This is Django Reinhardt during the war years, without the services of perennial partner Stephane Grappelli and leading a large band in Paris (Grappelli would return for stretches after the war). Even sans his friend's simpatico violin, Reinhardt is still impressive on these 21 quality sides, picking nicely throughout. Heavy on his own material, set highlights include a two-part "Improvisation No. 3," "Belleville," and "Douce Ambiance." The sound remains anchored in Reinhardt's earlier Hot Club days of the late '30s, touched by a bluesier-than-normal strain and some hardened swing. A nice bet for dedicated listeners.
Packed with three beautiful Reinhardt/Grappelli guitar/piano duets, one gorgeous unaccompanied guitar improvisation, 15 solid Quintet sides, and the legendary Rex Stewart "Feetwarmers" session of April 5, 1939, this excellent volume of chronologically reissued Django Reinhardt recordings occupies a position somewhere between "magnificent" and "essential." After a vigorous jam on "Them There Eyes" and a pleasantly swung "Three Little Words," intimations of developing modernity suddenly erupt during "Appel Direct," also known as "Appel Indirect" or "Direct Appeal." Django delivers some downright devilish picking during this brisk exercise in dexterity…
Moving on from its initial Ultraphone sides, the Quintette du Hot Club de France hit a sort of early zenith with two 1936 sessions cut for the HMV label. This volume of Classics' Chronological series features 12 sides from those May and October HMV dates, including such perennial Reinhardt and Grappelli performances as "Shine," "After You've Gone," and "Georgia on My Mind" - Freddy Taylor, the fine Armstrong-inspired vocalist, only adds to the charm of these and a few other numbers here. The disc also finds the guitar and violin duo on two dates headed up respectively by pianist Garnet Clark and bandleader Michel Warlop (the handful of Warlop numbers also feature the great French clarinetist Alix Combelle). Topped off with some nice trumpet work by American ex-pat Bill Coleman, this Reinhardt disc qualifies as one of a handful of top-notch retrospectives of the guitarist's prime '30s output.
The studio sessions within this CD were produced by Charles Delauney in Paris during the late '30s, when a number of prominent Americans were either passing through or temporarily taking up residence in Europe. Django Reinhardt was a relative newcomer to jazz, but quickly became a leading player on the continent, and is present on four very different sessions in this collection. A quartet led by cornetist Rex Stewart includes fellow Ellington veterans Barney Bigard on clarinet and bassist Billy Taylor, though the Americans and their gypsy guitarist eschew the Ellington songbook and find their own sound in a date dominated by originals written by Stewart or Taylor. Reinhardt is prominently featured as a soloist and proves himself in ensembles as well as backing others' solos.
Hailing from a trio of Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) sessions, Django (1955) contains some of the earliest sides that Milt Jackson (vibraphone), John Lewis (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) recorded for Prestige Records. Initially, the combo was part of Dizzy Gillespie's influential backing band and after a change in drummers (to Connie Kay), they continued as one of the more sophisticated aggregates of the post-bop era. The album commences with Lewis' sublime and serene title track "Django," dedicated to the memory of guitarist extraordinaire Django Reinhardt. This musical paean aptly recaptures the essence of Reinhardt's enigmatic gypsy-like nature, especially evident within Jackson's leads, which emerge from the thoughtful opening dirge with a refined, warm tone throughout.