Quintette du Hot Club de France: Limehouse Blues

Track

Limehouse Blues

Group

Quintette du Hot Club de France

CD

The Definitive Django Reinhardt, Vol. 4 (JSP 344)

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Musicians:

St├ęphane Grappelli (violin), Django Reinhardt (guitar), Joseph Reinhardt (guitar), Pierre 'Baro' Ferret (guitar),

Lucien Simoens (bass)

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Composed by Philip Braham & Douglas Furber

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Recorded: Paris, May 4, 1936

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Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The Quintet of the Hot Club of France played a lot of songs about places they had never visited ("Chicago", "Charleston", etc.), but "Limehouse Blues" was about London and presumably all of the members had been there and knew that neighborhood. The Quintet recorded "Limehouse" twice in just under 8 months (both versions appear on the above CD) and the differences between them are quite astonishing. The first version was made for Decca in October 1935 and it moves along at a staid medium tempo and the solos are well-played but not too exciting. Something must have happened in the 8 months before the Quintet recorded the song again for HMV, for this time the tempo is considerably faster and the feeling is much rougher. Django's guitar murmurs a few dissenting thoughts during the relatively calm first chorus, but as the solos approach, Django and Stephane seem to momentarily fight over who will get the first solo. Stephane plays the solo while Django pushes the intensity with the guitars. To my ears, Stephane seems hemmed in by the simple chord sequence and his phrases, while of varied length, seem to all sound the same. Django has no such problem with the chords and he fires off a brilliant solo, using octaves and chorded passages to set off his ideas. As the solo progresses, his technique seems less polished as his octaves have a rough edge to them. In the ensemble chorus that follows, Django fills with reckless abandon. When Stephane takes back the solo spotlight, he's found his inspiration again, and in the course of his solo, he presages the descending ensemble part recorded by the Benny Goodman Quartet on "Avalon" in the following year. Was Benny listening to the Hot Club records in his off-hours?

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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