Django Reinhardt 100th Anniversary / Gypsy Jazz Special
Published on December 29, 2010
2010 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the first really influential guitarist in jazz. (Please pardon us for slipping this in at the last minute – the actual date was 1/23/10) The Roma genius, who lived from 1910 to 1953, is even more popular today than during his lifetime. He is considered by many to be the single most important guitarist in the entire history of jazz. There are Gypsy Jazz Festivals happening all over the world in his honor – with thousands of players exploring the infinite possibilities of this swinging music, which has so many names: jazz gitane, gypsy jazz, gypsy swing, jazz manouche, sinti swing… Ellington called it merely “Django Music.” There are also more recordings now available of the music than ever before – both reissues of the many fantastic sides Django recorded himself with the Quintette du Hot Club de France and other groups, as well as the many guitarists who are performing and recording the music today. France and would you believe Norway are probably the hotbeds of this jazz idiom today – the only one to have originated outside the United States! Django’s legacy today enjoys a currency that those of comparable jazz icons do not.
At the age of 18, Belgian-born Django lost the use of two fingers of his left hand in a fire in his gypsy caravan. For anyone else, that would probably have spelled the end of a musical career. But it was only the beginning for Django. He persevered, invented new fingerings, and eventually became venerated worldwide for his unique jazz style of gypsy guitar. The recordings he heard by Louis Armstrong initially fueled his amazing talent on the instrument. He brought diverse influences to bear on this unrivalled musical legacy – both in performing and composing. There have been several gala concerts in Europe honoring Django’s music and some are available on DVD. We just reviewed one of them here.
Woody Allen did a film based on a Django-like guitarist, but amazingly there has still been no major feature documentary on Reinhardt’s fascinating life. (One great scene in such a film would be Django’s repeated efforts to escape from France into Switzerland during WWII. He was always caught and arrested, but rather than meeting the fate of other gypsies, he was each time saved by a jazz-loving Luftwaffe officer, nicknamed “Doktor Jazz.”)
Reinhardt wrote an amazing number of original tunes; many he didn’t even copyright and later Grappelli did so in order for Django to get some income from them. In some of his compositions – such as the famous “Nuages” – he was influenced by Scriabin and Chabrier. Later on, when he visited the U.S. (altho the easy access to drugs had a bad influence on him), one of his friends was guitarist Les Paul, and Dizzy Gillespie became a friend and important influence. Going the other way on influences, someone has asked could there be a bit of “Djangology” in those parallel chords of some of Villa-Lobos’ Choros? He probably heard Django too. After his return to France, Reinhardt spent the rest of his days immersed in gypsy life and found it difficult to adjust to the modern world. He would skip sold-out concerts to go fishing or walk on the beach.
I’m going to bring some of Django’s original recordings to your attention first, and then go into the many modern groups inspired by his unique approach – often adding elements of their own so that it’s not just a slavish re-creation. These are not all new releases – some go back a few years – but all are worth the attention of any gypsy jazz fan.
The Complete Django Reinhardt and Quintet of the Hot Club of France – Swing/HMV Sessions 1936-1948 – (6 CDs with 118 tracks total) Mosaic box set MD6-190 (also avail. as vinyl set):
This is the ultimate U.S. reissue set of Django’s Hot Club recordings during the 1936-48 period. It collects together every available EMI recording made during that period, for the Gramophone, HMV and Swing labels. There are also solo guitar improvisations by Django, guitar
features and duets with violinist Stephane Grappelli. It is interesting to note that for the first couple years of their recording and performing history, Grappelli got the major attention and positive reviews – not Reinhardt. The restorations and remastering – as with all Mosaic reissues – is carefully and lovingly carried out. The sonics are anywhere from a slight improvement on other reissue CDs to a tremendous advance over the competition. And they come with a detailed 12”-square fully-illustrated 30-page booklet on Django and the Quintette. The magic of these terrific sounds is beautifully captured in this wonderful, well-annotated set.
1. I’se A Muggin’ (A) 3:04 (Stuff Smith) 2. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (A) 3:20 (J. McHugh-D. Fields) 3. Oriental Shuffle (A) 2:37 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 4. After You’ve Gone (A) 3:04 (H. Creamer-T. Layton) 5. Are You In The Mood? (A) 2:47 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 6. Limehouse Blues (A) 2:44 (P. Braham-D. Furber) 7. Nagasaki (B) 2:47 (H. Warren-M. Dixon) 8. Swing Guitars (B) 2:23 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 9. Georgia On My Mind (B) 3:11 (H. Carmichael-S. Gorrell) 10. Shine (B) 2:53 (Dabney-Mack-Brown) 11. In The Still Of The Night (B) 3:02 (H. Carmichael-J. Trent) 12. Sweet Chorus (B) 2:42 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 13. Exactly Like You (C) 2:27 (J. McHugh-D. Fields) 14. Charleston (C) 2:50 (C. Mack-J. Johnson) 15. You’re Driving Me Crazy (C) 2:52 (Walter Donaldson) 16. Tears (C) 2:35 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 17. Solitude (C) 3:07 (Ellington-DeLange-Mills) 18. Hot Lips (D) 3:02 (Busse-Lange-Davis) 19. Ain’t Misbehavin’ (D) 2:51 (Razaf-Waller-Brooks)
DISC TWO 1. Rose Room (D) 2:42 (Hickman-H. Williams) 2. Body And Soul (D) 3:24 (Green-Hayman-Sour-Eyton) 3. When Day Is Done (D) 3:10 (Katscher-De Sylva-Ballentine) 4. Runnin’ Wild (E) 2:52 (Wood-Gibbs-Grey) 5. Chicago (E) 3:23 (Fred Fisher) 6. Liebestraum No.3 (E) 3:18 (Franz Liszt) 7. Miss Annabelle Lee (E) 2:46 (Clarke-Richman-Pollack) 8. A Little Love, A Little Kiss (E) 3:16 (Ropes-Silesu-Fysher) 9. Mystery Pacific (E) 2:17 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 10. In A Sentimental Mood (E) 2:58 (Ellington-Kurtz-Mills) 11. The Sheik Of Araby (F) 3:03 (Smith-Wheeler-Snyder) 12. I’ve Found A New Baby (F) 2:00 (J. Palmer-S. Williams) 13. Alabamy Bound (F) 2:47 (DeSylva-Brown-Henderson-Green) 14. Improvisation (F) 2:54 (Django Reinhardt) 15. Parfum (F) 2:58 (Django Reinhardt) 16. St. Louis Blues (G) 2:40 (W.C. Handy) 17. Bouncin’ Around (G) 2:42 (Gus Deloof) 18. I’ve Found A New Baby (H) 2:33 (J. Palmer-S. Williams) 19. Brick Top (I) 3:01 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 20. Speevy (I) 2:50 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli)
DISC THREE 1. Minor Swing (I) 3:13 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 2. Viper’s Dream (I) 3:13 (F. Allen) 3. Swingin’ With Django (J) 2:48 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 4. Paramount Stomp (J) 2:34 (Reinhardt-Grappelli-Romans) 5. Bolero (K) 4:01 (Django Reinhardt) 6. Bolero (alternate take) (K) 3:56 (Django Reinhardt) 7. Mabel (alternate take) (K) 4:01 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 8. Mabel (K) 4:08 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 9. My Serenade (K) 2:59 (Django Reinhardt) 10. You Rascal You (L) 3:03 (Sam Theard) 11. Stephen’s Blues (L) 3:14 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 12. Sugar (L) 3:01 (Pinkard-Mitchell-Alexander) 13. Sweet Georgia Brown (L) 3:14 (Bernie-Pinkard-Casey) 14. Tea For Two (L) 2:47 (I. Caesar-V. Youmans) 15. Stockholm (M) 2:45 (Django Reinhardt) 16. Younger Generation (M) 2:22 (Noel Coward) 17. I’ll See You In My Dreams (M) 2:29 (I. Jones-G. Kahn) 18. Echoes Of Spain (M) 3:05 (Django Reinhardt) 19. Out Of Nowhere (M) 3:13 (J. Green-E. Heyman) 20. Baby (M) 2:35 (J. McHugh-D. Fields) 21. Naguine (M) 2:25 (Django Reinhardt)
DISC FOUR 1. Nuages (N) 3:16 (Django Reinhardt) 2. Rhythm Futur (N) 2:37 (Django Reinhardt) 3. Begin The Beguine (N) 2:50 (Cole Porter) 4. Blues (N) 3:06 (Django Reinhardt) 5. Coucou (N) 2:39 (A. Mathas-Feline) 6. Indecision (Undecided) (N) 3:01 (Charlie Shavers) 7. Swing 41 (O) 3:05 (Django Reinhardt) 8. Nuages (O) 3:15 (Django Reinhardt) 9. Pour Vous (Exactly Like You) (O) 3:05 (Django Reinhardt) 10. Fantaisie Sur Une Danse Norvegienne (O) 2:30 (Edvard Grieg) 11. Vendredi 13 (O) 3:01 (Django Reinhardt) 12. Liebesfreud (O) 2:37 (Fritz Kreisler) 13. Mabel (O) 3:16 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 14. Petits Mensonges (Little White Lies) (O) 3:14 (Walter Donaldson) 15. Les Yeux Noirs (Dark Eyes) (O) 2:12 (trad.) 16. Sweet Sue, Just You (O) 2:48 (V. Young-W. Harris) 17. Swing De Paris (P) 3:00 (Django Reinhardt) 18. Oiseaux Des Iles (P) 2:48 (Django Reinhardt) 19. All Of Me (P) 2:46 (G. Marks-S. Simons)
DISC FIVE 1. Festival Swing (Q) 4:07 (A. Combelle-F. Combelle) 2. Dinette (R) 2:48 (Django Reinhardt) 3. Crepuscule (R) 2:58 (D. Reinhardt-F. Blanche) 4. Swing 42 (R) 2:45 (D. Reinhardt-Riesner) 5. Festival Swing 1942, Part Two (S) 3:38 (Hubert Rostaing) 6. Belleville (T) 2:29 (Django Reinhardt) 7. Lentement Mademoiselle (T) 3:15 (Django Reinhardt) 8. Douce Ambiance (U) 2:17 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 9. Manoir De Mes Reves (U) 3:17 (Django Reinhardt) 10. Oui (U) 2:06 (A. Combelle-L. Gaste) 11. Cavalerie (U) 2:33 (Django Reinhardt) 12. Fleur D’Ennui (V) 2:30 (D. Reinhardt-F. Blanche) 13. Blues Clair (V) 3:00 (Django Reinhardt) 14. Improvisation No. 3-Part 1 (V) 2:59 (Django Reinhardt) 15. Improvisation No. 3-Part 2 (V) 2:44 (Django Reinhardt) 16. Coquette (W) 3:00 (Lombardo-Green-Kahn) 17. Django’s Tiger (W) 2:35 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 18. Embraceable You (W) 3:06 (G. & I. Gershwin) 19. Echoes Of France (W) 2:44 (Rouget de I’lsle)
DISC SIX 1. Swingtime In Springtime (X) 2:50 (Django Reinhardt) 2. Yours And Mine (X) 2:54 (A. Freed-N. Brown) 3. On The Sunny Side Of The Street (X) 2:46 (D. Fields-J. McHugh) 4. I Won’t Dance (X) 2:50 (Kern-Fields-McHugh-Harbach-Hammerstein) 5. R-Vingt-Six (Y) 2:27 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 6. How High The Moon (Y) 2:29 (N. Hamilton-M. Lewis) 7. Lover Man (Y) 3:12 (Davis-Ramirez-Sherman) 8. Blue Lou (Y) 2:16 (E. Sampson-I. Mills) 9. Blues (Y) 2:35 (Django Reinhardt) 10. What Is This Thing Called Love? (Z) 2:10 (Cole Porter) 11. Ol’ Man River (Z) 2:40 (J. Kern-O. Hammerstein) 12. Si Tu Savais (Z) 2:45 (Ulmer-Antoni-Salvet) 13. Eveline (Z) 2:15 (Stephane Grappelli) 14. Diminushing (Z) 3:18 (Django Reinhardt) 15. Mike (AA) 2:47 (Django Reinhardt) 16. Oh, Lady Be Good (AA) 2:56 (G. & I. Gershwin) 17. Festival 48 (AA) 2:36 (Django Reinhardt) 18. Fantaisie (AA) 2:51 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 19. Brick Top (AA) 3:03 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 20. Just For Fun (AA) 3:05 (D. Reinhardt-S. Grappelli) 21. To Each His Own/Symphonie (AA) 3:02 (R. Evans-J. Livingston/A. Alstone-J. Lawrence)
Django Reinhardt “Djangology” (10 CDs cover 1936-48) 243 recordings total – EMI France/Capitol Records (1993 release, seems to have no #):
This is the most comprehensive of all the Django CD collections, with over 11 hours of music on ten CDs. It covers some of the same ground as an early 20-LP set from EMI, along with 34 additional selections formerly overlooked – in some Django plays only a small role. The first few CDs are nearly identical to the tracks contained in the above Mosaic set, though not with quite as clean and crisp sonics (but very close). The guitarist is heard in a wide variety of settings, from the original Hot Club period thru WWII, and then the postwar quintet he formed using clarinetist Hubert Rostaing to replace Grapelli. It ends with his reunion recordings with Grappelli. There are some rare trios and duets and such top jazzmen as Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Bill Coleman and Dickie Wells are part of some of the sessions. (The tracklist is simply far too long to include here.)
Django with His American Friends – (3 CDs, 57 tracks) – DRG 8493:
This is a fine multi-disc set which captures both recordings Django made on his visit to the U.S. and those he made with U.S. artists in Europe. Among those included are harmonicist Larry Adler, the American Swing Band, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, violinist Eddie South, Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, Joe Turner and Dicky Wells. The two tracks with Eddie South and Grapelli, based on the first movement of the Bach Two-Violin Concerto, are especially tasty. There are also guest stints by some American jazzmen who never become known at home but fit in wonderfully on these sides. One of these is vocalist Freddy Taylor, who voices the track “I’se a Muggin’” that opens both the Mosaic set and the EMI/Capitol set. The digital remastering used the Weiss 32-bit software and is as successful as the Mosaic reissue box set. There is also a booklet with rare photos and a complete discography. 20 of the tracks heard here appear on CD for the first time. This is a fine portrait of Reinhardt’s Paris interactions with the visiting American jazzmen who came thru there in the 1930s.
