"The Essential Django Reinhardt"
RCA/Legacy (88697 83737 2)
By Gillian G. Gaar
This “Essential” release is a reissue of the 1994 set “The Indispensable Django Reinhardt,” 36 numbers recorded toward the end of Reinhardt’s life, in 1949 and 1950.
The musicians were relaxing in the studio, and not planning on making any formal recordings, and thus the music has the kind of lightness that comes when the players are simply enjoying themselves.
Reinhardt’s guitar work is all the more remarkable when you consider that he only had three good fingers on his left hand to work with, the other two having been badly damaged in a fire when he was 18. There’s nothing minor about “Minor Swing,” which gets the record off to a bright start, and things are equally lively on “Swing Guitars,” “Darktown Strutter’s Ball,” “I Got Rhythm,” and the aptly named “Djangology.” There are plenty of standards: “Stormy Weather,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “After You’ve Gone,” and Reinhardt’s twist on classical, “Improvisation On Tchaikowsky’s ‘Pathetique’ Andante.” Reinhardt’s breezy picking and the jaunty violin work combine to make these instrumentals the pop music of their day. It’s nice to have this set back in print in a sparkling new edition.