Monsieur Grappelli had a knack for being in the right place at the right time in terms of finding the perfect guitarist foils. This two-CD collection showcases the best of those duets.
It began with Django Reinhardt, of course, as their Quintette du Hot Club de France set the mold for Gypsy jazz and string swing. Happily, this collection includes not the overplayed classics, but a handful of rarities that unveil new aspects of Grappelli and Django’s combined art.
The bulk of the set focuses on Grappelli’s later ensembles – recordings that are not merely hard to find, but too often overlooked and even unknown to most string-swing fans.
There are an assortment of cuts here from Grappelli’s stay in London during World War II. After a breakup of the Hot Club forced by the Nazi occupation of Paris, Grappelli put together several groups that included English guitarmen such as Chappie d’Amato and Jack Llewellyn – as well as newcomer pianist George Shearing.
Back in Paris, post-war and post-Hot- Club, Grappelli started on a stunning second career. These recordings fill the second CD, pairing the violinist with guitarists Joseph Reinhardt, Roger Chaput, and (especially) Henri Crolla. Reinhardt proves a stylish player, set free from his elder brother’s confines and unreeling swinging jazz lines.
But it’s the nine tracks that combine Crolla and Grappelli that make this set worth every penny; the band plays ferocious swing on covers of Django’s “Swing 39,” “Belleville,” “Swing 42,” and more, as well as the Crolla/Grappelli originals “Alembert’s” and “Marno.” Crolla’s dazzling melodic lines and stunning chord-melody solos prove him a master. Essential stuff.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.