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Extended Analysis

Sarane Ferret, Django Reinhardt & Others: Gypsy Jazz

By Published: August 30, 2007
Sarane Ferret, Django Reinhardt & Others
Gypsy Jazz
Proper Records

This wonderful 4CD collection of Gypsy jazz—an Aladdin's Cave of rarities, curiosities and lesser known virtuosi of the genre—covers the first twenty or so years of the music's history. Disc one starts in 1934, with future Quintette Du Hot Club De France stars guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli's first recording session together, and disc four ends in 1956, with two gems featuring electric guitarist Sacha Distel, before his later career as a pop singer and matinee idol. Most of the tracks were recorded in Paris, with a handful made elsewhere in Europe or further afield. The four discs, comprehensively annotated in the accompanying booklet, are arranged chronologically.

For most people, Gypsy jazz begins and ends with Reinhardt, indubitably the style's most gifted guitarist. The chief delight of Gypsy Jazz, however, is that it casts its net far wider than Reinhardt's recordings, revealing a host of other astonishing and singular musicians. Ten of the twenty-five tracks on disc one, which spans the pre-war years 1934-39, include Reinhardt, in Hot Club and other settings, but he is heard on only another eight tracks over the remaining three discs.

Disc one's opener, "Le Jour Ou Je Te Vis," a resounding contradiction, incidentally, of the dictum "never start with a ballad," finds Reinhardt a featured soloist in the band led by crooner Jean Sablon, who was seeking to emulate Bing Crosby's early recordings with guitarist Eddie Lang. Reinhardt's limpid, pensive solo is as lovely as anything he recorded later. The disc's other Reinhardt tracks, most of them made with the Hot Club, are also to be treasured, but are already widely available.

Less well known, though equally remarkable, are seven tracks featuring the guitar-playing brothers Sarane, Baro and Matelo Ferret. Members of a Paris-based Gitan clan with its roots in Spain, the Ferrets brought a darker, starker character to Gypsy jazz than that favoured by Reinhardt and the Hot Club (though they could rug-cut with the best of them when required). The darkness was no affectation—by the 1940s, Baro, for one, had drifted away from music to become a full-time gangster. "Winds And Strings," made with accordionist Gus Viseur's group in 1938, is a masterpiece of brooding intensity to rival anything recorded by trumpeter Miles Davis.

Discs two and three span the war years, 1939-45. The Ferrets are frequently featured, mostly in Sarane's Swing Quintette De Paris. By 1942, seeking to avoid the attention of Paris' occupying nazis, the band had dropped the prefix Swing. As Gypsies, the Ferrets were already at risk of arrest and "deportation," and so it took considerable courage for them further to endanger themselves by featuring the Jewish violinist, Georges Effosse, on eight tracks recorded in 1942. A classically trained virtuoso on a par with Grappelli, Effosse's melancholic air sat perfectly in the group. This gentle-looking and supremely lyrical musician perished in the Dora concentration camp in 1944. His compelling, weeping playing on "Royal Blue" inspires one of Sarane Ferret's most affecting solos.

Disc four, which takes us up to 1956, contains other lost masterpieces. Django Reinhardt's guitarist brother, Joseph, plays perhaps his finest ever solo on "L'Oeil Noir." Electric guitarist Jean Bonal, more in Charlie Christian's tradition than the Reinhardts', offers two shimmering recalibrations of Django's signature originals "Melodie Du Crepuscule" and "Nuages," recorded in 1954. The twin electric guitars of Sacha Distel and Jean-Pierre Sasson may actually be more swing-to-bop than Gypsy jazz, but "Two Guitar Blues" and "Joan," from 1956, are each delightful.

Four of the greatest tracks on the final disc—and perhaps on the entire set—were recorded in Buenos Aires, 1944-47 by the accordionist Oscar Aleman. Argentine-born, but resident in Paris since 1931, where for several years he was a member of singer/dancer Josephine Baker's band, the Baker Boys, Aleman escaped from France to Argentina, via Spain, in 1941. With a quintet co-featuring violinist Manuel Gavinovich and guitarist Guillermo Barbieri, Aleman brings a dramatic, heavily tango-influenced atmosphere to "Caminos Cruzados" (Cross Roads) and a surreal, cod-Arabic one to "Diga Diga Doo."

And all this is barely to scratch the surface of the munificent Gypsy Jazz, whose four hours and forty minutes' playing time is unfailingly entertaining and frequently surprising, with a heap of other near-forgotten but distinctive musicians to be savoured. Highly recommended.

