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Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli - The Essential Collection
on 7 April 2011
I can normally get a bit het up with discs that don't give personnels or recording details but in this case I don't think it particularly matters. It's a little like Jerry Lee Lewis who was once asked who was on a record he had made. The reply was 'I'm on it. What more do you need to know?' I feel much the same about Django. Whenever he plays it really doesn't matter who else is there: he is the one to listen to.
All the tunes on this two disc set seem to come from before the war, there is no electric guitar and no accompaniment apart from violin and rhythm. Grapelli plays pleasant, slightly romantic piano on a few tracks and there are occasional vocals that cause no harm. Many, but not all, of the best loved tunes are here but there are also lesser known numbers. In other words this is a fine selection of the classic Hot Club Quintet.
Grapelli throughout plays swinging attractive violin, very tuneful, but always slightly sweet toned. He plays very well, but it doesn't really matter when compared to Django. There are miles and miles of his boundless genius. He plays, both on ballads and swingers, as if he had ceaseless invention and the ability to go on for ever without ever running out of inspiration. He was an absolute original and one of the greatest soloists the music has produced.
The Quintet had a unique sound (although later much copied) which was a combination of Gallic charm and hard driving jazz. Ultimately, the view you take of the set will depend upon the view you take of that particular sound but what cannot be ignored is the sheer genius of that man Django.
There are two and a half hours of music here for a very reasonable price so it has to be a bit of a bargain.