The expatriate jazz life in Europe has been well documented, usually with the caveat that American soloists rarely equaled their stateside efforts in the presence of English and continental musicians. True, the swing wasn't as solid or the caliber of soloists as high as that heard on many U.S. sessions, especially in the '20s and '30s, but a wealth of unique music was still produced -- even when the blues seemed usurped many times by, let's say, the more dainty strains of drawing room bands. Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, two of the most expansive of jazzmen, certainly made some great recordings in Europe, as this Django Reinhardt collection attests. Reinhardt, for his part, plays metaphorical host to the yanks and comps gloriously behind the various soloists (Django diehards might be disappointed to discover he scarcely is let loose to solo). Of the four Paris dates covered here, Hawkins and Carter are featured in tandem and solo, save for a quartet featuring fellow trumpeter and vocalist Bill Coleman. Highlights include Hawkins' work on four 1937 cuts (also featuring Reinhardt accomplice Stephane Grappelli), notably "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Sweet Georgia Brown." The tenor master also shines on a big band session led by Canadian-born trumpeter Arthur Briggs. Not a prime disc for Reinhardt fans maybe, but still a great buy for aficionados of '30s combo jazz.
Django Reinhardt and the American Jazz Giants Review
by Stephen Cook