REINHARDT, Django: Americans in Paris

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Django Reinhardt Vol.8

Americans in Paris, Part Two

Original Recordings 1938-1945

Django Reinhardt was the top European jazzmusician prior to the 1950s in addition to beingone of the two most significant jazz guitarists ofthe 1930s and '40s (along with CharlieChristian). Surprisingly, he only visited the UnitedStates once. Reinhardt was booked for anAmerican tour in 1946 with Duke Ellington'sorchestra but the visit was a major disappointment.

Django arrived in the U.S. expecting to betreated as a hero. Instead, he was neglected by apublic more interested in the rise of bebop, thecollapse of the swing era big bands and theincreasing prominence of pop singers. Inaddition, Ellington failed to write any new worksthat featured Django, just having the guitarist jama few standards with the big band's rhythmsection. Reinhardt became homesick for France,he missed or appeared late at several key concertsand, when he returned home, his United Statesadventure was just thought of as a brief misfire.

In contrast, when major American jazzmusicians visited Europe in the 1930s and '40s,they went out of their way to find and play withReinhardt. This resulted in many classicrecordings that feature Django holding his ownwith the Americans.

Jean Baptiste \Django" Reinhardt was born23 January 1910 in Liverchies, Belgium.

Originally a banjoist in the 1920s who playeddance music, Reinhardt discovered jazz throughthe recordings of Louis Armstrong. He wasalready doubling on guitar when a disastrous firein his gypsy caravan permanently scarred one ofhis hands. Despite only being able to use twofingers on the hand he used to finger chords,Reinhardt made a comeback and developed apowerful solo style. When he began regularlyteaming up with violinist Stephane Grappelli in1933 as co-leaders of the Quintet of the Hot Clubof France (an all-string group consisting of violin,three acoustic guitars and bass), a new soundwas born.

In addition to his work with the Quintet,Reinhardt appeared with a variety of all-stargroups that often featured American greats.

'Americans In Paris Part 1' has Django interactingwith tenor-saxophonist Coleman Hawkins,trumpeter Bill Coleman, trombonist Dickie Wellsand violinist Eddie South. 'Americans In ParisPart 2' begins in 1938 with Benny Carter.

Carter (1907-2003) had a remarkable careerfull of consistent achievements and impressivelongevity. He made his recording debut in 1927with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten, was alreadya notable altoist and arranger by the followingyear, and worked with Fletcher Henderson,McKinney's Cotton Pickers and his own bigbands. A top altoist and trumpeter in addition tobeing an occasional clarinettist, Carter was ingreat demand in Europe during his three yearsoverseas (1935-38), both as a soloist and as anarranger/composer. After returning to the U.S.,he worked steadily for the next sixty years until hisretirement at the age of ninety.

The first three selections on this collectionfeature Carter leading a septet/octet ofEuropeans including Reinhardt. From the start ofI'm Coming Virginia, one knows that it is a BennyCarter arrangement; his writing for reeds wasalways distinctive. Tenor-saxophonist AlixCombelle shows off the influence of ColemanHawkins before Django Reinhardt and BennyCarter take an inventive chorus apiece. FarewellBlues has spots for altoist Fletcher Allen, ajubilant Combelle and Carter with Reinhardtmostly in the background other than taking a fewshort breaks. Blue Light Blues features adifferent sound altogether and, rather thanhaving a frontline of three saxophones, Carterswitches to trumpet and Bertie King joins theband on clarinet. All four horns and Django areheard from on this spontaneous-soundingperformance.

Larry Adler (1914-2001) was always in hisown musical category. The first major harmonicasoloist, Adler worked hard to make theharmonica accepted as a legitimate instrument.

Throughout his long and productive career, hewas heard playing everything from classical musicto Gershwin. Until the rise of Toots Thielemansin the 1950s, Adler had no competition on hisinstrument.

