- Audio CD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: JSP Records
- ASIN: 555622997X
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
Django Reinhardt was one of the most stunning soloists in jazz history, on any instrument. He swung so hard that most other musicians couldn't keep up with him. The only man who could really swing right along with Django was his frequent partner, violinist Stepahne Grapelli. Together they formed the core of the The Quintette of the Hot Club of France, which performs most of the recordings on these five CDs. But there are also selections of Django playing solo, Django and Grapelli performing duets, and some interesting "guest star" recordings with saxophone players Coleman Hawkins and Alix Combille.
There's a wealth of genius spread over these five discs. Disc One covers 1934-35, when the Quintette was born and started immediately producing classics like "Tiger Rag," "I Saw Stars," "Blue Drag" (one of Reinhardt's great originals), and "Djangology." There are a few performances with an underwhelming vocalist, and some tracks with a larger group that includes trumpets and trombones (the recording of "Smoke Rings" is especially nice.) Disc Two jumps out of chronological order and collects the 1938 and 1939 recordings for Decca in London. Django goes solo on a few tracks here, and the Quintette tears it up on "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Daphne" (another Reinhardt-Grapelli original classic). One of the delights I had never heard before is a version of the popular American song "The Flat Foot Floogee."
Disc Three switches over to the 1938-39 Decca recordings from Paris. This is the weakest disc, partially because so many of the tracks have multiple takes so there is less variety, and partially because the sound sources available are poor. (The engineer does the best job possible on them, however.) We do get some great tracks, like "Tea for Two" (done three times!) and "Time on My Hands." Disc Four leaps backs in time to the Decca and HMV recordings from 1935 to 1937. The recordings made with Coleman Hawkins are sensational: "Blue Moon," "Avalon," and "What a Difference a Day Made." The sound quality here is a revelation. There are also tracks with a superb singer, Freddy Taylor, who meshes well with the Quintette. Other Django performance classics on this dics are "I Got Rhythm," "Swing Guitars," and "Limehouse Blues."
The last disc is the strongest, collecting HMV sessions from 1937 (all done in one week!) and a bizarre session in which Django joins Garnet Clark's Hot Club's Four. The HMV pieces are amongst Django's best: "You're Driving Me Crazy," "Ain't Misbehaving," "The Sheik of Araby." One of the real stunners is "Mystery Pacific," where Django imitates a train with his guitar in a solo that must have caused his fingers to catch fire! Django also goes solo on two tracks, giving the listener another chance to listen carefully to his technique.
It's impossible to go wrong with this set. For this low price, you get hours of the best of Django Reinhardt and the Quintette, all sounding better than ever before. Django's music will live forever, regardless of sound quality, but it's wonderful to finally have all of his music collected together and treated with the sonic dignity that it deserves. If you like what you hear (and you will), purchase the follow-up JSP set, "Paris and London," which continues Django Reinhardt through 1948.
From what I learned shopping for Django there is really only one "better" sounding Django collection and it is a limited set that costs nearly four times what this does.
Finally, for those who do not know Django, this music makes excellent passive (background) or active (wow, listen to that guitar) listening.
Mr. Reinhardt can make his guitar do things I have never heard from anyone else: it can sing, weep, skip along, whisper, seduce. There is so much music here that I won't try to select specific highlights or make specific recommendations -- aside from recommending you purchase this set!