2. Blue Moon
3. What A Difference A Day Made
5. Saint Louis Blues
8. The Object Of My Affection
9. After You’ve Gone
10. I’se A Muggin’
11. Georgia On My Mind
12. Honeysuckle Rose
13. Crazy Rhythm
14. Out Of Nowhere
15. Sweet Georgia Brown
16. Bugle Call Rag
17. Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea
18. I Got Rhythm
19. Sweet Sue, Just You
1. Hangin’ Around Boudon
2. Japanese Sandman
3. Eddie’s Blues
4. Sweet Georgia Brown
5. Lady Be Good
8. I Ain’t Got Nobody
9. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
10. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home (Discarded Take)
11. Big Boy Blues
12. Bill Coleman Blues
13. Swing Guitars
14. Somebody Loves Me
15. I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
16. Swing Interpretation Of The First Movement Of The Concerto For Two Violins In D Minor
17. Fiddle Blues
18. Improvisations On The First Movement Of The Concerto For Two Violins In D Minor
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 (Django’s Jump)
9. Low Cotton
11. The Sheik Of Araby
12. I Know That You Know Me
13. Solid Old Man
14. My Melancholy Baby
16. Sometimes I’m Happy
18. Swing Guitars
19. Manoir De Mes Reves
20. Are You In The Mood
[There is also an even more extensive French set of 20 double CDs on the Fremaux label titled “Django Intégrale.”]
An Introduction to Django Reinhart – compilation by Jon Larsen (recordings of 1936-1953) – Hot Club Records HCRCD 147 [Distr. by Qualiton]:
For those who don’t want to jump into any of the multi-disc sets, this is a fine single-disc introduction to the Django’s genius. It’s from a Norwegian label founded to release CDs by the several fine groups in that country which currently continue the gypsy jazz style.
TrackList: Minor Swing, After You’ve Gone, Miss Annabelle Lee, St Louis Blues, You Rascal You , Liebestraum No 3, I’ll See You In My Dreams , My Serenade, Improvisation, Mystery Pacific, Swinging With Django, Rhythm Futur, Swing 42 , Bolero, Dinette, Belleville, Porto Cabello, Djangology, Nuits De Saint-germain-des-pres, Nuages, Blues For Ike.
Les nuits Manouches (compilation on 2 CDs; 16 tracks featuring Tchavolo Schmitt, Angelo Debarre, Mandino Reinhardt, Dorado Schmitt, Biréli LeGréne, Raphaël Fays, Florin Niculescu, Pierre Blanchard, Marcel Loeffler, Ludovic Beir, Les Pommes de ma Douche, Costel Nitescu. Then the same 16 tunes recorded by Django Reinhardt 1935-1953) Le Chant du Monde 274 13381.82 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
This is in some ways the most valuable and unusual of all the discs here. The first disc is a fine anthology of jazz manouche from some of the top European performers and groups. The various performers play 16 compositions from Django’s huge repertory. Some of the names above are not guitarists but violinists – continuing the approach of Stephane Grappelli on that instrument. Then on the second CD the same 16 works are heard in their original versions, from Django himself. Only on No. 8 is a substitution made, because no recording exists of that selection. The remasterings are of the highest quality, but since some are as late as 1953 (“Nuages”) the sound quality is especially good, matching up well with the recent recordings. The detailed note booklet has the background on most of the performers, and shows the covers of the albums from which the compilation was made.
TrackList: Sweet Sue, just you; 12th Year; Melodie au crepuscule; Blue drag; Le soir; Douce Ambiance; After you’ve gone; Chez Jacquet/Charleston; Stompin’ at Decca; Tears; Reverie; Menilmontant; Them there eyes; Nuages; Swing Guitar; Djangology.
British and American Guitarists & Groups
Martin Taylor’s Spirit of Django – Gypsy – Linn AKD 090:
(Martin Taylor, John Goldie, Terry Gregory – guitars; Jack Emblow – accordion; Dave O’Higgins, sax; James Taylor – percussion)
This 1996 album from Britisher Martin Taylor, one of the finest guitarists, is a winner. Just don’t be put off by the opening track, which is a “Gypsy Medley.” Django would never have done that. The addition of accordion and sax gives quite a different feel to gypsy jazz and has been done by several of the American groups.
Mark O’Connor – violin, with Frank Vignola – guitar & Jon Burr – bass – Hot Swing! – OMAC Records 4:
This trio put together by versatile violinist O’Connor is heard in a live concert recording. The emphasis is on O’Connor’s swinging violin, which seems almost to be channeling Stephane Grappelli.
