Anyone intimately familiar with Django Reinhardt's later recorded works might wonder how one CD can contain all of his recordings from late 1947 through 1951. While it is a fact that Reinhardt experienced increasing periods of unemployment after 1947 as his popularity waned, he certainly made enough records during this time period to fill more than one compact disc. The solution to this puzzle apparently involves issues of licensing, copyright, and ownership. During January and February 1949, and then again in April and May of 1950, Django Reinhardt, using small groups containing both French and Italian musicians and featuring either Stéphane Grappelli or Andre Ekyan, made a number of excellent recordings for radio broadcast purposes in Rome. Although the producers of the Classics Chronological Series usually seem able to procure the recordings necessary for a thorough survey of each artist they feature, whoever owns the rights to the Roman Reinhardt acetates either wouldn't allow them to be used by the folks at Classics, or perhaps the Italians wanted more money than the French company was willing or able to afford. In any case, there's a gap of about 18 months in this overview, but it doesn't sound that way at all because what you get is a mighty dose of late-period Django Reinhardt, and every nanosecond of music is precious and fine. The first ten tracks were recorded in Paris in late 1947 and early 1948 by a Quintet of the Hot Club of France featuring the violin and piano of Stéphane Grappelli. "Si Tu Savais" is a profound opener that feels as though it is referencing harsh realities and twists of fate. It sounds, in fact, a lot like "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Throughout these ten selections, both the ensemble's collective creativity and Reinhardt's improvisations are dazzling. The next block of material inadvertently calls up another incongruity. The Classics label's self-imposed delineation between studio and live material is remarkably inconsistent, as plenty of live recordings have deliberately been either included or excluded from their extensive catalog. Lots of live Reinhardt didn't make it into his chronology on Classics. Here the producers went ahead and wove in a continuous live concert recording made in Brussels on December 1, 1948. Django Reinhardt and a small group featuring clarinetist Hubert Rostaing present a full range of moods and textures, including the Benny Carter/Ben Webster steamroller "Cadillac Slim" -- with thunderous Gene Krupa-styled drumming during the clarinet solo -- and a brief "Symphonie," which turns out to be a vigorous workout for Django's guitar. But speaking of the guitar, as the chronology leapfrogs over everything Django accomplished in Rome, listeners are treated to a pair of lovely Parisian unaccompanied guitar solos, including a breathtakingly gorgeous, landscape-sized six-and-a-half-minute version of "Nuages." If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on this amazing piece of work, play it back for yourself over and over again. Listen to it for hours if necessary. It might just be the greatest musical statement that Django Reinhardt ever played into a microphone. As he only had a few years remaining in his short life, it is a pity that he recorded so infrequently after 1950, because the clues he left behind clearly hint at fascinating developments in the art of guitar playing that would be realized and expounded upon by other guitarists further on down the road.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf