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Douce Ambiance by Django Reinhardt

Anybody who found this website probably doesn’t need to be told Django Reinhardt was one of THE jazz guitarists in musical history, a French Gypsy that influenced even the great Charlie Christian, his legacy going well beyond jazz to touch other musical forms. DR was one of the first, if not the very first truly European jazz musician - he didn’t emulate the Americans he idolized, but he absorbed the sounds of his own culture and brought them together with jazz. These recordings are from 1947, an allegedly "controversial" period for the guitarist - to mine modern (and a little jaded) ears, it’s hard to see what all the "fuss" was about. True, DR went electric, playing with a burr and a bite (and even some brash distortion!) that was way ahead of its time, playing with unexpected (for the time) dissonances and absorbing some of that strange new music emanating from New York and Los Angeles, that avant-garde of the 1940s, bebop. [Younger listeners might be surprised to learn what sounds so comfortable and mainstream today was at one time initially despised as much as the avant-garde jazz camp of the 60s, fusion in the late 60s/early 70s and almost as much as late 70s punk rock.] While the stylistic setting for these 19 selections is small-group swing (which was, in ’47, already becoming quaint and outdated, except to its hardcore constituents), the soloing from Reinhardt and the clarinetists are charged by the impudent wail of Charlie Parker. DR seemed poised to fully embrace the New Thing (along with Swing-to-Bop players Don Byas, Barney Kessell and Ben Webster), and we can only wonder how far he would’ve gone had he not died (a musician casualty) in 1953. But we DO have these recordings to savor. [Warning to those with CD Generation Ears: the sound quality is a little rough, but still exceedingly listenable.] Those who think jazz guitar started with John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny or Kenny Burrell needs to hear this pronto.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Django Reinhardt
  • CD Title: Douce Ambiance
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Hot JWP Music
  • Rating: Five Stars
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