In 1940, with the classic Quintette du Hot Club de France lineup now history, Reinhardt began a year's worth of varied jazz activity in the shadow of the Nazi invasion and occupation. For starters, he recorded with a most unusual big band, one with no drummer, led by an acoustic guitarist -- himself -- and featuring arrangements that veered from the dark timbres of earliest Ellington (the Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli "Tears") to some heavy yet convincing Euro-swing ("Daphne"). The Quintette per se would soon reappear but in revamped form, with clarinetist/saxophonist Hubert Rostaing taking the spot of the departed Grappelli, the addition of drums, and downsizing the guitar brigade from three to two pieces -- Django and his brother Joseph. This ensemble swerved off the beaten path immediately with the forbidding "Rythme Futur," based upon an unnerving tritone pattern. Almost half of the CD is taken up by a single marathon session from Dec. 13, 1940, where Django and various Quintette lineups take on everything from classical cats Grieg and Kreisler to another of those early swingers, "Swing 41," and a mordant reminder as to what day it was ("Vendredi 13," or "Friday the 13th"). A follow-up session on Dec. 17 yielded a thriller, the chug-chugging "Oiseaux des Iles." On the last session of the year nine days later, Django tried again to field a big band, expanding to 16 pieces, with somewhat heavy-set results. A fascinating collection, loaded with material not often encountered, well-remastered, though the brasses shatter a bit on the big band sides.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell