Jazz in Paris: Nuits de Saint-Germain des-Prés

Jazz in Paris: Nuits de Saint-Germain des-Prés

by Django Reinhardt
     
 
The Gitanes label has taken it upon itself to reissue on CD some of the late work of gypsy jazz giant Django Reinhardt. The tracks that make up Nuits de Saint-Germain des-Prés come from three Decca sessions dating from May of 1951 to January 1953, the final year of his life. The title comes from the reopening of the infamous club Saint-Germain des-Prés, whose

Overview

The Gitanes label has taken it upon itself to reissue on CD some of the late work of gypsy jazz giant Django Reinhardt. The tracks that make up Nuits de Saint-Germain des-Prés come from three Decca sessions dating from May of 1951 to January 1953, the final year of his life. The title comes from the reopening of the infamous club Saint-Germain des-Prés, whose reopening coincided with Reinhardt showing off his bop chops to a host of notable American jazzmen, including Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker, Don Byas, and others. The bands on all of these sessions are comprised of Young Turks, most notably a youthful Pierre Michelot on bass. The other constants are drummer Pierre Lemarchand and Hubert Fol on clarinets and saxophone; the latter's brother Raymond is the pianist on two of these sessions. Reinhardt's evolution to include bebop phrasing and tempos was a gradual one and, unlike many players of the era, he never lost identity because he incorporated the advanced harmonics and chromatic aspects of the music -- he already possessed the necessary technique, and an electric guitar with its infinitely faster action only helped. The first session here, from May 1951, features three Reinhardt originals, including his old nugget "Impromptu," revved up and retooled for blast-off. It's blindingly quick and, if it weren't for Michelot's constant bass on the pulse, the tune would literally take off. But on the second session, from January 1952, "Flèche d'Or" is almost like heavy metal and jazz with its furious front-line melody and breakneck solos turned around on a small minor figure full of dissonance and tension. The dueling between Reinhardt and trumpet player Roger Guerin is astonishing. The title track from this session is a full sextet rave-up with equal parts Bird and Benny Carter in the front-line melody. And in the chorus, Reinhardt literally takes flight, knocking down flatpicked arpeggios with such ease and grace it's difficult to go back to hearing him play the acoustic again. The fat chord voicings he uses as he races his way up the neck are a signal for the band that a particular section in a tune is in transition. His comping is an art form in itself, with all of his left-hand syncopation. On the final session, the cover of "Crazy Rhythm," with its strident pacing and off-minor vamping, is remarkable for the ease with which they swing yet engage all of the modern music intervallically and dynamically. Reinhardt's string-bending on this one is a delight, full of warmth and edginess. Likewise, the bluesy intro of "Fine and Dandy" lasts all of seven seconds before Reinhardt follows those horns with a mélange of single-note runs and knotty, distorted chord voicings, which stand in sharp contrast to the easy but ever so fast swing of the horn players. This, like its sister volume, Nuages, is essential Reinhardt: It offers a new view of the artist in full maturity and with an endless range of ideas regarding arrangement, tempo, dissonance, and how to make the best use of the electric guitar's particularly liberating dynamics. Though he would pass away at the end of 1953, Reinhardt, despite his decline in popularity, went out at the top of his artistic game as an improviser, composer, arranger, bandleader, and instrumentalist. These Gitanes volumes suggest that a major reappraisal of Reinhardt's later work is overdue.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/06/2003
Label:
Emarcy Import
UPC:
0044001842726
catalogNumber:
018427

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