Django Reinhardt

Un Géant sur Son Nuage, Vol. 1

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Quite often, French jazz releases offer English-language translations of the liner notes. But on this Django Reinhardt collection, the liner notes are strictly in French (which shouldn't prevent those who don't speak that language from savoring the music). The English translation of the title Un Géant sur Son Nuage is "A Giant on His Cloud," and Reinhardt was exactly that -- a giant. Although he was only 43 when he died of a stroke in 1953, the seminal acoustic guitarist left behind a wealth of recordings. Offering 20 gems that span 1935-1939, Un Géant sur Son Nuage, Vol. 1 paints a consistently attractive picture of his early work. Reinhardt is heard in a variety of settings; he is unaccompanied on several tracks (including "Parfum," "Echoes of Spain," and "Naguine"), but most of the material finds him leading small groups. The most famous is the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, which boasts Stephane Grappelli (another highly influential musician) on violin. That quintet was groundbreaking and unusual in that it was an all-strings jazz combo -- no drums, no horns -- and what one hears on treasures like "Djangology," "Oriental Shuffle," and "Minor Swing" is history in the making. The small-group performances on this CD became the blueprint for many of the gypsy swing groups that have come along since the '30s; in the 21st century, gypsy swing groups continue to model themselves after Reinhardt's trailblazing work with Grappelli. Un Géant sur Son Nuage, Vol. 1 isn't the last word on Reinhardt in the '30s, but all of the tracks are superb -- and if this French release only scratches the surface, it is a most rewarding surface.

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