Frank Vignola – 100 Years of Django – Azica AJD-72244:
(Frank Vignola, guitar; Vinny Raniolo, guitar; Gary Mazzaroppi, doublebass; Julien Labro, accordion)
And here is Vignola’s own trio with added accordionist, and the emphasis is more on the lead guitar. Vignola plays in nearly every genre – from jazz to bluegrass – and has collaborated with Mark O’Connor, Wynton Marsalis, Donald Fagen, Madonna, and Ringo Starr. He says of this CD, “I chose ten of my favorites spanning [Django’s] brief life here on earth.”
John Jorgenson – Franco-American Swing – JJCD7009:
Jorgenson is a founding member of the Desert Rose Band, was with Elton John for six years, and has played with country legends has well as superstars such as Barbra Streisand and Luciano Pavarotti. He is one of the American masters of Django’s guitar style. He transcribed and recorded two Quintet of the Hot Club of France numbers for use in the movie Head in the Clouds and also played the role of Django Reinhardt in the film. These 15 tracks are mostly originals by Jorgenson in the gypsy jazz style, with a variety of special arrangements including a string section. Members of the Nashville Chamber Orchestra are involved. There are a few Django originals such as “Blue Drag” and “Minor Swing.” Jorgenson said “My goal in making this CD was not only to be as true to the style as an American can be, but also to expand the style by8 adding new compositions and including orchestral arrangements…”
Harri Stojka – A Tribute to Gypsy Swing – Zoho Music ZM 200609:
(Harri Stojka, lead guitar; Claudius Jelinek, rhythm guitar & banjo; Ivan Ruiz Machado, doublebass; Meimo Wiederhofer, brush snare; Eva Berky, violin)
Here’s a fine Austrian-born guitarist living and working in the U.S., whose virtuoso talents re-create the spirit of Django beautifully. 13 tracks include many Django favorites plus some surprises such as “Swanee River.”
Billet-Deux – Deux – Billet-Deux.com
(Troy Chapman, lead guitar; James Hinkley, cello & vocals; Josephina Hunner, guitar; Michael Yooco, bass; Roger Bennett, drums)
In spite of the band’s name and album title, this one comes out of the Seattle-Portland gypsy jazz community. Here is a group which wanders a bit further from the basic Django style. While he’s well represented here, Billet-Deux also makes the classical concert hall, bebop and modern jazz part of their musical experience. There are even tunes by Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and the CD’s dozen tracks closes with an Italian tune. I’ve always found groups with a cello in them to be of interest, and this one is no exception.
Hot Club of Detroit – Mack Avenue MAC 1030:
Hot Club of Detroit – It’s About That Time – MAC 1051:
(Evan Perri, lead guitar; Julian Labro, button accordion; Shannon Wade, doublebass; Paul Brady, rhythm guitar; Carl Cafagna, sax & clarinet)
Detroit, San Francisco and Seattle each have their gypsy jazz groups that are modern emulations of the Hot Club of Paris, and I think my preference musically is with the very hot Detroit group. These are just two of their CDs. Like many others, they add saxophone and accordion to the lead and rhythm guitars doing their patented “chug, chug” (“la pompe”) rhythm guitar technique. Leader Evan Perri picked up the guitar when he was 18 and was influenced by Jerry Garcia and John McLaughlin, but in college he was introduced to Reinhardt and gypsy jazz. Their first CD of 13 tracks stays mostly in Django territory, but there are some surprises in the theme from The Godfather, and the bossa nova "How Insensitive." The second CD spices up the Django originals with some original tunes, and ones by Chopin, Charlie Mingus and Miles Davis. They keep the manouche style fresh and exciting all the way with their broad-minded approach. Rhythm guitarist Brady says “We don’t approach our music as a gypsy jazz band, but 100% as a jazz group.” (See our previous review of another HCOD album here.)
The Hot Club of San Francisco (with guitar guitarist David Grisman) – Yerba Buena Bounce – Reference Recordings (HDCD) RR-109:
The Hot Club of San Francisco – Bohemian Maestro: Django Reinhardt and the Impressionists (with guests Jeffrey Kahane, piano & The Aeros Quintet) – Azica AJD-72241:
This quintet has the solo guitar of Paul Mehling, who also sometimes plays banjo, plus two rhythm guitars, string bass, and a Grappelli-type violinist who occasionally doubles on musical sax (which they call “acoustic theremin”). The first CD is loaded with 17 tracks, and if you have HDCD decoding the very best fidelity will be coaxed out of the CD format. The second CD boasts a number of Reinhardt’s tunes among the 16 tracks, but also three by Debussy, one by Poulenc, and another by Villa-Lobos.
A most unusual track on the album is a portion of a Catholic mass written by Reinhardt to honor the Romani people. The original score was lost and Evan Price transcribed a rare organ recording of one section, writing an arrangement for woodwinds – played here by the Aeros Quintet. Pianist Kahane, who is a classical conductor but fan of gypsy jazz, joins on three of the tracks. The cover art is an interesting detail of a mural painted in San Francisco in 1936 which shows Django talking to a woman guitarist and holding some sheet music. The two damaged fingers on his left hand are clearly visible, but he was not identified in the credits for the mural – very strange since he was already world famous in that year.
