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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Crotchet
Django Reinhardt.
Classic Recordings Vol 7 1935 - 1937:
Americans in Paris Part 1
Naxos Jazz Legends, 8.120734

 

 



1. Avalon
2. Star Dust
3. Smoke Rings
4. Rosetta
5. I’se A Muggin’
6. Georgia On My Mind
7. Nagasaki
8. Crazy Rhythm
9. Bugle Call Rag
10. Sweet Sue, Just You
11. Japanese Sandman
12. Eddie’s Blues
13. Sweet Georgia Brown
14. Oh! Lady Be Good
15. Dinah
16. Daphne
17. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
18. Big Boy Blues
19. Bill Coleman Blues
20. Swing Guitars


Track 1: Coleman Hawkins (tenor), with the Michel Warlop Orchestra:
Arthur Briggs, Noel Chiboust, Pierre Allier (trumpets); Guy Paquinet
(trombone); Andre Ekyan, Charles Lisee (altos); Alix Combelle (tenor);
Stephane Grappelli (piano); Django Reinhardt (guitar); Eugene
d’Hellemmes (bass); Maurice Chailoux (drums)
Track 2: Coleman Hawkins (tenor); Stephane Grappelli (piano); Django
Reinhardt (guitar); Eugene d’Hellemmes (bass); Maurice Chailoux (drums)
Track 3: Quintette du Hot Club de France: Django Reinhardt (guitar);
Stephane Grappelli (violin); Roger Chaput, Joseph Reinhardt (guitars);
Louis Vola (bass); Athur Briggs, Alphonse Cox, Pierre Allier
(trumpets); Eugene d’Hellemes (trombone)
Track 4: Garnet Clark and His Hot Clubs Four: Garnet Clark (piano);
Bill Coleman (trumpet); George Johnson (clarinet); Django Reinhardt
(guitar); June Cole (bass)
Track 5: Quintet du Hot Club de France: Django Reinhardt (guitar);
Stephane Grappelli (violin); Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre Feret (guitars);
Lucien Simeons (bass); Freddy Taylor (vocals)
Tracks 6 and 7: Quintet du Hot Club de France: Django Reinhardt
(guitar); Stephane Grappelli (violin); Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret
(guitars); Louis Vola (bass); Freddie Taylor (vocals)
Track 8: Coleman Hawkins and His All-Star Jam Band: Coleman Hawkins,
Alix Combelle (tenors); Barry Carter, Andre Ekyan (altos); Stephane
Grappelli (piano); Django Reinhardt (guitar); Eugene d’Hellemmes
(bass); Tommy Benford (drums)
Track 9: Dicky Wells and His Orchestra: Dicky Wells (trombone); Bill
Coleman, Bill Dillard, Shad Collins (trumpets); Django Reinhardt
(guitar); Richard Fullbright (bass); Bill Beason (drums)
Tracks 10 and 11: Dicky Wells and His Orchestra: Dicky Wells
(trombone); Bill Coleman (trumpet); Django Reinhardt (guitar); Richard
Fullbright (bass); Bill Beason (drums)
Track 12: Eddie South (violin); Django Reinhardt (guitar)
Track 13: Eddie South (violin); Wilson Myers (bass)
Track 14: Eddie South, Stephane Grapelli, Michael Warlop (violins);
Django Reinhardt, Roger Chaput (guitars); Wilson Myers (bass)
Tracks 15 and 16: Eddie South, Stephane Grappelli (violins); Django
Reinhardt, Roger Chaput (guitars); Wilson Myers (bass)
Tracks 17, 18 and 20: Bill Coleman and His Orchestra: Bill Coleman
(trumpet); Christian Wagner (clarinet, alto); Frank ‘Big Boy’ Goudie
(clarinet, tenor); Emile Stern (piano); Django Reinhardt (guitar);
Lucien Simoens (bass); Jerry Mango (drums)
Track 19: Bill Coleman (trumpet); Django Reinhardt (guitar)

It is a fact universally acknowledged that illiterate gypsies with paralysed hands rarely succeed as jazz guitarists. Reinhardt, however, proved the exception, surmounting such obstacles with admirable focus and paving an awesome reputation for himself; by the 1930s, after Eddie Lang’s death, he was widely considered the finest in his field. Combining his talents with those of Grappelli, a world-renowned violinist, Reinhardt’s appeal was literally magnetic, attracting the leading musicians in jazz. In the few years covered on Americans in Paris, Reinhardt recorded with many of the greats - and flourished like never before in their presence.

Just as Reinhardt was king of the guitar, so Coleman Hawkins was considered the leader when it came to the tenor sax; and listening to the first two tracks of this collection, it’s easy to see why this should be the case. Exuberant and highly charismatic in style, Hawkins’s playing is truly unique and filled with a love for the music that seeps through every note. The accompaniment of Michel Warlop’s orchestra is likewise second to none, with Reinhardt’s frantic and daring rhythms driving the music fearlessly forward. The playfulness, inventiveness and breathtaking precision for which the guitarist became renowned are evident here in abundance. In ‘Stardust’, particularly, it is also confirmed that Reinhardt was well ahead of his time; unlike many musicians of this era, he refuses to settle for comfortable monotony, preferring instead to seek expression through constant and varied experiment.

In saying this, much of the collection’s appeal arises from the simple, light-hearted joy that makes its way on to many of the tracks - particularly the work with Freddie Taylor. Although ‘I’se a Muggin’ doesn’t break any boundaries - and is, it could be argued, bordering on silly - its catchy melody and humorous character leave the listener with a powerful impression. And in such warm and witty numbers, Reinhardt and Grapelli show real connection, building on each other’s phrasing and themes, expertly raising the intensity level. The astonishing empathy between the two musicians - and indeed within the group as a whole - is illustrated best at the end of the tune, when they take it in turns to punctuate the chorus with a series of skilfully discordant fills that perfectly capture the mood of the piece.

The songs recorded with Dicky Wells admittedly fail to capture such charisma. Making up for this lack, however, is the technical brilliance displayed on them. Adopting a traditional big band style, ‘Bugle Call Rag’ is tight and precise, and richly textured in arrangement. Although Reinhardt’s role is comparatively small, and predominately rhythm-orientated, the tune also gives us the perfect example of his ‘attacking’ chordal style - a trait more commonly associated with modern jazz guitarists than with those of the 1930s. Even when part of the rhythm section, Reinhardt adds excitement, and brings a new life to songs like this with his jovial spontaneity.

Although his guitar may not have been loud, this style of his gave Reinhardt a presence that has rarely been equalled since. Combining rhythm with virtuosity, mixing styles and textures, his music possesses a substance and force that make it endlessly fascinating. Hence, when we listen to ‘Eddie’s Blues’ - a duet with violinist, Eddie South - we get the the sense of total completion we would only expect from larger band. Reinhardt’s fellow musicians, indeed, seem more than aware of this extraordinary skill, and in the case of Bill Coleman’s orchestra - with whom last three tracks here are recorded - they are utterly prepared to showcase it. ‘Big Boy’s Blues’ is a striking example; everything gradually dies down to a hush, leaving only a steady, unintrusive drumbeat to back up Reinhardt’s solo. Given full licence to follow his instincts, musical magic naturally ensues.

Americans in Paris appeals on many levels: as a portrait of the jazz scene’s development in Europe; as a best-of-the-1930s compilation; as a timeline of Reinhardt’s musical development, traced through various leading bands... But you simply don’t need to be an expert in jazz to enjoy this collection to its fullest; the ability to smile, tap your feet and appreciate a catchy riff or two should more than suffice in most cases.

Robert Gibson

 



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