He chose a six-string guitar over second-string soccer

Lulo Reinhardt, grandson of the legendary Django, feels comfortable with his legacy. At this year’s Felicja Blumental Festival.

Lulo Reinhardt 311 (photo credit: .)
Lulo Reinhardt 311
(photo credit: .)
This year’s Felicja Blumental Festival is chock-full of musical nuggetswherever you look in the six-day program, which takes place at the TelAviv Museum between May 10 and May 15. As expected, much of the programis classical-based, but there is plenty of top-class entertainmentavailable from other areas too.
While Blumental – an acclaimedclassical pianist in Poland before going on to even greater renown inher adopted home of Brazil and, later, the rest of the Western world –may not have indulged in the genre, one presumes she would not haveobjected to the inclusion of gypsy jazz in the festival named afterher, which started eight years after her death.
One alsoassumes she would have had even less opposition to a guitarist by thename of Reinhardt featuring in the festival lineup.
While theReinhardt in question goes by the given name of Lulo, rather than hislegendary grandfather Django, the level of artistry will be consummate.The 48-year-old, German-born Reinhardt, who will perform on May 12along with the Israeli trio Swing de Gitanes, is certainly a worthyheir to his illustrious ancestor’s musicianship, but he had to make adifficult career choice as a young man.
“I was about to becomea professional soccer player when I was in my early twenties, for mylocal team TuS Koblenz,” he explains, “but they said that I couldn’tplay music if I played soccer for them.”
The decision was made on both practical and artistic grounds.
“Youcan’t tell a musician to stop playing music; but also, back in theearly Eighties, playing for a second division team wasn’t a living.”
AsReinhardt had been taught to play the guitar at the age of only fiveand began performing professionally with his father’s band, the MikeReinhardt Sextet, just seven years later, he was well into his musicalcareer before making any impression on the Koblenz soccer pitch.
Sincehe opted to play a six-string guitar full time rather than playing fora second-string soccer team, Reinhardt has thrown himself into themusical fray with gusto. The only one of his siblings to become aprofessional musician, Reinhardt has continued to perform regularlywith his dad and, over the years, has spread his musical net into otherareas. He cofounded the acclaimed Django Reinhardt and theHeartbreakers group and, together with Mike and cousin Dege, foundedthe I Gitanos gypsy swing band.
The entertainment world islittered with the offspring of icons who find the family name a heavyburden to bear and, it must be said, the nomenclature sometimesovershadows the talent of the second and third generations. Happily, inReinhardt’s case, that particular theory does not hold water. He is apolished guitarist, even though he says he is not a true gypsy jazzguitarist.
“I can play rhythm guitar okay, but I am not agenuine solo guitarist in this genre. When I play solo you hear otherthings, other influences, in what I do. I add flamenco, Latin and othercolors. It’s a totally new style, not swing, I use a lot of flamencotechnique too.” Reinhardt Project No. 1 album duly incorporates a widerange of styles, from samba to flamenco with latin jazz, bossa, rumba.And, naturally, gypsy swing is also in there. A second equally diversealbum is due out later this year.
Reinhardt feels completely comfortable with his more eclectic approachand believes his granddad – who died at the age of only 43, almost 10years before Reinhardt was born – would have applauded.
“I’m sure Django would have liked it. Since he came on the scene, therehave been thousands of gypsy guitar players who have copied him. So Iplay Django tunes, but I also do my own songs.
“I can’t follow in his footsteps. You have to be your own person, be amusician in your own right. That’s probably part of the reason why Istarted looking around outside the gypsy guitar field.”
In recent years, Reinhardt’s quest for new musical vistas has taken himacross the world to gain different hands-on cultural experiences. “Ilived in Algiers for a year and played desert music there,” he says,“and I now go to Australia every year to play. That’s a wonderfulexperience.”
Reinhardt’s Australia forays, in fact, have several ethnic facets tothem. For a start,  when Down Under, he often plays with a Jewishviolinist, which brings him closer to Eastern European musical idioms;and there have been some synergies with an oud player too.
The latter was a surprisingly familiar experience for him. “Oud playersuse exactly the same technique as gypsy guitarists,” Reinhardtexplains. “It may be surprising, but that’s the way it really is.”
Then there is the Gypsies in the Desert project, which brings him intocontact with the wide open spaces of Australia, as well with theindigenous population.
“I will doing Gypsies in the Desert in September,” he continues. “Ihave an incredible time there. There are workshops and night walks,singing and playing, and then I do a concert for 3,000 aborigines.There will be a film crew there in September making a documentary, soeveryone will be able to get an idea of what goes on there.”
One of the aspects of his famous grandfather’s work with whichReinhardt has had to contend is the white-hot speed with which Djangoworked his way across and around his strings and fretboard – despite adigit deficit. When Django was a youngster, his caravan caught fire andhe came out of the incident with two paralyzed fingers, so he adaptedhis playing style to be able to produce all the chords he needed withonly two fingers of his left hand.
Even though – happily – his grandson has the use of all his fingers,Reinhardt insists he is not trying to emulate his grandfather’shigh-energy style.
“You can have 10 fingers and still not play like Django. No one canplay like him. Anyway, I don’t like competitions. There are all thoseguitarists out there trying to play faster and have the best technique.
“I can play fast, but I do my own music. I want to have fun with otherguitar players. Some musicians try to compete and show off all theirstuff, and they don’t respect the other musicians. If I’m not havingfun with the other players, there’s no point to it all.
“And, don’t forget, you have to put your heart into your music. That makes all the difference.”
For more information: www.blumentalfestival.com