The Charlie Byrd Quintet – Du Hot Club De Concord – Concord Jazz CCD-4674:
(Charlie Byrd, guitar; Johnny Frigo, violin; Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica; Frank Vignola, rhythm guitar; Michael Moore, bass)
This 1995 session was a great idea, putting together all these top artists from the Concord Jazz label. The late Charlie Byrd first discovered jazz guitar hearing one of Django’s recordings. Like, Django, he has a love of classical music, and also like Django he brought foreign music into his mileau – namely the Brazilian bossa nova. In fact the two guitarists met in Paris during WWII, and they jammed together. The session has no Reinhardt compositions or tunes usually associated with him. Instead, Byrd and his cohorts create the mood and feeling of the Quintet of the Hot Club, but playing unexpected tunes such as Byrd’s original “At the Seaside,” and even “Moon River.” Meurken’s harmonica fits the mood perfectly; actually Larry Adler once recorded with the original QHCF.
Pearl Django – Under Paris Skies – Modern Hot Records MHR006:
Pearl Django – Chasing Shadows – Modern Hot Records MHR009:
(Neil Andersson, lead guitar; Michael Gray, violin; Rick Leppanen, doublebass; Greg Ruby, rhythm guitar; guests: Mark Ivester, drums; David Lange, accordion; Patrick Saussois, guitar)
This Seattle group only plays a few Django originals, but selects others that fit well into the gypsy jazz style. Some are originals by band members and others classics such as “Bluesette” and Michael Legrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring.” Both Piaf’s “La vie en rose” and Weill’s “September Song” work especially well in the format.
Django et Rien D’Autre! – Live at Les Nuits Manouches – Le chant du monde (2 CDs) 274 1886.87 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Raphaël Faÿs, Steeve Laffont, Yorgui Loeffler & Rudy Rabuffetti – guitars; Serge Oustiakin, Claude Mouton & Fabricio Nicolas – doublebass)
This is a live recording of a “Gypsy Nights” festival which the producers held in Paris this past January, on the exact centenary of Django Reinhardt’s birth. They had done a previous concert in 2005. The idea this time was to present three top manouche guitarists (the first three above) in a specially-selected program of entirely Reinhardt compositions – 21 of them total. They felt that manouche musicians have an advantage over everyone else playing Django’s music – they don’t need to study in order to learn it. It’s like a second mother tongue for them that many “speak” instinctively.
Faÿs was born in Paris, Laffont was born in Perpignan, and Loeffler is from one of the centers of manouche culture in Alsace. Their playing of these Django classics is electrifying and definitely benefits from an authenticity and excitement often missing from interpretations by non-gypsy musicians. The live concert situation and the momentous date and place surely added to the exciting playing heard here.
Raphaël Faÿs – Django’s Works – Le chant du monde 274 1872 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Raphaël Fays, solo guitar; Jean-Claude Beneteau, bass; Sammy Daussat/René-Charles Mallet/Ramon Galan, rhythm guitar)
Raphaël Faÿs – SwingGuitar – Le chant du monde 274 1329 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Raphaël Faÿs, solo guitar; Laurent Bajata, guitar; Claude Mouton, bass)
Faÿs is one of the leading manouche interpreters of Django’s style. He turned professional when only fifteen. In addition to being a star of gypsy jazz, he has seriously studied classical guitar and has several CDs to prove it. His approach is enhanced with Andalusian and Iberian-American shades. The first CD has 15 tracks, many Django-related – including his version of a Norwegian Dance by Grieg, and his “Duke & Dukie.” The second CD, which actually was recorded in 1985, has 19 tracks, including Jobim’s “Wave,” Monk’s “‘Round midnight,” and “Chick Corea’s “Spain” to close out the CD.
Marcel Loeffler, accordion – Source Manouche – Le chant du monde 274 1388 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Marcel Loeffler, accordion; Gautier Laurent, bass; Cedric & Joselito Loeffler, rhythm guitars; Guests: Birélli Lagréne & Yorgui Loeffler, guitars; Marcel Azzola, accordion; Lisa Doby, vocal)
Marcel Loeffler was born into an Alsacian manouche community, where the famous personalities of music are usually either guitarists or violinists, not accordionists. He started out on piano accordion but at age six give it up for the button accordion. Like all gypsy musicians he worked hard at understanding the secrets of Django’s compositions, and then moved on to studying two of the greatest jazz accordionists – Art Van Damme and Gus Viseur. He added exceptional guests Birélli Lagréne and Marcel Azzola to this album, and includes originals by both of them as well as three of his own. He also arranged “Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho,” which has a vocal by Lisa Doby, and his version of Jerome Kern’s “All the things you are,” is especially lovely.
