For some reason, Gadaya of the three blogs always has a way of anticipating what I’m going to post, and posting something similar first at Times Ain’t Like they Used to Be. This week’s installment is an immersion in hot swing. Specifically, on my end, it’s a crash course in “Jazz Manouche”, also known as “Gypsy Jazz”. Its innovators and most famous exponents were Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in their legendary Quintette du Hot Club de Paris, but as you’ll soon learn, they weren’t the only ones. The genre has diversified and endured a long tradition, with many immitators and few innovators. Of course, even the immitators deserve a fair bit of credit because this is one of the hardest styles of music to play. And one of the funnest to listen to, I might add.
What makes gypsy jazz so incredible is its propulsive, insistent rhythmic foundation (its Gypsy heritage) and elegant, fluid melodies (the sophisication of jazz). It picks up jazz standards or popular tunes of the day and runs them through a mill of driving guitars and slinky violins and accordeons. The tune comes out, still recognizeable, but more daring, more quirky, yes – more alive. It’s hat is tilted to one side and there’s a grin creeping up the corners of its mouth. It has a skip in its step that catches you off guard and a knowing wink when it catches you looking. It can pull a fast one over you, and leave you so bedazzled that you don’t realize where all your money went. Through the tightly-reined madness and renegade elegance of gypsy jazz, an innocent boy of tune becomes a man. Jazz is all about sex, remember?
Syncopation is here. Off-syncopation is here. Just when you’ve gotten used to that, there’s odd timings and odder accents and a run that will stop your mind in its tracks. This is what I mean by ‘pulling a fast one’. No matter how hard you look or listen, the magician gets you every time. Just look at that grin, that eyebrow. Just look. He knows something you don’t know.
And now some histories and wikistories:
Gypsy jazz (also known as “Gypsy Swing”) is an idiom often said to have been started by guitarist Jean “Django” Reinhardt in the 1930s. Because its origins are largely in France it is often called by the French name, “Jazz manouche,” or alternatively, “manouche jazz,” even in English language sources. Django was foremost among a group of Gypsy guitarists working in and around Paris in the 1930s through the 1950s, a group which also included the brothers Pierre “Baro” Ferret, Etienne “Sarane” Ferret, and Jean “Matelo” Ferret and Reinhardt’s brother Joseph “Nin-Nin” Reinhardt.
Many of the musicians in this style worked in Paris in various popular Musette ensembles. The Musette style waltz remains an important component in the Gypsy jazz repertoire. Reinhardt was noted for combining a dark, chromatic Gypsy flavor with the swing articulation of the period. This combination is critical to this style of jazz. In addition to this his approach continues to form the basis for contemporary Gypsy jazz guitar. Reinhardt’s most famous group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France, also brought fame to jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhart were jamming buddies at the same clubs when they struck upon the idea of forming the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. They were some of the first Europeans to really affect the jazz scene, influenced heavily by the work of Eddie South and the Eddie Lang/Joe Venuti sessions of the ’20s. Reinhardt, a gypsy who hailed from Belgium, was a hot-tempered guitarist who had been injured in a fire as a young man. This left him with two fingers missing, but a unique playing style due to his need to adapt. Grappelli was a French violinist who never quite liked Reinhardt, but recognized how well they played together. They took the name from a popular club in the area owned by the supportive Pierre Nourry, and influencial magazine editor Charles Delaunay assembled the original lineup. They recruited Django’s brother Joseph and Roger Chaput to play acoustic rhythm guitars, and bassist Louis Vola was the last to join the group. Throughout the ’30s, the group toured throughout Europe, focusing mostly on the jazz friendly United Kingdom. Their reputation grew very large in Europe, spilling over into the United States where artists like Rex Stewart, Louis Armstrong, and even their hero Eddie South clamored to jam with the group on their European trips. Duke Ellington was so impressed that he attempted to bring Reinhardt into his orchestra for a tour, but when World War II began it stopped any future plans for the band. When war was declared, Reinhardt left England to get back to France, while Grappelli stayed in England for the duration of the war. The two would not play together for seven years, leading to some unplanned solo work while they were separated. Reinhardt decided to carry on the group with substitute players throughout the war, substituting players and instruments until the violin and rhythm guitar was replaced by the clarinet and a drummer. He then tried to take Ellington up on his offer, but the tour was a bomb and he was soon staying in New York without work. He made it back to France and the original group reunited, playing festivals after the war that made their professional unhappiness evident. Older fans would have rather they stayed with their original formula, while Reinhardt desired to play bebop. The band finally dissolved, leaving them all to explore uneventful but musically interesting solo careers.