Tracks: CD1: Jean Sablon: Le Jour Ou Je Te Vis. Michel Warlop Et Son Orchestre: Cloud Castles; Crazy Strings. Stephane Grappelli Hot Four: You Took Advantage Of Me. Quintette Du Hot Club De France: Bricktop; Speevy; Parmount Stomp; Bolero; Mabel. Michel Warlop: Christmas Swing. Djano Reinhardt: Sweet Georgia Brown. Gus Viseur's Music: Wind And Strings; Automne; Daphne. Albert Ferreri Et Le Trio Ferret: Audalouse. Oscar Aleman: Nobody's Sweetheart; Whispering. Le Trio Ferret: Ma Theo; Gin Gin; La Valse Des Niglos; Tip-Pi-Tin. Oscar Aleman Trio: Russian Lullaby; Just A Little Swing; Dear Old Southland; Jeepers Creepers. CD2: Svenska Hotkvinetten: Hallelujah; Jumping For Joy; I Found A New Baby. Guy Viseur Et Son Orchestre: Undecided; Rosetta. Joseph Dayde Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France: Coucou. Svenska Hotkvinetten: Opus. Quintette Du Hot Club De France: Swing De Paris; Oiseaux Des Iles. Tony Murena Et Son Ensemble Swing: Nostalgia Gitana. Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris: Miami; Septembre; Blue Guitare; Swing Star; Swing; Cocktail Swing; Deux Guitares; Tiger Rag. Tony Murena Et Son Ensemble Swing: Gitan Swing. Quintette Du Hot Club De Belgique: Rose De Miel. Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse: Royal Blue; Surprise Party; Daphne; Hungaria. CD3: Orchestre Swing Jo Reinhardt: Zazou Zazou; Ballade. Django Reinhardt: Blues De Mineur. Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre: Swing '42. Viseur-Deloof Sextet: Sur La Glace; Chantons Ensemble; Harlem Swing; Gus Et Gus; Manche De Fouet. Frank Ottersen Og Hans SekStett: Ding Dong Dang; Skumring; Promenade; Opus 1. Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse: Lucky; Folies Bergere; Studio 28; Sex-Appeal. Django Reinhardt: Improvisation No.3 Pt.1; Improvisation No.3 Pt.2. Swend Asmussen: Exactly Like You. Jean Ferret Et Son Sixtette: Swing Guitars; Le Vipere Du Trottoir. Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble: Un Peu De Reve; Douce Georgette. CD4: Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble: L'Oeil Noir. Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing: Caminos Cruzados; Darktown Strutters Ball; Cielos Azules; Diga Diga Doo. Vincentino: Ideas In Minor. Django Reinhardt Et Stephan Grappelli: How High The Moon. Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France: Minor Swing. Jean Bonal: Melodie Au Crespuscule; Nuages. Ensemble Eddy Christiani: Flighty Flies. Frans Poptie En Zyn Solisten: Snowy Blues. Jean-Pierre Sasson Et Son Ensemble: Artillerie Lourde. Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette: I Surrender Dear; Out Of Nowhere; Djoungalo; Pennies From Heaven. Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble: Love For Sale; Yardbird Suite; Je Cherche Apres Titine; Ay Ay Ay. Jean Pierre Sasson Et Sacha Distel: Two Guitar Blues; Joan. Frans Poptie En Zyn Solisten: Just Blowing.

Personnel: Jean Sablon; Michel Warlop Et Son Orchestre; Stephane Grappelli Hot Four; Quintette Du Hot Club De France; Django Reinhardt; Gus Viseur's Music; Albert Ferreri Et Le Trio Ferret; Oscar Aleman; Le Trio Ferret; Oscar Aleman Trio; Svenska Hotkvintetten; Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre; Josette Dayde Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France; Tony Murena Et Son Ensemble Swing; Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris; Quintette Du Hot Club De Belgique; Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse; Orchestre Swing Jo Reinhardt; Viseur-Deloof Sextet; Frank Ottersen Og Hans Sekstett; Svend Asmussen; Jean Ferret Et Son Sixtette; Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble; Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing; Vincentino; Django Reinhardt Et Stephane Grappelli; Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France; Jean Bonal; Ensemble Eddy Christiani; Frans Poptie En Zyn Solisten; Jean-Pierre Sasson Et Son Ensemble; Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette; Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble; Jean Pierre Sasson Et Sacha Distel.

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