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May 1998

Django Reinhardt
Quintet of the Hot Club of France
Prestige

Here are 12 well-chosen titles from the Ultraphone sessions at which the Quintet made its recording debut in 1934-35. The recent death of Stephane Grappelli lends a sad but special significance to these "sides" which were something of a sensation in Europe at the time.

Django Reinhardt was, of course, immediately the major attraction. Apart from Joe Venuti's records with Eddie Lang, there had been little interest in jazz violin. In his good notes, reprinted here, the late Martin Williams referred to Grappelli's ballad style as "sweet and full of sentiment," and it was of "sweetness that the violinist was at first often accused. Yet in the course of just these sessions, there is a noticeably steady improvement, particularly in regard to attack. So far as Django is concerned, "Blue Drag" offers a good example of the shape of things to come. Four brass, including trumpet soloist Arthur Briggs, are introduced on two tracks, and tenor saxophonist Alix Combelle more profitably on the last.

Originally published in May 1998
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