Django Reinhardt was the first hugely influential jazz figure to emerge from Europe — and he remains the most influential European to this day, with possible competition from Joe Zawinul, George Shearing, John McLaughlin, his old cohort Stephane Grappelli and a bare handful of others. A free-spirited gypsy, Reinhardt wasn’t the most reliable person in the world, frequently wandering off into the countryside on a whim. Yet Reinhardt came up with a unique way of propelling the humble acoustic guitar into the front line of a jazz combo in the days before amplification became widespread. He would spin joyous, arcing, marvelously inflected solos above the thrumming base of two rhythm guitars and a bass, with Grappelli’s elegantly gliding violin serving as the perfect foil. His harmonic concepts were startling for their time — making a direct impression upon Charlie Christian and Les Paul, among others — and he was an energizing rhythm guitarist behind Grappelli, pushing their groups into a higher gear. Not only did Reinhardt put his stamp upon jazz, his string band music also had an impact upon the parallel development of Western swing, which eventually fed into the wellspring of what is now called country music. Although he could not read music, with Grappelli and on his own, Reinhardt composed several winsome, highly original tunes like “Daphne,” “Nuages” and “Manoir de Mes Reves,” as well as mad swingers like “Minor Swing” and the ode to his record label of the ’30s, “Stomping at Decca.” As the late Ralph Gleason said about Django’s recordings, “They were European and they were French and they were still jazz.”
A violinist first and a guitarist later, Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt grew up in a gypsy camp near Paris where he absorbed the gypsy strain into his music. A disastrous caravan fire in 1928 badly burned his left hand, depriving him of the use of the fourth and fifth fingers, but the resourceful Reinhardt figured out a novel fingering system to get around the problem that probably accounts for some of the originality of his style. According to one story, during his recovery period, Reinhardt was introduced to American jazz when he found a 78 RPM disc of Louis Armstrong’s “Dallas Blues” at an Orleans flea market. He then resumed his career playing in Parisian cafes until one day in 1934 when Hot Club chief Pierre Nourry proposed the idea of an all-string band to Reinhardt and Grappelli. Thus was born the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, which quickly became an international draw thanks to a long, splendid series of Ultraphone, Decca and HMV recordings.
The outbreak of war in 1939 broke up the Quintette, with Grappelli remaining in London where the group was playing and Reinhardt returning to France. During the war years, he led a big band, another quintet with clarinetist Hubert Rostaing in place of Grappelli, and after the liberation of Paris, recorded with such visiting American jazzmen as Mel Powell, Peanuts Hucko and Ray McKinley. In 1946, Reinhardt took up the electric guitar and toured America as a soloist with the Duke Ellington band but his appearances were poorly received. Some of his recordings on electric guitar late in his life are bop escapades where his playing sounds frantic and jagged, a world apart from the jubilant swing of old. However, starting in Jan. 1946, Reinhardt and Grappelli held several sporadic reunions where the bop influences are more subtly integrated into the old, still-fizzing swing format. In the 1950s, Reinhardt became more reclusive, remaining in Europe, playing and recording now and then until his death from a stroke in 1953. His Hot Club recordings from the `30s are his most irresistible legacy; their spirit and sound can be felt in current groups like Holland’s Rosenberg Trio.
One of the all-time great jazz violinists (ranking with Joe Venuti and Stuff Smith as one of the big three of pre-bop), Stéphane Grappelli’s longevity and consistently enthusiastic playing did a great deal to establish the violin as a jazz instrument. He was originally self-taught as both a violinist and a pianist, although during 1924-28 he studied at the Paris Conservatoire. Grappelli played in movie theaters and dance bands before meeting guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1933. They hit it off musically from the start even though their lifestyles (Grappelli was sophisticated while Django was a gypsy) were very different. Together as Quintet of the Hot Club of France (comprised of violin, three acoustic guitars and bass) during 1933-39 they produced a sensational series of recordings and performances. During a London engagement in 1939, World War II broke out. Reinhardt rashly decided to return to France but Grappelli stayed in England, effectively ending the group. The violinist soon teamed up with the young pianist George Shearing in a new band that worked steadily through the war. In 1946, Grappelli and Reinhardt had the first of several reunions although they never worked together again on a regular basis (despite many new recordings). Grappelli performed throughout the 1950s and ’60s in clubs throughout Europe and, other than recordings with Duke Ellington (Violin Summit) and Joe Venuti, he remained somewhat obscure in the U.S. until he began regularly touring the world in the early ’70s. Since then Grappelli has been a constant traveler and a consistent poll-winner, remaining very open-minded without altering his swing style; he has recorded with David Grisman, Earl Hines, Bill Coleman, Larry Coryell, Oscar Peterson, Jean Luc Ponty and McCoy Tyner among many others. Active up until near the end, the increasingly frail Grappelli remained at the top of his field even when he was 89. His early recordings are all available on Classics CDs and he recorded quite extensively during his final three decades.
Biography by Zac Johnson
The French accordion master Gus Viseur began performing on the streets of Paris in fairs and markets and eventually worked his way into the cabaret and nightclubs. During his influential career he ended up backing “the Sparrow” Edith Piaf and performing with the legendary Hot Club of France Quintet. He helped create the accordion-jazz style known as manouche.
Oscar Alemán, one of the finest jazz guitarists of the 1930s, is a difficult player to evaluate because he sounded like a near-exact duplicate of Django Reinhardt. Since Django was a year younger, some have speculated that he developed his style from Alemán, although the opposite is just as likely. Alemán began playing guitar as a teenager in Argentina and in the late ’20s, he moved to Europe, Spain at first. By 1931, he was living in Paris and during 1933-1935, he was a regular member of Freddy Taylor’s Swing Men From Harlem. Alemán appeared on records with trumpeter Bill Coleman and clarinetist Danny Polo and was the leader on eight selections from 1938-1939. He moved back to Argentina in 1941 and, although he recorded as late as 1974, few outside of his native country have ever heard of him. Strangely enough, Oscar Alemán does not seem to have ever visited the United States and none of his many recordings of swing tunes in his post-Europe years (except for a few titles put out by the collectors TOM label) have ever been released domestically.
A unique 98 track survey of this most vibrant of musical idioms whose most famous exponent was the great Django Reinhardt. This set follows Django and many of his disciples as the music spread worldwide.
There are examples here from Europe, Scandinavia and even South America. Wherever the gypsies travelled their music travelled with them. Artists included, aside from Django, are Stephane Grappelli, the Ferret Brothers, Jean Sablon, Gus Visseur and even Sacha Distel who was a mean guitarist before he started crooning.
Review by arwulf arwulf
Proper Records presents a four-CD, 97-track anthology devoted to music recorded during the golden years of Gypsy jazz, from swing to bop to a bit of the cool (1934-1956). Happily, this tradition is still very much alive, and the recordings compiled herein demonstrate why even Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Eichmann, and Heinrich Himmler couldn’t stamp it out. In addition to classic sides by famous or relatively well-known artists like guitarist Django Reinhardt, violinists Stéphane Grappelli, Michel Warlop, and Svend Asmussen and crooner Jean Sablon, this fascinating collection traces the intricacies of the Gypsy jazz movement throughout mainland Europe with rare recordings by members of the Reinhardt and Ferret families as well as accordionists Gus Viseur and Tony Murena, saxophonist Albert Ferreri, reedman and violinist Frans Poptie, and a veritable swarm of guitarists including Oscar Aleman, Jean Bonal, Eddy Christiani, Jean-Pierre Sasson, and Henri Crolla. Given this set’s wealth of variegated material and its remarkably affordable price tag, Proper may well have come up with the world’s best all-purpose, authentic Gypsy jazz collection. It more or less picks up where the Fremeaux & Associes 2005 release Django Reinhardt Complete, Vol. 20: Pour Que Ma Vie left off.
Disc 1 – Crazy Strings
1. Le Jour Ou Je Te Vis – Jean Sablon
2. Cloud Castles – Michel Warlop Et Son Orchestre
3. Crazy Strings – Michel Warlop Et Son Orchestre
4. You Took Advantage Of Me – Stephane Grappelli & Michael Warlop
5. Bricktop – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
6. Speevy – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
7. Paramount Stomp – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
8. Bolero – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
9. Mabel – Quintette Du Hot Club De France
10. Christmas Swing – Michel Warlop
11. Sweet Georgia Brown – Django Reinhardt
12. Winds And Strings – Gus Viseur’s Music
13. Automne – Gus Viseur’s Music
14. Daphne – Gus Viseur’s Music
15. Andalousie – Albert Ferreri Et Le Trio Ferret
16. Nobody’s Sweetheart – Oscar Aleman
17. Whispering – Oscar Aleman
18. Ma Theo – Le Trio Ferret
19. Gin, Gin – Le Trio Ferret
20. La Valse Des Niglots – Le Trio Ferret
21. Ti-Pi-Tin – Le Trio Ferret
22. Russian Lullaby – Oscar Aleman Trio
23. Just A Little Swing – Oscar Aleman Trio
24. Dear Old Southland – Oscar Aleman Trio
25. Jeepers Creepers – Oscar Aleman Trio
Disc 2 – Gitan Swing
1. Hallelujah – Svenska Hotkvintetten
2. Jumping For Joy – Svenska Hotkvintetten
3. I Found A New Baby – Svenska Hotkvintetten
4. Undecided – Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre
5. Rosetta – Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre
6. Coucou – Josette Dayde Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France
7. Opus 5 – Svenska Hotkvintetten
8. Swing De Paris – Quintette Du Hot Club Du France
9. Oiseaux Des Iles – Quintette Du Hot Club Du France
10. Nostalgia Gitana – Tony Murena Et Son Ensemble Swing
11. Miami – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
12. Septembre – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
13. Blue Guitare – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
14. Swing Star – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
15. Swing 39 – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
16. Cocktail Swing – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
17. Deux Guitares – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
18. Tiger Rag – Sarane Ferret Et Le Swing Quintette De Paris
19. Gitan Swing – Tony Murena Et Son Ensemble Swing
20. Rose De Miel – Quintette Du Hot Club De Belgique
21. Royal Blue – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse
22. Surprise Party – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse
23. Daphne – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse
24. Hungaria – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effrosse
Disc 3 – Blue Dreams
1. Zazou Zazou – Orchestra Swing Jo Reinhardt
2. Ballade – Orchestra Swing Jo Reinhardt
3. Blues En Mineur – Django Reinhardt
4. Swing 42 – Gus Viseur Et Son Orchestre
5. Sur La Glace – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
6. Chantons Ensemble – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
7. Harlem Swing – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
8. Gus Et Gus – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
9. Reves Bleus – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
10. Manche De Fouet – Viseur – Deloof Sextet
11. Ding, Dong Dang – Frank Ottersen Og Hans Sekstett
12. Skumring – Frank Ottersen Og Hans Sekstett
13. Promenade – Frank Ottersen Og Hans Sekstett
14. Opus 1 – Frank Ottersen Og Hans Sekstett
15. Lucky – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effosse
16. Folies Bergere – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effosse
17. Studio 28 – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effosse
18. Sex-Appeal – Sarane Ferret Et Le Quintette De Paris With Georges Effosse
19. Improvisation Pt. 1 – Django Reinhardt
20. Improvisation Pt. 1 – Django Reinhardt
21. Exactly Like You – Svend Asmussen
22. Swing Guitar – Jean Ferret Et Son Sixtette
23. La Vipere Du Trottoir – Jean Ferret Et Son Sixtette
24. Un Peu De Reve – Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble
25. Douce Georgette (Sweet Georgia Brown) – Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble
Disc 4 – Minor Swing
1. L’oeil Noir – Joseph Reinhardt Et Son Ensemble
2. Caminos Cruzados – Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing
3. Darktown Strutters Ball – Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing
4. Cielos Azules – Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing
5. Diga Diga Doo – Oscar Aleman Y Su Quinteto De Swing
6. Ideas In Minor – Vincentino
7. How High The Moon? – Django Reinhardt Et Stephane Grappelli
8. Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt Et Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France
9. Melodie Au Crepuscule – Jean Bonal
10. Nuages – Jean Bonal
11. Flighty Flies – Ensemble Eddy Christiani Cond. By Frans Boptie
12. Snowy Blues – Frans Poptie En Zyn Solisten
13. Artillerie Lourde – Jean-Pierre Sasson Et Son Ensemble
14. I Surrender Dear – Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette
15. Out Of Nowhere – Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette
16. Djoungalo – Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette
17. Pennies From Heaven – Matelot Ferret Et Son Quartette
18. Love For Sale – Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble
19. Yardbird Suite – Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble
20. Je Cherche Apres Titine – Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble
21. Ay, Ay, Ay – Henri Crolla Sa Guitare Et Son Ensemble
22. Two Guitar Blues – Jean Pierre Sasson Et Sacha Distel
23. Joan – Jean Pierre Sasson Et Sacha Distel
24. Just Blowing – Frans Poptie En Zyn Solisten
note: I put up this recording for dl so that you can have an introduction to the style and be able to appreciate and support the many contemporary, living musicians playing gypsy jazz. These recordings are public domain outside of the US, and the box set is unavailable inside the US. But Proper did a good job on the set and they make many other fine and affordable sets. If you like what they’ve done, by all means support them too. What would Django Do?