Jean Baptiste Reinhardt was a Belgian Gypsy born in 1910 in the Benelux town of Liverchies. He would never be known as Jean Baptiste, however. Django was his moniker and his is a name that looms as larger over Jazz guitar and Jimi Hendrix does over Blues/Rock Guitar. Somewhat of a free spirit, Reinhardt lived his for his own merriment and while doing so created a catalog of music that influenced everyone Stateside from Duke Ellington to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Originally playing violin first, Reinhardt switched to guitar while living in a caravan outside of Paris. A wagon fire in 1928 caused scar contractures on his left hand, rendering his ring a little finger useless. Nevertheless, Reinhardt overcame this handicap to produce a corpus of music that could serve as the soundtrack for prewar France. In 1934, Reinhardt joined with Stephane Grappelli to form the Quintette Du Hot Club De France, who performed and recorded widely until the outbreak of World War II, when Grappelli remained England where the Quintette was appearing, while Reinhardt returned to France. These two Naxos Jazz Legends releases focus on this period before the war.
Djangology Volume 1: 1934 -1935
details the front end of the guitarist's association with Stephane Grappelli. These pieces were originally released on Ultraphon and Decca between December 1934 and October 1935. All were recorded with Grappelli and either Du Hot Club
or Grappelli's Hot Four
. These recordings were to be the first of many making the two musicians and Le Hot Jazz famous. Of note on this first release are the covers of the earliest jazz: the ODJB's "Tiger Rag, Handy's "St. Louis Blues," and Foster's "Swanee River." Reinhardt and Grappelli effectively Europeanized the earliest American songbook. Reinhardt's admiration for Ellington is expressed eloquently in "It don't Mean A thing." "Limehouse Blues" points squarely in the direction of Joe Pass and his treatment. Finally, the signature "Djangology," like "Anthropology" and "Ornithology," went on to be associated Reinhardt and his music, long before Bird was associated with his. These recordings were made during the late interim between two world wars and betray a certain optimism and courage.
Classic Recordings by the Quintette Du Hot Club De France Volume 2: 1938 - 1938
detail the other end of the Reinhardt-Grappelli collaboration. This collection documents a bit darker music, a bit more ethnic. Mixed with the standards like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Honeysuckle Rose" are "Appel Indirect" and " Billets Doux". The music is a bit less carefree and a bit more urgent, like the two musicians were trying to complete something before an impending deadline. This is music with clouds in it. This is nervous music. Music being played in the dark waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is the soundtrack of France of the brink. Both collections are welcome, for the price and the music documented. I hope that Naxos has access to much more.
Classic Recordings By The Quintette Du Hot Club De France Volume 2: 1938 - 1938: Appel Indirect; Billets Doux; Japanese Sandman; Three Little Words; Stompin' At Decca; Souvenirs; Sweet Georgia Brown; Tornerai; If I Had You; Nocturne; Black And White; Honeysuckle Rose; Swing; I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight; Why Shouldn't I; Them There Eyes. (Total Time: 52:38).
Personnel: Django Reinhardt: Guitar; Stephane Grappelli: Violin; and others.