About this Recording
8.120822 - REINHARDT, Django: Belleville (1940-1942) (Reinhardt, Vol. 10)
English 

Djando Reinhardt, Vol. 10
'Belleville' - Original Recordings 1940-1942

 

When one thinks of guitarist Django Reinhardt, it is usually of him playing with violinist Stephane Grappelli in the Quintette du Hot Club de France. However that group only existed for six years, breaking up in 1939 at the start of World War II. The musicians were touring England when Reinhardt spontaneously decided to return to France while Grappelli opted to stay in Great Britain. The pair would not see each other again for seven years. While Grappelli soon formed a group with the talented young pianist George Shearing, Reinhardt spent four years in Nazi-occupied Europe, somehow managing to continue playing and recording while avoiding being exploited or persecuted by the Nazis.

Jean Baptiste 'Django' Reinhardt was born on 23 January 1910 in Liverchies, Belgium. A gypsy who was largely illiterate, Reinhardt turned out to be a musical genius. He started his career as a banjoist in the 1920s, performing with dance bands. After discovering the music of Louis Armstrong on records, he brought his gypsy sound into jazz, switching to guitar. Django survived a horrible fire in his gypsy caravan that permanently scarred one of his hands, rendering three of his fingers on the hand that he used to finger chords unusable. He relearned the guitar and by the early 1930s had developed into the top guitarist in jazz and the first truly major European jazz musician.

The Quintette du Hot Club de France, an all-string quintet consisting of violin, bass and three acoustic guitars, introduced a new sound to jazz and caused a sensation in Europe. But with the group's breakup, Django Reinhardt had to start from scratch. He organized a new band that at first also used the title of the Quintette du Hot Club de France although it eventually was billed under the guitarist's name. Instead of the third guitar, a drummer was utilized while Grappelli's spot was taken by clarinettist Hubert Rostaing, a part of Django's groups off and on until 1948.

This collection has some of Django Reinhardt's most rewarding recordings dating from December 1940 to May 1942. Despite the Nazi occupation, Reinhardt kept busy in the recording studios, not only leading his own dates but occasionally appearing as a sideman. Considering the circumstances, the quality of the recordings is rather remarkable. Other than substituting French titles for some of the jazz standards so they would not appear to be American in origin, Reinhardt was free in the recording studios to play as he had always played.

The first two selections have Django performing in a sextet led by trumpeter Pierre Allier. Hubert Rostaing takes a muscular solo on tenor and pianist Paul Collot has a brief spot before Django easily steals the show. Although the group lacks a string bass, the rhythmic work of Reinhardt and Collot covers up for the absence. Ninouche has a solid melodic lead by Allier (one of the best trumpeters in occupied France) who contributed both of the fine originals to his session.

Andre Ekyan was arguably the top altoist in Europe during the first half of the 1940s. He had held his own on a 1937 session that included Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter and tenor-saxophonist Alix Combelle in addition to Django. On 11 September 1941 he employed four members of the new Quintette du Hot Club de France to join him on Django's Hungaria (which is really "Bye Bye Blues") and De nulle part (Out Of Nowhere). While Ekyan is in the lead most of the way, the backup by Reinhardt is consistently exciting.

With Hubert Rostaing in Ekyan's place later in the day and back on his customary clarinet, the 1941 version of the Quintette du Hot Club de France is featured on three memorable selections. Dinette uses the chord changes of "Dinah" but with a different melody devised by Django. Crépuscule is a more original tune with Reinhardt's tone in his melody statement being particularly haunting. The advanced chord structure hints at bop in places. In contrast, the joyful Swing 42 harkens back to the earlier Quintet with Grappelli.

Première idée d'Eddie has Hubert Rostaing leading a fine septet that features an unusual and unique chorus, a bowed bass solo by Django! The song is based on "Japanese Sandman" and has hot playing from each of the three horns.

31 March 1942 was a busy day in the recording studios for Django Reinhardt for his appearance on the Rostaing session was one of three dates on which he participated. 'Django's Music' was the name of Reinhardt's occasional big band which really only existed on recordings. The atmospheric Nympheas (which has the pioneering flute of Maurice Cizeron) and the romping if eccentric Féerie are two of Django's lesser known originals. A guitarist being showcased with a big band was unprecedented during the era other than Charlie Christian's showcase with Benny Goodman on "Solo Flight." The same day Django recorded the joyful Belleville and the relatively somber Lentement, Mademoiselle with his regular quintet.

The first session from 16 April 1942, a set of duets with pianist Ivon de Bie, is particularly unusual for, on Vous et moi and Blues en mineur, Django is heard playing with surprising effectiveness on violin. He makes a sentimental statement on violin during the first and last parts of Vous et moi, sandwiching a heated guitar solo. Blues en mineur demonstrates that Reinhardt could swing quite well on violin, jamming on a minor blues although his virtuosic display on guitar shows that he settled on the right instrument. Distraction and Studio 24, which are guitar-piano duets, are both pure joy. These performances make one wonder what ever happened to Ivon de Bie, a fine stride and swing pianist who fares well in his encounters with the masterful guitarist.

That same day, Django had another opportunity to lead an orchestra. Place de Brouckère is a medium-tempo blues with some arranged transitions that challenge the ensembles. At times it is difficult to believe just how powerful Reinhardt could play on the acoustic guitar. Most other guitarists of the period were virtually inaudible in big bands. The minor-toned Mixture is full of fire with drum breaks, brief spots for clarinet and piano, and heated ensembles.

This wide-ranging program also has two selections on which Reinhardt guests with the Stan Brenders Orchestra. Django Rag is really "Tiger Rag" and, instead of employing the usual clarinet lead, the guitarist takes all of the breaks, really ripping into the chord changes. The concluding Chez moi à six heures has the big band riffing a la Count Basie with Django playing solos worthy of Lester Young.

It is difficult to believe, while listening to these spirited performances, that Reinhardt and the other musicians were creating music while the shadow and real danger of the Nazis was hovering over them. The resulting music, which is rather obscure but timeless, is miraculous on several levels and a reminder of the greatness of Django Reinhardt.

Scott Yanow
author of nine jazz books including Jazz On Film, Swing, Classic Jazz, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76, has a website, www.scottyanow.com

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Petite Lili (Pierre Allier)
Swing SW 126, mx 0SW 171-1. Recorded 18 December 1940, Paris

Ninouche (Pierre Allier)
Swing SW 108, mx 0SW 172-1. Recorded 18 December 1940, Paris

Hungaria (Traditional)
Swing SW 127, mx 0SW 225-1. Recorded 11 September 1941, Paris

De nulle part (Out Of Nowhere) (Johnny Green–Edward Heyman)
Swing SW 127, mx 0SW226-1. Recorded 11 September 1941, Paris

Dinette (Dinah) (Harry Akst–Sam Lewis–Joseph Young)
Swing SW 146, mx 0SW 227-1. Recorded 11 September 1941, Paris

Crépuscule (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SW 123, mx 0SW 228-1. Recorded 11 September 1941, Paris

Swing 42 (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SW 137, mx 0SW 229-1. Recorded 11 September 1941, Paris

Première idée d'Eddie (Hubert Rostaing–Eddie Barclay)
Swing SW 151, mx 0SW 261-1. Recorded 31 March 1942, Paris

Nympheas (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SWX 186, mx 2SW 262-1. Recorded 31 March 1942, Paris

Féerie (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SWX 186, mx 2SW 263-1. Recorded 31 March 1942, Paris

Belleville (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SW 162, mx 0SW 265-1. Recorded 31 March 1942, Paris

Lentement, Mademoiselle (Django Reinhardt)
Swing SW 146, mx 0SW 266-1. Recorded 31 March 1942, Paris

Vous et moi (Bosmans)
Rhythme D 5016, mx 16189. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Distraction (Ivon de Bie)
Rhythme D 5016, mx 16190. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Blues en mineur (Django Reinhardt)
Rhythme D 5017, mx 16191. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Studio 24 (F. Engelen)
Rhythme D 5017, mx 16192. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Place de Brouckère (Django Reinhardt)
Rhythme D 5030, mx 16194. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Django Rag (Django Reinhardt–Stan Brenders)
Rhythme D 5025, mx 16222. Recorded 8 May 1942, Brussels

Mixture (Fud Candrix)
Rhythme D 5018, mx 16196. Recorded 16 April 1942, Brussels

Chez moi à six heures (P. van Hecke)
Rhythme D 5026, mx 16225. Recorded 8 May 1942, Brussels

 


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