REINHARDT, Django: Americans in Paris (1935-1937) (Naxos: 8.120734)
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Django Reinhardt Vol.7
Americans in Paris, Part One
Original Recordings 1935-1937
In the 1930s, Europe was a haven for some ofthe top black American jazz musicians. It offeredthree main advantages. 1) It was an escape fromthe institutional racism of the United Statesalthough Germany was to be avoided afterHitler's rise in power in 1933. 2) While thoughtof as lower class entertainment by many in theUSA, jazz musicians were treated as artists inEurope where jazz was ranked near classicalmusic in importance. 3) Being in Europe gavethe best jazz musicians an opportunity to playwith guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinistStephane Grappelli.
Jean Baptiste \Django" Reinhardt, who wasborn 23 January 1910 in Liverchies, Belgium, wasunquestionably the premier guitarist in jazz afterthe death of Eddie Lang in 1933. Despite onlybeing able to use two fingers on one of his handsdue to a fire in the late 1920s, he was able toconstruct powerful solos that overcame theproblems of playing a barely audible acousticguitar. Stephane Grappelli (born 26 January1908 in Paris) ranked with Joe Venuti, EddieSouth and the up-and-coming Stuff Smith asjazz's top violinist in the 1930s. Although theirpersonalities were different, with Grappelli beingsophisticated and reliable while Reinhardt lived agypsy's lifestyle and was barely literate, musicallythey made for a perfect match. Starting in 1933they worked together regularly as co-leaders ofthe Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France, a groupalso including two rhythm guitars and a bass.
Some of the finest collaborations ofReinhardt and Grappelli with American greatsfrom 1935-37 are on this collection. ColemanHawkins (1904-69) was the unrivalled king ofthe tenor sax at the time. He had come to fameas a key soloist with the Fletcher HendersonOrchestra during 1923-34 where his large toneand harmonically advanced ideas made him thefirst major tenor soloist. Frustrated by the lackof progress in the fortunes of the Henderson bigband, he moved to Europe in 1934, staying forfive years and being treated like royalty.
Hawkins met up with Reinhardt andGrappelli on a few occasions. Their earliestrecording was on 2 March 1935 when Hawkinswas accompanied by an all-star French orchestra(other than expatriate American trumpeterArthur Briggs) organized by violinist MichelWarlop. Grappelli switched to his firstinstrument (piano) for the occasion whileReinhardt is very much in evidence on guitar,both as a rhythm player and as a highly originalsoloist; check out his opening break on Avalon.
Star Dust showcases Hawkins with the rhythmsection, displaying his tone and his way of bothcaressing and building upon the melody.
The haunting Smoke Rings has the QuintetOf The Hot Club Of France effectivelyaugmented by four brass instruments. Thisversion of the Casa Loma Orchestra's themesong is a real standout. American trumpeter BillColeman (1904-81) was under appreciated andovershadowed in the U.S. but fared quite well inEurope during the 1930s. He joins Django in apickup quintet led by pianist Garnet Clark, anAmerican influenced by Fats Waller and EarlHines. Coleman takes solo honours on a fineversion of Rosetta, a song written by Hines theprevious year. The next three selections return tothe Quintet of the Hot Club Of France withAmerican singer Freddy Taylor being the guest.
Taylor swings on I'se A Muggin' (a hit forviolinist Stuff Smith), Georgia On My Mind andNagasaki, no doubt inspired by theaccompanying musicians.
The following version of Crazy Rhythm is oneof the most exciting recordings of the era. BennyCarter (1907-2003), who was responsible for thearrangement, was with Johnny Hodges theleading altoist in jazz during the 1930s. Carterfirst recorded in 1927 with Charlie Johnson'sParadise Ten and worked with FletcherHenderson, McKinney's Cotton Pickers and hisown big bands. After making a strongimpression in the U.S. with his alto and trumpetplaying, his arrangements and his compositions,he spent 1935-38 in Europe where he workedconstantly. On Crazy Rhythm the two greatAmerican saxophonists Carter and Hawkins arejoined by the two major French players altoistAndre Ekyan and tenor-saxophonist AlixCombelle with the solo order being Ekyan,Combelle, Carter and Hawkins. DjangoReinhardt was supposed to go next but, caughtup in the excitement, he urges Hawkins to takeanother chorus while being content to drive theclassic performance to its conclusion.
Dicky Wells (1907-85) was most famous forhis years with Count Basie (1938-50) but his tripto Europe took place a year earlier when he wasa member of Teddy Hill's Orchestra. An erraticbut exciting trombonist who had a humorousspeechlike style, Wells is heard in top form onthree selections. Bugle Call Rag has him utilizingthree trumpeters including two (Bill Dillard andShad Collins) from Hill's band but not the thirdone (a young Dizzy Gillespie), opting instead forBill Coleman. While each of the trumpeters getsspots on Bugle Call Rag, both Sweet Sue, JustYou and Japanese Sandman have Coleman asthe only trumpeter. The solos, tradeoffs andinterplay between trumpet and trombone, drivenby Reinhardt's guitar, make these jams quitememorable.
In 1937, Eddie South (1904-62) was makinghis second visit to Europe. His first timeoverseas, in 1928, resulted in Smith becomingvery interested in gypsy melodies as a basis forhis improvising. Also skilled at playing swingtunes, standards and blues, South (who had thetechnique of a classical violinist) fit in naturallywith Reinhardt and Grappelli. Eddie's Bluesputs him in the spotlight, playing a duet withDjango. With bassist Wilson Myers making thegroup a trio, South and Reinhardt romp throughSweet Georgia Brown. Lady Be Good is givenan unusual treatment for, after Django gets achorus, he is followed by the three violins ofWarlop, Grappelli and South, who solo in thatorder. Warlop departs and on Dinah andReinhardt's Daphne, South and Grappelliinteract with each other. The two violinists havesimilar sounds and styles with South's tone beinga bit darker and his solos sometimes being a littlemore adventurous.
The final four selections feature trumpeterBill Coleman. While Coleman worked with manygroups in the U.S., he was relatively unknown inhis native land. However in Europe he made astrong impression during 1935-40 before beingforced by World War II to return to the UnitedStates. Unlike Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter,Dicky Wells and Eddie South, Coleman returnedpermanently to Europe in 1948, playing swingand dixieland on the Continent in the decadesbefore his death in 1981. He is in excellent formwith Reinhardt in a septet on Baby Won't YouPlease Come Home, Big Boy Blues (which hasboth Christian Wagner and Big Boy Goudie onclarinets) and Swing Guitars, and really excels onBill Coleman Blues, a duet with DjangoReinhardt.
Throughout these dates, Django Reinhardtand Stephane Grappelli hold their own with theirAmerican guests, showing once again that theywere the first great European jazz musicians andthat jazz is truly an international language.
Scott Yanow - author of 8 jazz books including Swing,Jazz On Film, Bebop, Trumpet Kings and Jazz OnRecord 1917-76"