The Rosenberg Trio – Roots – Iris Music 3001 970 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:(Stochelo Rosenberg, lead guitar; Nous’che Rosenberg, rhythm guitar; Nonnie Rosenberg, bass; Guest: Bernard Berkhout, clarinet)
The Rosenbergs – two guitarists and one bassist – are Dutch manouche musicians, raised in a very musical family influenced by the music of Django Reinhardt. Their first album came out in 1989. Stochelo contributed two of the tunes, and here’s that “Danse Norvegienne” by Grieg again. Walter Donaldson’s “Clouds” makes an interesting entry and alternative to Django’s own famous “Nuages.”
Angelo Debarre – Gipsy Unity – Le chant due monde 274 1772 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Angelo Debarre & Tchavolo Hassan, guitars; Marius Apostol, violin; Antonio Licusati, bass)
Angelo Debarre & Ludovic Beier – Come into my swing! – Le chant due monde 274 1249 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Angelo Debarre, guitar; Ludovic Beier, accordion; Antonio Licusati, bass)
Debarre is one of the top Romani guitarists playing in the manouche jazz style. His first album – Gypsy Guitars – for the Hot Club Records label in 1988, has been one of the reference recordings in the genre. Here are two more later ones. The first peppers Django’s numbers with originals by Debarre, and has some fine color photos of the musicians posing outside one of their gypsy wagons. The second has 15 tracks, with originals by both Debarre and his accordionist Beier, and they collaborated on the title track and a great closing track, “Stomping at Birdland.”
Latcho Drom – La Legende du Swing Manouche – Intégrale 1994-1997 – Frémeaux & Associates FA 5206 (3 CDs + 12-page booklet) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Latcho Drom means “have a good journey” in Romani language, and it is best known in the West as the title of a wonderful 1992 French music documentary film directed by Tony Gatlif, which traces the Romani peoples’ musical journey from India to Spain. However, in gypsy jazz circles it is also the name of an important manouche jazz quartet founded in Toulouse in 1993 by gypsy guitarist Christophe Lartilleux-Hart, who was brought up in a traveling circus run by gypsy performers and musicians. He had a dream to create the sounds of Grappelli and Reinhardt’s famous quintet, and did. He always used the same Selmer guitars as Django had used, and with violinist Charles Roman and later Malik Richeux, toured Europe at a time when gypsy jazz had not yet had its re-birth of interest. The group’s first album “The Witch,” was chosen in 1995 by Jazz Magazine as one of the best CDs. “The Caravan” was their second album, with more than half of the 16 titles their own compositions, and their third album was recorded in 1997 and is titled “Live in Madrid.” All three albums are boxed in this reissue set of these great names in gypsy jazz. (The note booklet is entirely in French.)
Biréli Lagréne & Tchavolo Schmitt
Biréli Lagréne was born in 1966 to a traditional Manouche-Romani family in Alsace, France, and started playing the guitar at age four. At eight he had already covered Django’s repertory and his relatives were calling him a child prodigy. His first album came when he was only 13: “Routes to Django.” He got to visit the U.S., met Larry Coryell, and has also performred with Al Di Meola. Bassist Jaco Pastorius introduced him to jazz fusion, and they then toured Europe together. He has lately returned to the repertory of his model, Django, and continued to turn out many CDs. He and his Gipsy Project have sold 100,000 albums worldwide. Below are just three albums:
Biréli Lagréne & Gipsy Project – Move – Dreyfus Jazz FDM 36668-2:
(Biréli Lagréne, guitars & voice; Hono Winterstein, guitars; Franck Wolf, saxes; Diego Imbert, doublebass)
Biréli Lagréne & Gipsy Project – Just the Way You Are – Dreyfus Jazz FDM 46050369082:
(with André Ceccareli, drums & Roberto Jermaine Landsberger, piano – added to above musicians)
Biréli Lagréne – Djangology – with the WDR Big Band/Michael Abene; Solo – To Bi or Not to Bi – Dreyfus Jazz double CD album DRY-CD-36695 (2007):
The Densil Best classic is the title tune of the first CD, and another jazz classic on the disc is Ray Noble’s “Cherokee.” While this is the usual manouche quartet, the second CD adds saxes, piano and drums, and on one tune Biréli even sings (“All of Me”). One of the two discs of the double album pulls out all the stops with the rich arrangements of the WDR Big Band. Obviously not your usual instrumentation, but the ten tunes really swing. “Caravan,” and the Brazilian “The Shadow of Your Smile” are included. Lagréne improvises chorus and chorus of high-speed single-note lines while dropping in quotes from “As Time Goes By,” “Pop Goes the Weasel” and even the “Theme from James Bond.” His exhilarating stint with the big band shows his spectacular command of his instrument. The solo CD was drawn from his various solo performances around the world, and again is a tour-de-force. On the ballad “Deauville en Ville” he drops in quotes from Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, and on “Madras Express” he detunes his guitar for a droning Indian effect. He pays homage to his former mentor Jaco Pastorious on “Amparo,” by making use of some of the bassist’s signature funk lines. The boxed set celebrated the 40th birthday of this exciting manouche guitarist.
