Thanks to a certain high ranking Nazi official whose penchant for jazz music caused him to violate the aggressively racist policies of his own government, Django Reinhardt was able to perform his music throughout most of the Occupation without being deported, involuntarily sterilized, or exterminated along with many of his fellow Gypsies. Nevertheless, weary of an imposed police state and shaken by Allied "precision" bombardment of Paris, Reinhardt and his second wife Naguine attempted to flee to Switzerland by way of Thonon-les-Bains at Lac Leman in 1943. Apprehended and jailed at Thonon, they were set free by the same fortuitous fluke in the Nazi establishment. Given the disruptive nature of these harrowing circumstances, it is not surprising that the only recordings known to have been made with Reinhardt in attendance during the year 1944 are three sides cut on November 3, almost exactly six months after the birth of Babik Reinhardt. Performed by a big band led by tenor saxophonist Noel Chiboust, they constitute the first three selections on the thirteenth volume in Django Reinhardt's portion of the Classics Chronological Series. Recorded in January 1945, tracks four through seven are attributed to the Jazz Club Mystery Hot Band, a mostly American group consisting of Reinhardt, trumpeter Bernie Privin, tenor saxophonist Peanuts Hucko, pianist Mel Powell, bassist Joe Schulman, and drummer Ray McKinley. The Classics chronology skips over a number of recordings that Reinhardt made during 1945, including an unaccompanied guitar solo and performances by several groups of varying size. A handful of titles, played by the U.S. Air Transport Command Band under the direction of Sgt. Jack Platt, do appear as tracks 8-11. The producers of this collection chose to "cut to the chase" by delving into the first months of 1946 when Reinhardt recorded with two distinctively different Hot Club Quintettes. On January 31 and February 1 he was reunited with violinist Stéphane Grappelli in London (tracks 12-19), and on May 15 he cut four sides with a reconfigured Quintette without a violinist and greatly modernized by the innovative technique of clarinetist/alto saxophonist Hubert Rostaing (tracks 20-23). Reinhardt's postwar career (1945-1953) was characterized by what seems in retrospect to have been a puzzling gradual wane in popularity. This appears to have set in at once, for his response to a paucity of regular work during the spring of 1946 led Reinhardt to invest in a set of brushes, paints, and other materials necessary for quiet reflection as he began expanding his improvisational energies to include light as well as sound as his personal system of poetics evolved from the audible to the visual. This is a useful if incomplete sampling of Reinhardt's late wartime and immediate postwar recordings. For a more complete chronology of Reinhardt's entire surviving musical legacy, consult the exhaustively thorough Integrale series, available in 20 double-disc volumes from Fremeaux & Associes.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf