Django Reinhardt

Memorial [Empire Musicwerks]

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1947 was one of the most intriguing years for Django Reinhardt. Having survived World War II, and having had his first reunion with violinist Stéphane Grappelli and his only tour of the United States, the masterful guitarist began to seriously explore both the electric guitar and bebop. Not counting three sessions with Grappelli, Reinhardt recorded 65 selections (plus three alternate takes) during the five months covered by this two-CD set, Memorial. The music deserves to be reissued complete and in chronological order, but this is a strong sampling of 39 of the songs. Usually joined by either Hubert Rostaing, Gerard Leveque, or Maurice Meunier on clarinet plus guitar, bass, drums, and occasional piano, Reinhardt plays a few standards but mostly performs his own surprisingly boppish originals. At times the music is rhythmically awkward although there are some obscure and rewarding songs on this two-fer that are worth reviving. Reinhardt would sound much smoother by 1949, but these early bop efforts (which surprisingly include no Charlie Parker or Dizzy Gillespie songs) are intriguing and innovative in their own way; just do not expect the gypsy swing that Reinhardt performed in the '30s. A bonus is the two selections recorded by Reinhardt as a sideman with visiting cornetist Rex Stewart. Recommended.

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