Django & Duke @ The Aquarium

Django & Duke at The Aquarium NYC – October 1946


Gottlieb’s Photo of Duke & Django by the Piano at the Aquarium, late October 1946. Reinhardt was to become part of Ellington‘s “Concert Troupe” at the end of the month. Stratemann says Reinhardt arrived in New York by Plane on 3Oth October 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 31st October, these Photos must have been taken on the Eve of the 30th October, 1946.  (The Aquarium Restaurant was situated in Broadway Manhattan on 701, 7th Avenue & 47th Street New York)


Django Smokes & Duke Plays


Caption from Down Beat: Posing with Fred Guy’s Levin De Luxe Guitar: Django Reinhardt.
The Gypsy wandered off on his longest Trip to date when he embarked for the States. He came without his Selmer Maccaferri Instrument and I had to swipe this one from Fred Guy to get an appropriate shot. Note his much-discussed crippled Fret 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.


Aquarium gets the Duke’; The Spot is “in” – New York, Ellington is pencilled in for the Aquarium for 4-weeks beginning 10th October 1946 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 & Harriman originally started to put Name Bands into the location, many Bookers, Leaders and other Location Owners thought Glaser was nuts.”


Django borrowed Rhythm Guitarist Fred Guy’s Swedish Levin De Luxe Instrument for the Gottlieb Dressing Room poses as above & below. Here we have Fred keeping the Rhythm Pulse going and looking somewhat glum (perhaps if Django was in presence at the time).


Johnny Hodges playing a Conn 6M Alto Saxophone & Al Sears on Tenor


Russell Procope Alto & Clarinet


Wilbur De Paris – Valve Trombone


Django with David Rose – Pianist & Arranger who went on to write ‘The Stripper

This Image shows that the Guitar that is actually a Swedish Luthier made Levin De Luxe. 1937-58


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


Django – looks on intently as Dukes Men play Cards in the Dressing Room – which he must have been well versed with as a Gambler, alas he was not a reader of Music.  Al Sears, Shelton Hemphill, Junior Raglin, Django Reinhardt, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, & Johnny Hodges at The Aquarium, NYC, 1946.  Note the No Smoking sign being Ignored.


Claude Jones & Wilbur De Paris, Aquarium, New York


Ray Nance on Trumpet with Plunger Mute – Russell Procope below on Clarinet


Ray Nance swaps his Trumpet for his Violin – but would Grapelli be impressed?


Junior Raglin – Bassist, Lawrence Brown on Trombone, Duke Ellington, Ray Nance on Trumpet, Sonny Greer on Drums, Sax & Fred Guy on Rhythm Guitar



Rhythm Section – Sonny Greer Drums, Junior Raglin Bass – Fred Guy Guitar, off Camera

Sonny Greer
Django’s Music also enthralled Ellington and his Musicians.  It was the Orchestra’s venerable Drummer, William “SonnyGreer, 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 & 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 & 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 & Django with Duke playing a little Piano in the background & Junior Raglin on 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.”


Junior Raglin Tunes Up before Band Call


Trumpet Section


Lionel Hampton at the Aquarium


Doris Day at the Aquarium July 1946


Rex Stewart & Charlie Barnet on Tenor at the Aquarium August 1946


Count Basie at the Aquarium


Duke – as Painted By Tony Bennett,  Singer & Portrait Artist.


One of Django’s Letters