Django Reinhardt en couleur

Have you ever wondered what Django Reinhardt looked like in color?

I’ve been very fascinated with AI image processing, specifically upscaling and colorization of old black and white photos. Having looked into a few open-source libraries, DeOldify kept coming up with the most impressive results.

The first images I thought to throw at DeOldify were those of my hero Django Reinhardt, of course. There are few color photos of him. In my obsession with his music, I’ve stared at these images a lot and seeing them in color is truly surreal for me. I hope it is for you too. Enjoy!

First a couple of stills from the classic 1939 J’attendrai video: one of only two known live videos of Django. Fans know it well:

Next, some of my favorite shots of Django, where he’s uncharacteristically playing an Archtop in lieu of his usual Selmer petit bouche:

This was Fred Guy’s Levin Deluxe guitar, which Reinhardt borrowed for a visit to the US. The AI did an amazing job. Look at the flame on the sides of that guitar!
Another shot of the Levin Archtop and the day’s sports section. The guitar was auctioned a few years back. Anyone know who got it?
So dapper! AI seems to suffer on backgrounds, generally speaking. But I’m fascinated that it captured the yellow glow of the wall lighting.
About smoking in bed… I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but I think it’s a bad idea.
Early HCoF. Joseph Reinhardt in the rhythm chair. We know who got the eyebrows in the family.
Young Reinhardt with what I believe is a Siro Burgassi guitar
An amusing A7#5
There’s actually a color photo from this shoot, so it’s very interesting to see what the AI missed. Those flowers should be pink, for instance. AI sort of gave up on his ascot too. It does know that bricks should be red, thankfully. See this photo for comparison.
Well. I’m glad I’m not the only guitarist that can’t be bothered to trim my strings.
Bob! Oh the stories you could tell…
Tickling the keys with a little-known composer.
With Edith Piaf, who is amazed at that left hand as we are.
A sweet photo at home with his young son Babik, who grew up to be a fine jazz guitarist in his own right.
Another as a very young man.
With Duke and the gang
He loved cars…

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it!

By the way, you don’t need a beefy computer or programming chops to do this. In fact you can do it all online using Google Colab Notebook, which essentially fires up a custom cloud server to do the work for you. It’s a bit involved and scary-looking at first, but once you get things set up, it’s pretty much plug and play. There’s a good tutorial here.

2 thoughts on “Django Reinhardt en couleur”

  1. Tks Vic
    On first pass, to my eye…The guitars all look desaturated. ( not bad but prob not accurate). The color reference shot has his coat as blue???
    FYI this colorization stuff drives photo purists nuts!! I love it as it makes historical photos easier for folks to relate to… but don’t tell em I said this!

    1. If I worried about what purists think, I’d never get anything done 🙂 I wouldn’t write off the guitar color. Spruce is nearly white when the guitar is closer to new.

      The interesting thing about AI is we can’t really know how it works, fully. It’s like human creativity in that way, trained to “just do your thing” based on a finite set of influences.

      One response I keep seeing to these is “hey you should adjust so and so”… well… I can’t! It’s a bit of a black box. Still, not bad for spitting out results in 10 seconds.

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