Django Reinhardt: Genius of Improvisation; Blanchard/Schmitt: Rendez-vous

Florence Wetzel By

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One of jazz' most distinctive voices, guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) was a master of melodic improvisation and swing. Two new releases continue Reinhardt's legacy: Django Reinhardt: Genius of Improvisation and Rendez-vous by Pierre Blanchard and Dorado Schmitt.

Django Reinhardt
Genius of Improvisation

Genius of Improvisation is a sublime two-disc set containing 48 cuts from Reinhardt's prime years of 1936-1946. The CDs are a nice mix of arrangements, containing two solos, two large group numbers, several vocal numbers, and various lineups of Reinhardt's legendary group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Over half the songs feature Reinhardt with violinist Stephane Grappelli, providing a wonderful immersion in one of jazz' legendary pairings. Reinhardt and Grappelli also penned several songs on the CD, including "Oriental Shuffle" and "Swing Guitars."The collection is rounded out by chestnuts such as "All of Me,""Chicago,""Ain't Misbehavin'" and "St. Louis Blues."Mention must also be made of Freddy Taylor's irresistible vocals on "Georgia,""Shine,""Nagasaki,"and Stuff Smith's "I'se a Muggin."

As for Reinhardt's playing, what's not to like? His fluent fingers (two severely damaged by fire in his early twenties, by the way) weave exquisite melodies that delight the ears and the soul. The music sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded, due in part to crisp remastering but owing mostly to Reinhardt's spirit, a lovely combination of playfulness, sweet humor, and a touch of melancholy. Altogether Genius of Improvisation is an essential compilation, an aural record of a jazz genius in his prime.

Pierre Blanchard/Dorado Schmitt
Le Chant du Monde

Surely one of the marks of geniuses is the inspiration they afford others, both during their lifetime and after their death. Violinist Pierre Blanchard and guitarist Dorado Schmitt's release Rendez-vous pays spirited homage to Grappelli and Reinhardt, recreating the masters' vibrancy while also infusing their own talent. The fourteen songs are a joyful journey through Reinhardt tunes like "Melodie du Crepuscule,""Djangologie,""Dinette,""Tears,""Belleville,"and "Double Scotch,"plus classics like "Charleston,""Sweet Georgia Brown,"and "I Got Rhythm."In addition to Blanchard and Schmitt, the musicians include guitarist Samson Schmitt, bassist Diego Imbert, and violinist Mathilde Feber, giving each song a dynamic, full-bodied sound.

Blanchard was a student of Grappelli, and in his heartfelt liner notes he writes that playing Grappelli's music was a selfish way of bringing him back to life, as well as an attempt to keep the music alive. Rendez-vous succeeds beautifully on both counts; the music shimmers with joie de vivre, expressing Reinhardt and Grappelli's essence and showing the important place this music holds for contemporary musicians.

Genius of Improvisation

Tracks: CD1: I'se A Muggin'; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Oriental Shuffle; After You've Gone; Are You In The Mood; Limehouse Blues; Nagasaki; Swing Guitars; Georgia On My Mind; Shine; In the Still of the Night; Sweet Chorus; Hot Lips; Ain't Misbehavin'; Rose Room; Body and Soul; When Day is Gone; Runnin' Wild; Chicago; Liebestraum No 3; Miss Annabelle Lee; A Little Love A Little Kiss; Mystery Pacific; In A Sentimental Mood. CD2: Improvisation; Parfum; Louis Blues; Minor Swing; You Rascal You; Sweet Georgia Brown; Tears; Daphne; Begin the Beguine; Swing '41; Nuages; Pour Vous (Exactly Like You); Vendredi 13; Mabel; Petits Mesonges (Little White Lies); Les Yeux Noirs (Dark Eyes); Sweet Sue; Swing De Paris; Oiseaux De Lles; All Of Me; Swing '42; Manoir De Mes Reves; Djangology; Echoes Of France (La Marsellaise).

Personnel: Django Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret, Marcel Bianchi, Louis Gaste, Eugene Vees, Jack Llewelyn, Allan Hodgkiss: guitar; Stephane Grappelli: violin; Lucien Simoens, Louis Vola, Eugene d/Hellemmes, Alix Combelle, Emmanuel Soudieux, Francis Luca, Tony Rovira, Jean Storne, Bob Decker, Coleridge Goode: bass; Freddy Taylor: vocals; Philippe Brun, Pierre Allier, Alex Piguilhem, Herb Bass, Jerry Stephan, Robin Gould, Lonnie Wilfong: trumpet; Guy Paquinet, Gaston Moat, Pierre Deck, Bill Decker, Don Gardner, Shelton Heath, John Kirkpatrick: trombone; Charlie Lewis, Larry Mann: piano; Andre Ekyan, Joe Moser: alto saxophone; Hubert Rostaing, Andre Lluis, Gerard Leveque: clarinet; Pierre Fouad, Gaston Leonard, Bill Bethel: drums; Jim Hayes: clarinet, alto saxophone; Bernie Cavaliere, Bill Zicke-foose: tenor saxophone; Ken Lowther; bassoon; Jack Platt: conductor.


Tracks: Charleston; Menilmontant; Melodie au crepuscule; Djangologie; As Time Goes By; Dinette; Tears; Belleville; Sinti rhapsodie; Someone to Watch Over Me/I Got Rhythm; Double Scotch; Sweet Georgia Brown; Balladorado; Chicago.

Personnel: Pierre Blanchard: violin; Dorado Schmitt: guitar, violin; Samson Schmitt: guitar; Diego Imbert: contrabass; Mathilde Febrer: violin.


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