Although he did not consider himself a jazzmusician, Adler could play credible jazz wheneverit interested him as he showed on his one sessionwith the Quintet of the Hot Club of France.

Adler's expressive harmonica is often in theforefront, taking the place of Stephane Grappelli'sviolin with Grappelli switching to piano. WhileAdler is usually in the lead, Reinhardt gets his solospace and blends in well with the harmonicavirtuoso on Body And Soul, Lover Come Back ToMe, My Melancholy Baby and I Got Rhythm.

While Reinhardt's 1946 tour with DukeEllington did not produce the musical magic thatwas expected, he did have an opportunity in 1939to record with three of Duke's sidemen. RexStewart (1907-67), the leader and organizer ofthe quartet, was famous for the bent notes hewas able to achieve on cornet through his halfvalvetechnique. He was a major asset toEllington's orchestra during 1934-45. BarneyBigard, Ellington's clarinettist during 1927-42,worked early on as a tenor-saxophonist with KingOliver (1925-27) and during 1947-55 and 1960-61 toured the world as a member of LouisArmstrong's All-Stars. Billy Taylor (no relation tothe famous pianist) played bass with Ellington inthe years (1935-39) before the emergence ofJimmy Blanton.

Rex Stewart's Montmartre has such a happymelody that it is surprising that it has not beenrevived through the years. The cornet-clarinetguitar-bass quartet has a particularly appealingsound, with Reinhardt providing a drivingrhythm. Low Cotton has Bigard, Reinhardt andStewart taking turns sharing the lead. Finesseand Solid Old Man are unique in that for the onlytime in his career, Bigard is heard on recordsplaying drums, keeping time behind the othermusicians when he is not playing clarinet. Hesticks to his main ax on the date's lone standard,I Know That You Know, which is only fitting sincethis piece has long been known as a clarinetfeature, whether it be for Jimmie Noone or SidneyBechet. Stewart also has an impressive solo,driving the performance to its conclusion, and heshows off his half valve mastery on the blues SolidOld Man.

With the outbreak of World War II, Americanmusicians were not heard in continental Europeagain until its liberation. The Glenn Miller ArmyAir Force Band was among the first orchestras tovisit France although its leader did not surviveDecember 1944. A month later, an all-star groupfrom the Miller Orchestra recorded with Djangoas 'The Jazz Club Mystery Band'. Although swingwould soon go out of favor, each of theAmericans on the session would have productivecareers in the postwar world. Bernie Privin mostlyworked as a lead trumpeter so it is a rare treat tohear him taking solos in a combo setting.

Peanuts Hucko (heard here exclusively on tenor)would be a popular Benny Goodman-influencedclarinettist featured in swing and dixielandsettings. Mel Powell, famous for his earlier pianoplaying and arrangements for Benny Goodman,left jazz altogether to become a classicalcomposer. Bassist Joe Schulman appeared on acountless number of sessions as a sideman whileRay McKinley led his own big band later in thedecade. The musicians show plenty of spirit onthe four swing standards and Reinhardt musthave been happy to perform with players of thiscalibre.

'Americans In Paris Part 2' concludes withanother unusual session. A sixteen-pieceAmerican military swing band directed by JackPlatt had the opportunity to play four Reinhardtoriginals with the composer. Although none ofthe Americans in the orchestra ever becamefamous, their musicianship is excellent and theyshow plenty of enthusiasm. This date also givesone an opportunity to hear an acoustic guitaristbacked by a s
Disc: 1
1 I'm Coming Virginia
2 Farewell Blues
3 Blue Light Blues
4 Body and Soul
5 Lover Come Back To Me
6 My Melancholy Baby
7 I Got Rhythm
8 Montmartre
9 Low Cotton
10 Finesse
11 I Know That You Know
12 Solid Old Man
13 How High The Moon
14 If Dreams Come True
15 Hallelujah
16 Stompin' At The Savoy
17 Swing Guitars
18 Manoir de mes reves
19 Are You In The Mood?
20 Djangology
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