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Finding Jimi and Django

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In a recent NLS Music Notes blog post, “The Festival That Changed American Music,” I read about rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix who performed at the first Monterey festival in 1967.  Because of the recordings listed there, and my own experience of the NLS collections, I assumed that anything we have on Hendrix would be in audio format.

So when Andre Jarreau, one of our patrons, called and asked for Jimi Hendrix songs in braille, I had my doubts.  I inquired if he might prefer the songs in recorded format.  “No,” he explained, “I’m receiving instruction in braille music, and need some songs to help me.”

“All right,” I said, “I’ll check, then let you know.”

Preparing myself for disappointment, I first went to the BARD site and searched for Jimi Hendrix in braille.  And what did I find?  Well, both “Angel” (BRM24143) and “Voodoo Child” (BRM21931).  No disappointment there.

When I called Andre with the news, he was excited, but then wondered how difficult the music would be.  I assured him that he would understand it, advising him that he could get still more practice by studying issues of our Popular Music Lead Sheets.  Each issue has five popular songs, with words, chord symbols, and melody. He said he would download some of them.

Then he asked, “What do you have by Django Reinhardt?” “Jango?” I pronounced hesitantly.  “No,“ he said, “d-J-a-n-g-o, a great jazz guitar player.”

Again I went to BARD, as well as Voyager, to see what we have, although my brain whispered, “Nothing.” But in fact I found “Return of Django” (BRM20964), and an entry in the “Fake Book Jazz Guitar Book 2” (BRM24399).

“Django had only two usable fingers,” Andre informed me. “This was after he was in a fire, but you won’t believe how fast he played … He takes you on a journey, and that is that.  He is number one; even Hendrix is a distant second.”

Portrait of Django Reinhardt and David Rose, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946
Portrait of Django Reinhardt and David Rose, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946

“I’ll download some Django tunes to listen to,” I promised, pleased that the Music Section’s library can provide Andre with some helpful materials:

“With braille music,” said Andre, “I will be able to learn two of his songs, and understand the phrasing–even if it takes a year.”



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