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When it comes to the real roots of jazz guitar, two names clearly standout in the minds of most jazz followers- Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. While the recordings of the former are few enough in number to make it a somewhat easy task to acquire, the latter’s fairly large body of work poses a challenge in terms of the novice. Add to this the fact that many foreign issues exist and that in addition to his work as a solo artist Reinhardt was also a key member of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France (QHCF). This group was formed in 1932 and included two rhythm guitars, Django’s solo voice, and the violin of the legendary Stephane Grappelli, although several subtle variations of this grouping were offered up in later years.
This massive seven-disc set is a great “one-stop shop” in terms of the quantity and quality of Django music that it presents. The first six sessions from 1936 and 1937 were originally cut for the HMV label and they contain a wealth of three-minute masterpieces that capture the QHCF at a creative peak. There‘s a few throw away vocals from Freddy Taylor intermixed, but they certainly do nothing to spoil the inspired atmosphere.
Eventually the QHCF would jump labels, with subsequent work in this set coming from the Disques Swing catalog. There would also be experimentation with different line-ups and the addition of a drummer and/or pianist on occasion. This productive period of recording would run from 1937 through 1943 with such classics as “Nuages “and “Festival Swing” being just two highlights among many.
The mid-‘40s, of course, brought World War II and the German occupation, which left Reinhardt and many foreign jazz artists in limbo for many years. In fact, Django and Grappelli hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in over six years by the time they were able to team up again for the 1946-1948 recordings that conclude this set. Both players seem more adept by this time, not that they were slouches before, and the improved recording technology allows additional subtle nuances to be heard. Django, in particular, amazes with his dexterity, advanced chordal work, and distinguishing sound, all qualities that continue to endear him to guitarists around the globe to this day.
Mosaic’s typical aesthetics are to be found with this boxed set- great sound quality matched with an informative 28-page booklet that includes rare photos, plus commentary by guitarist and Django expert Mike Peters. There’s really no better place to start your Reinhardt collection than with this offering, but you’ll need to grab it fast because of the limited quantities endemic to all Mosaic packages.
Personnel: Collective: Django Reinhardt, Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret, Marcel Bianchi, Louis Gaste, Eugene Vees, Jack Llewelyn, Allan Hodgkiss, Challin Ferret, Jean Ferret- guitar; Stephane Grappelli, Michel Warlop- violin; Andre Lluis, Gerard Leveque, Hubert Rostaing, Christian Wagner- clarinet; Georges Jacquemont, Alix Combelle, Charles Hary- tenor saxophone; Aime Barelli, Pierre Allier, Severin Luino, Christian Bellest, Aime Barelli, Alex Caturegl- trumpet; Maurice Gladieu, Guy Paquinet- trombone; Louis Vola, Eugene d'Hellemmes, Francis Luca, Tony Rovira, Emmanuel Soudieux, Jean Storne, Coleridge Goode, Lucien Simoens, Fred Ermelin- bass; Andre Jourdan, Pierre Fouad, Armand Molinetti, Gaston Leonard, Arthur Motta- drums; Freddy Taylor, Josette Dayde- vocals, Dany Kane- harmonica, Willy Kett- vibes, Jacques Dieval- piano
Track Information: 119 performances, including one previously unissued track, on seven compact discs.