Django Reinhardt - The Versatile Giant

The first major European jazz musician and the finest jazz guitarist of the 1930s (and possibly of all time), Django Reinhardt was an unlikely genius. A mostly illiterate and often unreliable gypsy, he was also handicapped with two unusable fingers on his left hand due to a fire in his gypsy caravan. Despite that, during 1933-39 he starred on acoustic guitar alongside violinist Stephane Grappelli in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. His evolution did not stop with the breakup of the group, and Django in time mastered both bebop and the electric guitar.

The Versatile Giant consists of rare selections dating from 1933-51, covering virtually Reinhardt’s entire recording career. Django is heard on a privately recorded trio showcase on “Tiger Rag” from 1933, a few songs with Grappelli, four numbers from a 1946 concert with Duke Ellington (including an unaccompanied guitar solo on “Improvisation”), and some bop-oriented numbers on electric guitar from 1951. No matter what the setting, Django Reinhardt is consistently brilliant throughout these performances, showing that he is one of the immortal greats.

SKU: IC7004

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Tiger Rag I Saw Stars Confessin' Clair De Lune Lentement Mademoiselle Melodie Au Crepuscule Blues Riff Improvisation on Tiger Rag Honeysuckle Rose Improvisation Nuages I Can't Give You Anything But Love

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist Django Reinhardt
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor Joseph Reinhardt, Juan Fernandez, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington
SKU IC7004


Customer Reviews (3)

Masterful!Review by Big Toots
You know, legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt’s brief life – he died at age 43 in 1953 - was one of those sagas that would make a fascinating biopic even if he weren’t one of the greatest and most influential guitarists in the history of jazz. A Belgian-born Romani – a gypsy – Reinhardt not only was the European jazz equivalent of what Louis Armstrong was here in the U.S., but, his gypsy-illiterate background, ill-fated accident, Hot Club pairing in Paris with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, and experiences during World War II (which included being favorite of “Doctor Jazz,” a Nazi SS officer who surreptitiously wrote about Django) and activities after the war are the stuff of “War and Peace”-like epics.

The Versatile Giant delivers 12 fascinating recordings of Reinhardt in diverse ensemble environments, both small and large. Covering a period across 17 years, Reinhardt’s awesome technical skill – which influenced artists such as Charlie Christian (and decades later even rocker Jerry Garcia!) - is evident immediately (“Tiger Rag,” I’m Confessin’). Reinhardt, swinging in a manner that resonates through jazz guitar history to this day creates extended electrified virtuoso lines playing with the Ellington band on “Blues Riff,” “Improvisation on Tiger Rag,” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” “Improvisation” features Django solo and he shines as he moves through the piece with unique chordal stylings that will later appear obvious in Les Paul’s efforts. The classic Reinhardt original “Nuages,” performed here with trumpet, alto sax and rhythm is a textural hit. Reinhardt goes “Hot” again with the final cut (“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”) with light-speed hand work.

Django, (whose birth name was Jean), in Romani translates as “I awake.” What a fascinating and appropriate name for a Masterful artist who embraced his gypsy roots, overcame tragic circumstances, and performed brilliantly throughout his career, thus awakening musical joy in all of us. That joy happens a dozen times on this glorious effort.
(Posted on 5/2/2015)
Django ReinhardtReview by Simon Sez
Where did Django Reinhardt come from? Yes, he was from Belgium, but where did he get his abilities from? His family wasn’t musical and at the time there were no great jazz musicians in Europe. Django played acoustic guitar but, other than Eddie Lang and just a few others in the United States, there were no important jazz guitarists at that point. Yet here he was in the mid-1930s, creating some of the most exciting jazz music of the time, on the guitar. It was as if someone came up today playing exciting rock music on the bass saxophone. It almost does not make sense, but it did happen. Never mind the fact that Django could barely sign his name; that’s another story!
The Versatile Giant is a really fun album because it has rare performances covering practically Django Reinhardt’s entire recording career. The other great European jazz musician of the time, violinist Stephane Grappelli, helps out on some of the numbers from the 1930s, there are a few performances from a 1940s concert with Duke Ellington and even some bebop with Django on electric guitar from 1951. Electric guitar? Who knows, maybe Django would have invented rock and roll if he had lived a little longer!

Simon Sez: Django Reinhardt on The Versatile Giant (IC7004) plays exciting music covering an 18-year period. Lots of rare stuff, get it!
(Posted on 5/6/2014)
Review by ~ Scott Yanow
This album contains a variety of collectors items that nearly span guitarist Django Reinhardt's entire career. He is heard on three very early recordings (two with violinist Stephane Grappelli), playing four songs taken from his erratic 1946 tour with Duke Ellington (Ellington's orchestra unfortunately is very much in the background), on a few rarities with his 1947 sextet and in 1951 performing two numbers recorded live at the Club Saint Germain in Paris. (Posted on 6/14/2013)

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