He's been gone for more than 53 years but the influence of legendary Belgian gypsy guitarist (and violinist) Jean Baptiste "Django Reinhardt remains as vital as ever. Along with continued interest in his own recordings, new discs from current musicians reflect his vibrant legacy.
French gypsy guitarist Raphael Fays has generally been acknowledged as the outstanding successor to Reinhardt's style, although it would be both inaccurate and unfair to categorize him as a mere follower of Django. A professional since age 15, he soon began experimenting with a variety of musical genres, beginning with his own compositions. Recorded live at the 1985 Festival de Guitare de Liege, France, Swing Guitar demonstrates just how wide ranging his playing can be, from his own "Romantique Voyage to Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing... , Jobim's "Wave and several Reinhardt classics such as the set's title tune, "Chez Jacquet and "Nuages . His playing is intoxicating throughout and the melancholy beauty of "Nuages is a salute to Django even as flavorful licks clearly stake Fays' own way.
Austrian-born gypsy Harri Stojka starts off with a raucous jamboree on "Swanee River on his A Tribute To Gypsy Swing before launching into an even more breathless run through Reinhardt's "Nuits De Saint-Germain-Des-Pres . But it's no mere pyrotechics here, for Stojka's technique is flawless throughout. Born in 1957, Stojka's had his own band since age 15, playing everything from fusion to jazz, blues and even heavy metal. While acknowledging the influence of George Benson and Joe Pass among others, he especially credits "the spirit of Django as a great influence. His "Bei Mir Bist Du Scheen is especially easy to take as is a smooth, more lightly romantic spin on "Nuages .
Yet another go at "Nuages can be heard on the 2006 Detroit Music Award-winning Hot Club of Detroit, the group's debut recording. As guitarist and group leader Evan Perri opines, "We just want to make music that's true to the spirit of Django but that's also true to ourselves. The band's repertoire ranges from Reinhardt favorites to selections by Wes Montgomery, Jobim and Fats Waller as well as two Perri originals, including a runnin' wild "Swing One . Their take on "Belleville adds a non-stop romp through the Reinhardt tune, tastily seasoned by Perri and Dave Bennett's traded licks.
Then we return to the master himself. A continuing source of amazement when listening to Reinhardt is the knowledge that due to a caravan fire in which he was severely injured at age 18, Reinhardt permanently lost the use of two fingers of his left hand. What makes In Solitaire so special a collection is these are only solo performances from 1937 through 1950, presented here for the first time together on CD. Handicap notwithstanding, his playing is flawless - virtuoso numbers that shine in far less than ideal recording circumstances. His famously high octane performances rightfully became legendary. If only for his long and pensive considerations of "Belleville and "Nuages , the CD is a must have. As he works through new ideas with tunes he played again and again, one savors the intimacy of listening as a master creates.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Romantique Voyage; It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing; Swingtime in Springtime; L'ami Luko; Swing Guitar; Don't Worry 'bout Me; Chez Jacquet; Douce Ambiance; Troublant Bolero; Sweet Georgia Brown; Nuages; Daphne; Blues en Mineur; Les Yeux Noirs; Wave; Round About Midnight; On Green Dolphin Street; Impro 1937; Spain.
Personnel: Raphael Fays: guitar; Laurent Bajata: guitar; Claude Mouton: contrabass.
A Tribute to Gypsy Guitar
Tracks: Swanee River; Nuits de Saint Germain-Des-Pres; J'Attendrai; Bei Meir Bist Du Schoen; Avalon; Nuages; Limehouse Blues; Petite Fleur; Undecided; Song For My Daddy; Just One Of Those Things; Sweet Sue; Schee Is So Ringlspu.
Personnel: Harri Stojka: lead guitar; Claudius Jelinek: rhythm guitar, banjo; Ivan Ruiz Machado: bass; Heimo Weiderhofer: brush snare; Eva Berky: violin.
Hot Club of Detroit
Tracks: Belleville; Passion; Honeysuckle Rose; Leila; Stompin' At Decca; Nuages; Swing One; Aurore; How Insensitive; Tears; Godfather Theme; Troublant Bolero; Anouman.
Personnel: Evan Perri: lead guitar; Colton Weatherston: rhythm guitar; Paul Brady: rhythm guitar; Shannon Wade: stand-up string bass; Dave Bennett: clarinet; Julien Labro: button accordion.
Tracks: Improvisation No. 1; Perfum; Improvisation No. 2 (Master); Improvisation No. 2 (alternate); Echoes of Spain; Naguine; Improvisation No. 3 Part 1; Improvisation No. 3 Part 2; Improvisation No. 6; Improvisation No. 7; Improvisation 47 (Improvisation No. 5); Improvisation No. 4; Belleville; Nuages; Two Improvised Guitar Choruses.
Personnel: Django Reinhardt: guitar.