Django/Duke @ Aquarium

Django & Duke at the Aquarium NYC – Oct 46




Gottlieb photo of Duke and Django at the piano at the Aquarium, late October 1946. Reinhardt was to become part of Ellington‘s “concert troupe” at the end of the month. Also here. Stratemann says Reinhardt arrived in New York by plane on Oct 30 and was fated with a welcoming party thrown by Ellington and the Morris Agency. Since the Aquarium gig ended that day, and Ellington played Atlantic City on Oct 31, these photos must have been taken Oct 30, 1946.

(Aquarium Restaurant was situated in Broadway Manhattan on 701 7th Avenue and 47th Street New York)


Aquarium gets Duke for 5G; The Spot is “in” – New York Aug 24 – Ellington is pencilled in for the Aquarium for 4 weeks beginning October 10 at $5.000 per week. Owner Ben Harriman snaring of the Duke seems to put the clincher on the question of whether the street front spot is the type which should be played by top name bands. When Joe Glaser and Harriman originally started to put name bands into the location, many bookers, leaders and other location owners thought Glaser was nuts.”


Django borrowed Fred Guy’s Levin guitar for the Gottlieb dressing room poses as below. Here we have Fred keeping the rhythm pulse going and looking somewhat glum (if Django was in presence at the time).

Caption from Down Beat: Guitar: Django Reinhardt. The Gypsy wandered off on his longest trip to date when he embarked for the States. He came without his instrument and I had to swipe this one from Fred Guy to get an appropriate shot. Note his much discussed crippled fingering hand. Maybe this will convince you guys who suspected that, if anything, the remarkable Reinhardt had a few extra digits to perform his famous brand of musical magic.


Django with David Rose – Pianist and Arranger who went on to write the ‘Stripper’
It shows that the guitar that was assumed to be a Stromberg is actually a Swedish made Levin De Luxe. 1937-58

Sonny Greer
Django’s music also enthralled Ellington and his musicians.  It was the orchestra’s venerable drummer, William “Sonny” Greer, who was perhaps most taken by Django’s music.  Years later, he spoke of the tour with sustained fascination:  “Something else.  He was something else, man.  Django Reinhardt – yeah….I tell you, man, that cat could take a guitar and make it talk.  Nobody played like him….We were playing a concert.   At an auditorium.  So we had about an hour before — we always got to the place about an hour or so before so the band would be relaxed.  So me and him, he was sitting backstage, playing one of the things he used to play with the Hot Five, a fast thing, you know.  So I had some brushes and a newspaper.  So just me and him were playing.  He said, ‘I like that.’  Duke came in and he too said, ‘I like that.’  So as a surprise encore, we did it.  Me and him and Duke was playing a little piano in the back, and the bass.  We done it, it was a big thing.  Duke said, keep it.  I don’t know what it was called, he had some fancy French name for it, he used to play it with the French Hot Five.”


Clubs like the Three Deuces, Downbeat, Troubador, Hickory House, 400 Restaurant, Famous Door, Kelly’s Stable and Jimmy Ryan’s were all jazz venues active at the time.


Django – looks on intently as Dukes Men read the score?  Alas he was not a reader of Music


Ray Nance swaps his Trumpet for his Violin on that gig – was Django impressed?


Duke AquariumDukesMenAquar2DukeTonyBennett

Duke – Painted By Tony Bennett,  Singer and Artist.