Sweet and Lowdown a Sony Pictures Classics release a Woody Allen film

A central character in the fictional biography of Emmet Ray is the real-life jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt has been hailed as the most important jazz guitarist in history, and one of the greatest guitar players who ever lived. What set him apart from many other pioneers of guitar technique – such as Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang and Charlie Christian – were his unmatchable powers of expression. Playing at breakneck speed, he could break an audience’s heart with alternately biting, lyrical and tender virtuoso riffs. To Emmet Ray, Django became the only person who could bring him to tears.

Reinhardt was a gypsy, born in a Romany caravan. His music reflected the gypsy influence, melding those roots with the swingy sounds of American jazz. The result was a magical blend of flamboyance and melancholy, of technical sophistication and nostalgic sentimentality. His innovations included the use of doubled strings on the octave, chromatic ascension, arpeggios and walking bass lines – effects that created a whole palette of colorful emotions.

Although he began his career quietly in the ill-reputed dancehalls of Paris, Django quickly shot into the international limelight. He became as famous for his fancy-free spirit as for his technical facility and was known, not unlike Emmet Ray, to sometimes not show up for his performance at all.