bar AABA form, where the first two A sections contain six bars instead of eight, the eight-bar B section contains a pedal point on the tonic, and the final twelve-bar A section contains a boogie bass motif. The solo sections are separated by interludes in double-time derived from the introductory theme. The composition ends with a full repeat of the introductory section.[2]

It was first recorded on December 23, 1954 by the Modern Jazz Quartet, of which Lewis was the pianist and musical director. It appeared on the group's 1955 10-inch album The Modern Jazz Quartet, Vol. 2 (PRLP 170) and their 1956 12-inch LP Django (PRLP 7057), as well as being released as a 45 RPM single with part 1 on side A and part 2 on side B.[2][3][4] It was one of the Modern Jazz Quartet's signature compositions, with the group's bassist Percy Heath recalling that "If we didn't play 'Django' in a concert, we risked getting stoned. I mean in the thrown-at sense."[5][6] Miles Davis described "Django" as one of the best compositions ever, and in their book Clawing at the Limits of Cool, Salim Washington and Farah Griffin said "It is almost like a poem in its economy and poignancy. With remarkable restraint and almost no concessions to the extroverted tendencies of jazz, the slow and dirgelike 'Django' sustains an intensity and pathos made all the more beautiful through restraint."[7] It was listed on the NPR 100, the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century compiled by NPR editors,[8] and was ranked #357 on the Songs of the Century, a list of the top 365 songs of the 20th century compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.[9]

Notable versions

In 1992 Heath observed, "The original version with Kenny is of sentimental value but the one in the last concert is my favorite." Here all the elements of Lewis's skill and the MJQ's interpretive power are as one: the evocative Gypsy feeling in the main theme, recalling the Adagio of Mendelssohn's Octet; the eloquently stout bass motif; the congruence of delicacy and force, discipline and spontaneity, tragedy and joy.

Gary Giddins[1]

Apart from the 1954 recording, the Modern Jazz Quartet recorded "Django" on three other studio albums, 1960's Pyramid, 1965's Jazz Dialogue (with the All-Star Jazz Band), and 1987's Three Windows (with the New York Chamber Symphony). They also released it on the live albums European Concert, The Complete Last Concert, Reunion at Budokan 1981, Together Again: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival '82, MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration, and Dedicated to Connie. Lewis recorded the piece on solo piano on his albums Evolution (1999) and Evolution II (2000), and performed it with the Jazztet on The Jazztet and John Lewis (1961), the violinist Svend Asmussen on European Encounter (1962), and with the vocalist Helen Merrill on Django (1976). Lewis and Gunther Schuller arranged the album The Modern Jazz Society Presents a Concert of Contemporary Music (1955), on which "Django" appears, and Schuller's 1961 album Jazz Abstractions contains three variations on "Django".[5] Other notable versions include those by:[2][5]

See also


  1. Giddins, Gary (2000). Visions of Jazz: The First Century. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 399–. ISBN 978-0-19-513241-0.
  2. Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. Oxford University Press. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  3. "The Modern Jazz Quartet Discography". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  4. "Modern Jazz Quartet Vol. 2". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  5. Burlingame, Sandra. "Django". Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  6. Zwerin, Mike (November 19, 2003). "MJQ and a fountain of youth". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  7. Washington, Salim; Griffin, Farah Jasmine (2013). Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever. St. Martin's Press. pp. 104–. ISBN 978-1-4668-5529-8.
  8. "Django". NPR. October 2, 2000. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  9. "Songs of the Century". CNN. March 7, 2001. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.