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According to some reports, Reinhardt was in England touring with Grappelli in 1939 when World War II began in Europe. He decided to return to France, but his cohort remained abroad. The following year, the Nazis took control of France, a move that put Reinhardt in jeopardy. The Roma, or gypsies, were among those considered undesirable by the Nazis, and thousands and thousands of them perished in concentration camps during the war.
Reinhardt was allowed to play freely in the clubs of Paris during much of the war. It seemed that the Nazis viewed this famed city as their playground to some degree, and their military personnel enjoyed frequenting its nightclubs. Reinhardt expressed his melancholy over the occupation in one of his most famous compositions: "Nuages," which means "clouds." According to Contemporary Musicians, the musician made two attempts to flee France for Switzerland, but both of these efforts proved to be unsuccessful.
After the war, Reinhardt became interested in electric guitar and experimenting with other styles of jazz. He toured the United States with Duke Ellington in 1946, but he failed to win over American audiences and critics. Reinhardt also started recording with a new version of his beloved quintet, but rarely gave public performances. Instead, he spent much of his time in the South of France.
In 1953, the famed improviser jammed with another jazz legend, Dizzie Gillespie. That same year, he made his final recordings. Reinhardt died on May 16, 1953, in Fontainebleau, France. He reportedly died after suffering a stroke, though some reports claim it was a brain hemorrhage. In any case, the music world lost a great talent that day. Reinhardt is regarded among the most prominent European performers to have heavily influenced American jazz. Additionally, his work has had a lasting impact on other guitarists in different musical styles, influencing such diverse artists as B.B. King and Carlos Santana.
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