This album is one of several available collections focusing on the type of jazz that was created right under the noses of the Nazis during the second World War. Swing Tanzen Verboten! Swing in Belgium and France is a lengthy Proper Box collection that covers much of the same ground, although in much more detail. The subject is more than just engaging on several different levels. Purely musically speaking, there are many good things to be found in the sounds of groups such as the Orchestre Musette and Eddie Barclay, although listeners without the ears for the vintage years will no doubt toss around words such as "quaint" and "dated."
Why the German occupation was more lenient with crushing swing music in France and Belguim than in Germany is an interesting subject for speculation. Some gigs or recordings happened for one reason and others for another. Activity might purely be linked to a particular commanding officer or civil supervisor's secret and even not-so-secret love of the music itself, while in other cases, certain clubs would remain open because the Gestapo felt sure dissident types would hang out there -- thus, putting on gigs made it easier to spy on people. Perhaps the 2003 regime of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge might consider the same concept, a way of fighting the war on terror and increasing the number of jazz venues in the process.
The musicians involved are just as interesting as the politics, their lives and careers a bit less shrouded in intrigue than the Nazi's motivations. There are several excellent examples of Joseph Reinhardt, brother of Django Reinhardt, taking charge of different orchestral settings and gimmicky material such as "Zazou-Zazou." More gypsy input comes courtesy of the interesting alto saxophonist Andre Ekyan and there was at least one musician present who was an American, trumpeter Harold Cooper. Since Cooper saw fit to stay put in France during the entire war, it is not so surprising that he never came home at all and wound up dying in Paris.