DJANGO REINHARDT Vol.4
'Swingin' With Django' Original Recordings 1937
Classic recordings by The Quintet of the Hot Club of France
On 26 April 1937, when this reissue begins, guitarist DjangoReinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli were 27 and 29 years old. When they began recording together asthe Quintet of the Hot Club of France three years earlier, they had created asensation and made music history. Reinhardt was universally considered the greatest guitarist in jazzwhile Grappelli ranked with Joe Venuti at the top among jazz violinists, withincreasing competition from Stuff Smith and Eddie South. They were also considered the firstmajor European jazz musicians and the creator of a new instrumental sound withtheir all-string quintet.
It was remarkable that Jean Baptiste \Django" Reinhardtcould play guitar at all. Born andraised in a gypsy caravan that traveled around Europe (particularly Belgium andFrance), Reinhardt had developed into a fine banjoist by the early 1920s,doubling on guitar and making his first recordings in 1928. However when he was asleep one night, afire in his caravan seriously burned him, particularly two of the fingers onhis left hand which became unusable. After recovering, he spent every hour relearning the guitar so he couldfinger chords with two of his other fingers and occasionally his thumb. He used his handicap as an opportunityto develop a new way of playing the guitar. After his predecessor Eddie Lang died in 1933, Reinhardt hadno real competitors among jazz guitarists.
Stephane Grappelli's life was more conven-tional for he waswell schooled, sophisticated and picked up experience playing with dance bandsin France before first meeting Reinhardt in 1931. In 1933 when they were both hired for the same orchestra, abackstage jam session convinced them that they should form their own combo. Since the acoustic guitar was generallyinaudible in larger bands (the electric guitar would not catch on until 1939),they settled on a drumless, pianoless and hornless quintet comprised ofGrappelli's violin, Reinhardt's guitar, two rhythm guitars and bass which wassoon named the Quintette of the Hot Club of France.
The group made its first recordings in December 1934 andwere a hit from the start, first in Paris, then throughout the rest of Europeand finally (via its records) the United States. By 1937, the band was at the peak of its powers, full ofyouthful and joyful enthusiasm. Onthis collection, which contains many of their best recordings of 1937,Reinhardt and Grappelli are not only heard with the Quintet but leading smallergroups and welcoming guest violinists Eddie South and Michel Warlop.
The previous Naxos Django release Swing Guitars concludedwith the ten selections that made up the Quintet of the Hot Club of France'sfirst two record dates of 1937. Swingin' With Django begins with the very next session; six numbers from26 April 1937 and one from the following day. Miss Annabelle Lee is an obscurity from the 1920s that waswell worth reviving; listen to how heated the guitars become behind Grappelli'sclosing solo. Chicago and Runnin'Wild both became famous in the 1920s and have been standards ever since; theseversions are among their most definitive. Franz Listz's classical melody Liebestraum No.3 is not heard too oftenin a jazz setting but Tommy Dorsey's band also recorded it in 1937. It has similarities to Basin StreetBlues. On Mystery Pacific,Reinhardt does a magnificent imitation of a train. Duke Ellington's In A Sentimental Mood gives the Quintettean opportunity to show their expertise with a superior ballad. A rollicking version of The Sheik OfAraby wraps up the first part of this disc.
On the same day that The Sheik Of Araby was recorded, Djangohad his first opportunity to be the leader of his own record date. He performed two originals,Improvisation and Parfum, as guitar solos, recalling Eddie Lang's earlierefforts in this area but displaying his own distinctive sound. I've Found A New Baby was releasedunder Grappelli's name (he first led his own sessions back in 1935) and is anunusual but very self-sufficient violin-guitar duet with Django. Reinhardt's second date as a leader,which resulted in St. Louis Blues and the minor-toned Bouncin' Around, put theemphasis back on his guitar while he is backed by rhythm guitar and bass. Clearly Django could swing in anyformat and was always capable of coming up with inventive ideas, for no otherjazz guitarist in 1937 (and few since) played with the fluency of Reinhardt.
The full Quintette returns for Minor Swing (one of the mostenduring of the Reinhardt-Grappelli original songs) and Viper's Dream. On Minor Swing one can hear Djangoyelling out encouragement to the violinist. On Swingin' With Django and Paramount Stomp, Michel Warlopjoins the Quintette on second violin. Warlop, who takes the second violin solo on both tracks, had a slightlysweeter sound than Grappelli and was considered one of the top French jazzviolinists of the era although he was always in Stephane's shadow. My Serenade is a haunting melody fromthe Reinhardt and Grappelli that is well worth rediscovering.
American violinist Eddie South visited France in November1937. Four years older thanGrappelli, South first recorded in the 1920s and had a wide-ranging style thatwas open to the influences of classical music, gypsy music and swingingjazz. During his European tour, herecorded with Reinhardt and Grappelli in a few different settings including asa two-violin one-guitar trio. Mostintriguing is their Swing Interpretation Of The First Movement Of The ConcertoIn D Minor By J.S.Bach and an Improvisation on the same piece. The former performance begins with aquote from "Mahogany Hall Stomp" before the violinists jam on the Bachmelody. The "Improvisation" islooser and hotter now that respect had been paid to Bach. Fiddle's Blues finishes off the programwith bassist Paul Cordonnier added to the group, South taking the first violinsolo and Grappelli leading off the tradeoffs after Django's spot.
1937 might have been one of the prime years of the swing erabut few swung as hard and in as unique a fashion as Django Reinhardt andStephane Grappelli.
Scott Yanow, author of 8 jazz books including Jazz On Record1917-76, Bebop, Swing and Trumpet Kings