Stephane Grapelli & Barney Kessel
recorded 23/24 June 1969
This excellent set features a logical combination. Violinist Stephane Grappelli originally came to fame through his recordings with guitarist Django Reinhardt. Barney Kessel, although more influenced by Charlie Christian than by Django, was one of the top jazz guitarists of the 1950s and '60s and his style was quite complementary to Grappelli's. The two teamed up for several albums' worth of material in 1969. This CD reissues the former LP I Remember Django, adding four additional selections and serving as a perfect introduction to the brilliant playing of Stephane Grappelli.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Europe's greatest single gift to jazz so far has been Django Reinhardt. Apart from his skill as a guitarist he was also a composer of distinction and it is surprising that so few jazz musicians have made use of his works. (Gerry Mulligan's adaptation of Manior De Mes Reves for his Concert Band under the title Django's Castle gives an indication of the rich vein which might be mined should an arranger turn his attention to the works of Reinhardt.)
For much of his lifetime Django was linked musically, with the violinist Stephane Grappelli. It would be difficult to imagine two men further removed from each other in the social and intellectual spectrum. Django was born into poverty, in a gypsy caravan parked temporarily at Liverchies near Charleroi in Belgium on the night of January 23, 1910. Right up until his death in hospital at Fontainebleau on May 15, 1953 he remained an essentially simple person, almost incapable of even writing his name and delighting principally in playing billiards and fishing with his friends. He was a self-taught musician who overcame a tremendous tragedy at the age of eighteen; a fire in his caravan robbed him of the use of two fingers on his left hand. He was forced to devise new unorthodox methods of fingering the strings.
By contrast Stephane Grappelli was, and is, a witty conversationalist, a man of elegant appearance and natural grace. He was born in Paris on January 26, 1908 and had a formal musical education commencing with study of the harmonium. He played violin in a theatre orchestra before working in a band which eventually loured the Argentine. Back in Paris, at the end of 1931, Grappelli was playing at the Croix du Sud in Montparnasse with saxophonist Andre Ekyan. One night three or four men came in and stared attentively at the band. "They were of such dubious appearance" remembers Stephane "that I thought they might be gangsters, or, worse still, gangsters who disliked our music". They were in fact gypsies, one of them being Django Reinhardt. Thus began an association which was to last twenty-one years.
Through records - and principally those of the successful Quintette of the Hot Club de France - Django's music became world-famous. By association Stephane Grappelli also made a name for himself. Violinists in jazz have never existed in very great numbers and before the war Grappelli shared the spotlight with precious few others, notably Eddie South and Stuff Smith. Reinhardt became the idol of many guitarists. Indeed his influence is still very strong though sometimes it is secondhand in the sense that others have been credited with "introducing" effects which were, in fact, Reinhardt's innovations. For example the late Wes Montgomery is thought by many to have invented the method of playing in which he used the fleshy part of the thumb to strike two strings simultaneously. Reference to many pre-war Reinhardt records reveals that Django was doing this before Wes had even thought of taking up the instrument.
When Barney Kessel was in Paris in the summer of 1969, he sat in with Stephane Grappelli during the latter's engagement at the Paris Hilton. The pair hit it off so well that it was decided to make some record ings in a setting which approximated to the old Quintette line-up. (In fact the original QHCF instrumentation comprised violin, three guitars and bass.) Although Barney admired Django's music he did not make an attempt to sound like him at the session. Indeed if he had it would have been a mistake; instead it is clear that Barney fell back on his earliest and strongest influence, the late Charlie Christian. A few weeks before the Grappelli date I had a long conversation with Barney during the course of which he explained how he had met and played with Christian for a period of just three days. But those three days' tuition were to have a profound effect on the young guitarist and even today, as you will hear in many places on the enclosed CD, Christian's spirit hovers over Kessel's shoulder as he plays.