Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhart were jamming buddies at the same clubs when they struck upon the idea of forming the Hot Club of France Quintet. They were some of the first Europeans to really affect the jazz scene, influenced heavily by the work of Eddie South and the Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti sessions of the '20s. Reinhardt, a gypsy who hailed from Belgium, was a hot-tempered guitarist who had been injured in a fire as a young man. This left him with two fingers missing, but a unique playing style due to his need to adapt. Grappelli was a French violinist who never quite liked Reinhardt, but recognized how well they played together. They took the name from a popular club in the area owned by the supportive Pierre Nourry, and influencial magazine editor Charles Delaunay assembled the original lineup. They recruited Django's brother Joseph and Roger Chaput to play acoustic rhythm guitars, and bassist Louis Vola was the last to join the group. Throughout the '30s, the group toured throughout Europe, focusing mostly on the jazz friendly United Kingdom. Their reputation grew very large in Europe, spilling over into the United States where artists like Rex Stewart, Louis Armstrong, and even their hero Eddie South clamored to jam with the group on their European trips. Duke Ellington was so impressed that he attempted to bring Reinhardt into his orchestra for a tour, but when World War II began it stopped any future plans for the band. When war was declared, Reinhardt left England to get back to France, while Grappelli stayed in England for the duration of the war. The two would not play together for seven years, leading to some unplanned solo work while they were separated. Reinhardt decided to carry on the group with substitute players throughout the war, substituting players and instruments until the violin and rhythm guitar was replaced by the clarinet and a drummer. He then tried to take Ellington up on his offer, but the tour was a bomb and he was soon staying in New York without work. He made it back to France and the original group reunited, playing festivals after the war that made their professional unhappiness evident. Older fans would have rather they stayed with their original formula, while Reinhardt desired to play bebop. The band finally dissolved, leaving them all to explore uneventful but musically interesting solo careers.
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