Part of the Jazz in Paris series by the Gitanes label, this compilation draws from Django Reinhardt's last pair of recording sessions in 1953 (the first eight tracks make up the original Nuages album and served as a precursor for a Norman Granz Jazz at the Philharmonic world tour), which were two of his strongest ever. Gone was the shimmering but funky acoustic guitar of his gypsy swing youth, and in its place was a spanking new electric Gibson that, with its extended quick action, allowed him further flights of fancy not only on the fretboard but also sonically. Along with bassist Pierre Michelot, pianist Maurice Vander, and drummer Jean-Louis Viale (the rhythm section was considered to be avant-garde at the time), Reinhardt was off and running, carrying his new depth and breadth of intonation and electric harmonics to funky extremes -- check the end of "Night and Day," with its razor-wire chords and inverted arpeggios. Reinhardt's form was reckless and wild -- and impeccable -- on these sessions. He had thrown away his own songbook and turned to his restlessness to guide him to a new place musically -- and it did. Here, "Blues for Ike," "September Song," the title cut, "Brazil," and "Confessin'" are reinvented harmonically. Reinhardt stretched intervals to make one or two notes, or perhaps a chord, fall on the seam, splitting the rhythm section in two between passages. Much like a singer improvising, he took the plectrum style to a new extreme, playing runs so extended one wondered where melody ended and improvisation began -- particularly when he'd enter into an Eastern scale to branch out of the color palette. And all the while, his trademark high swinging style never once collapsed under the weight of his preeminent sophistication. The last four cuts feature a new band save for Michelot. The pianist was a very young Martial Solal, and Reinhardt engaged Solal's own gift for odd textures, phrasing, and tonalities on tunes such as "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Chez Moi," along with "Deccaphonie," where the band turns in a full-on loose-rail performance where rhythm is dictated by Reinhardt's falling fingers, hammering with both quickness and uncanny weight against a rhythm section that included vibist Fats Lallemand -- check the end of the first minute where Reinhardt cuts into his solo with feedback! The sound on this CD is remarkably good considering that the last four tunes were recorded in a makeshift studio -- the rest is excellent. The liner notes are sketchy but offer basic information, and the purchase price is fair. This may not be the place to start with Reinhardt, but it is a hell of a place to end up.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek