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He quickly learned to play, mimicking the fingerings of musicians he watched.
He was the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the guitar genre.
After his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed when he suffered burns in a fire, Reinhardt used only the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos.
In spite of this disability he nonetheless went on to forge an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called 'hot' jazz guitar), which has since become a living musical tradition within French Gypsy culture.
With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as "one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz".
Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani encampments close to Paris, where he started playing violin, banjo, and guitar.