The Classic Early Recordings in Chronological Order
This budget five-disc box collects Reinhardt's first 124 recordings between 1934-1939. Curiously enough, despite the title, these sides aren't chronological, a fact that engineer Ted Kendall admits in the liner notes. Rather, while each disc's featured sessions are presented mostly chronologically, the discs themselves are rather awkwardly sequenced, with different discs covering different years in a seemingly random order. That doesn't really detract from the set's appeal, however, as this music is terrific no matter how it's presented. If there is a flaw, it's that the remastering isn't nearly as superb as the fawning front-cover quotation would lead one to believe. In fact, some of the better CD issues (particularly ASV/Living Era's Quintette du Hot Club de France) have sound quality that is nearly, if not equally, good. To his credit, however, Kendall admits that he has attempted no "enhancement" of the sound, but has instead concentrated on clearing away much of the audio rubble. His work is, in fact, generally excellent -- especially on the later sides, many of which are virtually devoid of hiss. And much care has been taken to present this music in the best possible light -- the scattered liner notes are enthusiastically written and there are some real treasures unearthed along the way, from unissued second takes to tracks that have been issued for the first time at their correct pitch. All in all, Kendall deserves kudos for his meticulous attention to detail, and the super-low price is a Reinhardt fan's dream.