Django Reinhardt 1933-1952
On "Blues Clair," a terrific up-tempo piece I'd not heard before the welcome arrival of this 2-CD set, Django Reinhardt delivers one of the greatest solos you'll hear on any instrument, in any style of music. Right away we hear all the elements that made his legend. He had the technique to crank up to light speed when he wanted, but he doesn't overdo the speedy stuff. In this solo, he instead demonstrates not only his expansive technique but the artistic sagacity that put him in the top class of musicians. Two tracks later Django and the Quintet du Hot Club go into high gear again and this time it's the great Stephane Grapelli on violin who delivers the fireworks. The audacity of the Hot Club's music has been matched by few other jazz pioneers. This French band set out, with no drummer, to outswing, outsolo and generally outshine any small band in jazz, during what many regard as the music's greatest period, and arguably suceeded.
Nocturne has put together a set that samples both Reinhardt's work as a leader and composer and, on Disc 2, as a side man. The box (part of a series devoted to the greats of jazz' heyday) includes a comic strip that retells the famous story of Reinhardt's failure, due to drink and other distractions, to make it on time to a gig with none other than Duke Ellington at none other than Carnegie Hall. Only 4 pages are devoted to information about Django and the music contained on the CDs. That's a pity as more history and information on who made the selections and how (small type on the back cover tells us only the names of the selectors) would be helpful. Graphics aside, the CDs come through with an unusual mix of the great guitarist's work throughout his career, including two post-1950 tracks.
While Disc 1 is a fine if not unprecedented selection of Reinhardt's defining work, Disc 2 gives a rare sampling of his work in other bands, and this is perhaps wherein lies the main value of this set. While Django's guitar work is the connective tissue, the variety of styles on this second disc should make it popular with listeners who like mixed recordings: From the opening "Vito," a tune with a heavy gypsy vibe, recorded with the forgotten Guerino et son Orchestre Musette and on through little known gems of early jazz by the likes of Big Boy Goodie and Garnet Clarke then on to the big timeColeman Hawkins, Benny Carter and finally the mountaintop, Duke Ellington. On "Sweet Sue," with Dickie Wells and his Orchestra, Django helps swing the band about as hard as can be imagined. Right after that, a rare treat: Django in duet with trumpeter Bill Coleman! When Django belts out a snappy chord break, it's as rich and potent as if it had been articulated by a small horn section. If you've never heard the lovely tone and phrasing of an alto saxophonist called André Ekyan, backed by Django's usual stellar rhythm and solo guitar work, it's nearly worth the price of admission.
Django, it turns out, made a lot of hip sessions in his short career. Most Django Reinhardt samplers would be fine just for rookies, but only the most fanatical Django buff could be familiar with anything approaching the range of examples found on Disc 2, making this a good fit for veterans too.
Tracks: 1 Blues Clair; 2 Nuages; 3 Swinging With Django; 4 Improvisation, No. 2; 5 Babik; 6 My Serenade; 7 Minor Swing; 8 Tears; 9 Dinette; 10 Naguine; 11 Swing de Paris; 12 Troublant Boléro; 13 Paramount Stomp; 14 Mystery Pacific; 15 Mabel; 16 Vamp; 17 Swing Guitars; 18 Douce Ambiance; 19 Swing 39; 20 Swing 41; 21 Vito; 22 I've Found a New Baby; 23 The Object of My Affection; 24 Cette Chanson Est Pour Vous; 25 Georgia on My Mind; 26 Crazy Rhythm; 27 Sweet Sue; 28 Bill Coleman Blues; 29 Improvisation Sur le Premier Mouvement du Concerto en Ré Mineur; 30 Harlem Swing; 31 Sifflez en Travaillant; 32 Farewell Blues; 33 Bei Mir Bist du Schon; 34 Lover, Come Back to Me; 35 Solid Old Man; 36 Sugar; 37 Cascades; 38 La Cigale et la Fourmi; 39 Honeysuckle Rose; 40 Festival Swing.
Personnel: Larry Adler: Harmonica; Fletcher Allen: Alto Sax; Pierre Allier: Trumpet; Coco Aslan: Vocals; Aimé Barelli: Trumpet; Bill Beason: Drums; Sigismund Beck: Bass; Christian Bellest: Trumpet; Tommy Benford: Drums; Wal Et Son Orchestre Berg; Marcel Bianchi: Guitar; Barney Bigard: Clarinet, Drums; Max Blanc: Alto Sax; Josse Breyere: Trombone; Philippe & His Swing Band Brun; Benny Carter & His Orchestra; Benny Carter: Alto Sax; Maurice Chailou: Drums; Léo Chauliac: Piano; Noel Chibous:t Tenor Sax; Garnet Clark & His Hot Club's 4; Garnet Clark: Piano; June Cole: Bass; Bill Coleman: Trumpet, Vocals; Alix Combelle: Clarinet, Tenor Sax; Andre Cornille: Trumpet; Aurelio de Carolis: Drums; Gus Deloof: Trumpet; Andre Ekyan: Alto Sax; Duke Ellington & His Orchestra; Baro Ferret: Guitar; Hubert Fol: Clarinet, Alto Sax; Raymond Fol: Piano; Pierre Fouad: Drums; Richard "Dick" Fullbright: Bass; Lucien Gallopain: Guitar; Maurice Gladieu: Trombone; Stephane Grappelli: Piano, Vocals; Roger Grasset: Bass; Sonny Greer: Drums; Roger Guerin: Trumpet; Len Harrison: Bass; Coleman Hawkins: Tenor Sax; Jacques Helian: Tenor Sax; Georges Jacquemont: Tenor Sax; Bertie King: Tenor Sax; Pierre Lemarchand: Drums; Gaston Leonard: Drums; Gerard Leveque: Clarinet; Charles Lisee: Alto Sax; Andre Lluis: Clarinet; Leo Marjane: Vocals; Jerry Mengo: Drums; Pierre Michelot: Bass; Robert Montmarche: Drums; Guy Paquinet: Trombone; Carlo Pecori: Bass; Oscar Pettiford: Bass; Django Reinhardt: Guitar; Joseph Reinhardt: Guitar; Hubert Rostaing: Clarinet, Tenor Sax; Tony Rovira: Bass; Jean Sablon: Vocals; Gianni Safred: Piano; Lucien Simoens: Bass; Emmanuel Soudieux: Bass; Eddie South: Vocals; Rex Stewart & His 52nd Street Stompers; Rex Stewart: Cornet; Jean Storne: Bass; Tartebouille: Bass; Billy Taylor Jr.: Bass; Freddy Taylor: Vocals; Charles Trenet: Vocals; Eugene Vees: Guitar; Louis Vola: Bass; Christian Wagner: Clarinet, Alto Sax; Michel Warlop: Vocals; Dicky Wells & His Orchestra; Dicky Wells: Trombone.