Tchavolo Schmitt is another Alsacian Romani guitarist, though he was born in Paris’ Belleville. His father played the violin, and he quickly developed a virtuosity in the manouche style and became influential in the gypsy jazz community. He became a professional in 1979 and joined the Hot Club da Sinti. He acted in another Tony Gatlif movie: “Swing,” as well as appearing in “Latcho Drom.” Here are just three of his CDs:
Tchavolo Schmitt & Angelo Debarre – Memories of Django – Le chant du Monde 274 1230 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Debarre & Schmitt, solo guitars; Tchavolo Hassan & Chiquito Lamberg, rhythm guitars; Etienne Lemauf, doublebass)
Tchavolo Schmitt – Loutcha – Le chant du Monde 274 1330 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Schmitt, guitar; Costel Nitescu, violin; Mayo Hubert & Martin Limberger, rhythm guitars; Claudius Dupont, doublebass)
Tchavolo Schmitt – Live in Paris – Le chant du monde 274 1741 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Schmitt, guitar; Costel Nitescu & Dorado Schmitt, violins; Sammy Daussat, rhythm guitar; Claudius Dupont, doublebass)
The first CD, in partnership with Angelo Debarre, is mostly Django numbers, but opening with Isham Jones’ “It Had to Be You.” Tchavolo contributes a waltz of his own, and the band really takes off on Gershwin’s “Lady Be Good” – I don’t believe Django did that one, but I may be wrong. The session ends with the traditional gypsy tune “Les yeux noirs” (as does the third CD). The second CD from 2005 only has two Django originals, and three from Schmitt. Some of the surprises are “Some of These Days,” “What a Difference a Day Made,” and “Sweet Sue, Just You.”
The Live in Paris CD has only a single Reinhardt composition (“Daphné”), though it has one by Grappelli (“Les valsleuses”). The guitarist systematically avoids playing new versions of Django’s compositions. The producers had to lean on Tchavolo to include even that one. Turns out there is a trait of manouche identity that one doesn’t want to invoke the memory of a deceased person; it’s a feeling of emphasizing the emptiness left by the deceased’s absence. Even when at late-night jam sessions the group wants to play “Nuages” or “Minor Swing,” Tchavolo gets up and hands his guitar over to someone else to play it.
Other Non-Manouche Performers
Les Pommes de ma Douche – Five Men Swinging – Le chant due monde 274 1789 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Les Pommes de ma Douche – Swing From Paris – Le chant due monde 274 1579 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
(Dominique Rouquier, solo guitar; Pierre Delaveau, rhythm guitar; David Riviére, accordion; Laurent Zeller, violin; Laurent Delaveau, doublebass; Raphaël Faÿs, guitar guests on two tracks of 2nd CD)
A decade ago the French group Les Pommes de ma Douche was jamming on some Django tunes at a party. They described it as an instant of great joy and spontaniety, and they soon were play with guitarists like Tchavolo Schmitt and Biréli Lagréne. The first CD above is their fifth to date, and is dedicated to American musical culture. It has standards such as Jimmy Giuffre’s “Four Brothers,” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” But it also has the Reinhardt-Grappelli original “Stomping at Decca.” The group covers gypsy, modern jazz, French musette and French songs. Most of the tunes are up tempo and swing like mad. They clearly cherish Django’s music, but venture a bit further afield. All 14 tracks on the “Swing From Paris” CD have Paris connections – such as “Scenes de Paris,” “Pigalle,” and “Quel Temps Fait-il a Paris?”
Hot Club de Norvege – Django Music – Hot Club Records HCRCR 219 [Distr. by Qualiton]:
(Finn Hauge, violin & harmonica; Jon Larsen, guitar; Per Frydenlund, guitar & vocal; Svein Aarbostad, doublebass)
This is just one example of the sizable discography put out on the Hot Club of Norway label. The country is obviously right behind France as a hotbed of gypsy jazz, and though the performers may be from entirely different backgrounds than the Romani culture, most of them are first rate at the re-creation of the legendary Hot Club of Paris. These Norwegians really have the “gypsy beat” down. (Interesting that neighbor Finland is a hotbed of Argentine tango culture. What is it with these Scandinavians?) The note booklet has a 1980 photo of the band – they’ve been doing this for some time now. The note booklet has no notes, but is ten pages of tiny color photos of the view thru the front windshield of the “HOTmobile” as the players travel Scandinavia and Europe. In addition to several Reinhardt tracks, there are two traditional Jewish tunes – a new element in the opening up of gypsy jazz. The harmonica on some tracks is a nice touch, and fits in just as well as its larger reed cousin the accordion. The 13-track CD concludes with Django’s treatment of that same Grieg Norwegian Dance, naturally.
– All reviews: John Sunier