All Star Sessions

Django Reinhardt

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All Star Sessions Review

by Ken Dryden

The studio sessions within this CD were produced by Charles Delauney in Paris during the late '30s, when a number of prominent Americans were either passing through or temporarily taking up residence in Europe. Django Reinhardt was a relative newcomer to jazz, but quickly became a leading player on the continent, and is present on four very different sessions in this collection. A quartet led by cornetist Rex Stewart includes fellow Ellington veterans Barney Bigard on clarinet and bassist Billy Taylor, though the Americans and their gypsy guitarist eschew the Ellington songbook and find their own sound in a date dominated by originals written by Stewart or Taylor. Reinhardt is prominently featured as a soloist and proves himself in ensembles as well as backing others' solos. The only standard present is a swinging "I Know That You Know." The guitarist is part of Michel Warlop's orchestra with special guest Coleman Hawkins for a 1935 session, though the rather square arrangements haven't stood the test of time too well. The highlight of this date is "Star Dust," which includes Hawkins with only the rhythm section of Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli (on piano), and bassist Eugene d'Hellemmes. Reinhardt and Grappelli (again, exclusively on piano) are both present in an all-star ensemble led by Hawkins, which also features Benny Carter (on both alto sax and trumpet). Carter's swinging arrangements make these four tracks a joy to hear, though Reinhardt only solos on "Honeysuckle Rose." Although most of these selections have appeared regularly on a number of earlier CDs and LPs, this current collection is worth acquiring, especially for the small-group date led by Stewart.

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