Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt: After You've Gone

The start of World War II broke up the popular Quintette du Hot Club de France, then touring England, with Stéphane Grappelli remaining in London for the duration of the conflict, while Django Reinhardt returned to France. Beginning in 1946, the two reunited periodically up until their last recordings in Italy in 1949. As one hears on this track from those final sessions, their playing by then had taken on a new level of assuredness and virtuosity, no doubt indirectly influenced by the innovations of bebop. Except for the pianist's brief intro, the Italian rhythm section goes almost unnoticed. It is the astonishing, swiftly executed solos of both leaders, as well as Django's almost manic rhythm guitar support for Stéphane, that nearly overwhelm the listener. It would be another 20 years before Grappelli's popularity began to accelerate, and it continued to do so for almost another 30 years after that. Django, alas, would drift through the next, and last, four frustrating years of his life.

March 25, 2008 · 0 comments

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Eddie South and Stéphane Grappelli: Daphné

Eddie South spent the years 1928 to 1931 in Paris and other parts of Europe both performing and studying, and was one of Stéphane Grappelli's early inspirations, although Grappelli was mostly playing piano for a living during those years. When South returned to Paris in 1937, he in turn was inspired by the Quintette du Hot Club de France, and recording sessions soon resulted. South and Grappelli basically play a series of heated exchanges on this track, bookended by the familiar theme. Grappelli is mainly distinguished by his richer tone, not as thin as South's more classical sound. Their phrasings, however, are remarkably similar. Django Reinhardt arranged the piece and provides energetic and imaginative support that nicely frames the two violinists' expressive and technically polished improvisations. South's career never really took off, resulting in few quality record dates. If not for that, instead of a "Big Three" – Grappelli, Joe Venuti and Stuff Smith – setting the standard for jazz violin, there would probably be a "Big Four" that included the gifted Eddie South.

March 25, 2008 · 0 comments

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Django Reinhardt: Mystery Pacific (aka Mysteric Pacific)

Influenced by Eddie Lang, Django Reinhardt in turn inspired Charlie Christian, Les Paul and especially many Europeans who also came out of the Gypsy guitar tradition, most notably Bireli Lagrene. He developed his original style to compensate for his crippled left hand, damaged in a fire. Django's rapid, breathtaking single-note lines at up-tempos, and his expressive lyricism on ballads were an unbeatable combination. This track is a "train song," and one of the most boisterous of such jazz treatments ever recorded. Django and Stéphane as usual share the solo time, while the rest of the Quintette du Hot Club de France lays down a fiercely driving "locomotive" foundation. After Grappelli's passionate solo, Django enters with a scintillating run and never looks back, varying his attack to great effect in a fluent, concise improv.

February 20, 2008 · 0 comments

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Django Reinhardt: Dinah

A concert on the 2nd December 1934 at the Ecole Normale de Musique marked the definitive arrival of the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Imagine how it must have sounded to 1930s jazz fans – no drums, no brass, no saxes! Twenty-six days later Reinhardt showed what a short step the campfire extemporizations of a Manouche gypsy guitarist were from jazz improvisation. The group stood out because their jazz was so quintessentially European at a time when everyone else’s was so quintessentially American. Their boulevardier brio convincingly suggested that jazz could reflect “local” culture without sacrificing the elements that made Afro-American jazz so compelling and subversive.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Django Reinhardt: Djangology

The first Continentals to play le jazz Américain on a par with Yanks, Le Quintette du Hot Club de France was inspired by the late-1920s Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti tandem. Reinhardt and Grappelli, however, made world-class swing with the odd instrumentation of violin, bass and three guitars (perhaps booked by practical Joe-ker Venuti, who once engaged 20+ bassists for the same nonexistent gig). Grappelli was a fine fiddler, but Django reigned supreme. When not firing off explosive volleys of single-note solos, Django's rhythm guitar could power a transatlantic crossing of the Ile de France. "Djangology" is dje-lightful, it's dje-licious, it's dje-lovely!

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Django Reinhardt: Minor Swing

What am I going to say to criticize this record? Would I complain about the 1937 technology’s failure to adequately capture the sound of this historic ensemble (the Quintette du Hot Club de France)? Nah. There may be several angles to view this work but as is often the case with these sorts of things my gut and emotions win out. The beauty of the melodic lines laid down by the two soloists, Grappelli and Reinhardt, says it all. This is buoyant, fun, mature music that harkens back to such a different time. It bears witness to an era that poets would speak more accurately of than historians. If you don’t have this in your collection, please seek help, fast!

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Django Reinhardt: Nuages

One of Debussy's Nocturnes (1899) is subtitled "Nuages" (French for clouds), but this composition is unrelated. The track does, however, reunite Grappelli & Reinhardt, who had separately survived World War II—Stéphane in Britain, Django in Paris (a rare European gypsy to avoid Nazi extermination, thanks to his jazz-loving Luftwaffe patron). Joined in London by two English guitarists and a Jamaican bassist, Grappelli & Reinhardt rekindle their prewar friendship with more sweetness than swing, which is especially poignant considering the recent horrors. Indeed, their melancholy strikes just the right tone. Nuages de guerre had passed, but the world's skies were anything but clear.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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