YOUNG DJANGO - 1979
Philip Catherine : guitar
Stephane Grappelli : violin
Larry Coryell : guitar
Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen : bass
Recorded: January 19 / 21, 1979 in Tonstudio - Zuckerfabrik, Stuttgart / West Germany
Produced for MPS Records by Joachim E. Berendt
"His soul was ambulant and saintly. And his
rhythms were his own as the stripes of a tiger,
as his phosphorescence and his moustache. He
lived within his skin. He rendered it royal and
invisible to the hunter".
Jean Cocteau about Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) is a legend. Leonard Feathees "Encyclopedia of Jazz" calls him "the First overseas musician ever to influence his jazz contemporaries in America". This record tries to bring the legend back to life. Django Reinhardt was not only "then", he is "now". He influenced thousands of guitar players the world over.
When we recorded "Tears", Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen pointed out how "modern" this beautiful song is. "Yes", said Stephane Grappelli, "but you see, we did this 45 years ago". (The listener must realize that the songs on this record were composed between 1934 and 1939 !)
Charles Mingus called Philip Catherine "Young Django". He sure is. But not only for this reason did we call this record "Young Django". We named it so because Django Reinhardt's music is young. And this record makes it even younger. It makes it contemporary.
Three of the four musicians playing on this record - the Belgian Philip Catherine, the American Larry Coryell and the Dane Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen - had never met Django. And yet, it was logical to choose them. They "feel" Django. Ever since Philip came on the scene, years ago in Jean-Luc Ponty's band, musicians, fans and critics alike felt: He is the "Django of the Seventies". Philip likes the idea that, when he was 9 or 10 years old, he stayed in the same house in Brussels where Django used to play. Philip's uncle lived upstairs, Django played downstairs. It was in the "Galleric St. Hubert"... thus the title of Philip's lovely ballad.
But, of course, Stephane Grappelli knew Django. And he has "lived" him. He co-composed dozens of his tunes. It's interesting to learn how the two met. Stephane:
"We played in a backyard. The people threw money out of the windows. Django and his Gypsies wanted to play in the yard. We argued. We almost had a fight. That's how we got to know each other. It was in the late twenties".
A short while later, the most influential band in the history of European jazz was born: the famous "Quintette du Hot Club de France" featuring Django Reinhardt, the unschooled gypsy, and Stephane Grappelli, the well-educated student of European classical music.
Philip Catherine chose the tunes for this record. They are some of Django's and Stephane's most beautiful compositions. The musicians played them with love. You feel this love when Larry, just before they start to play the final blues, says, "I love you all". He doesn't say it to the buyers of this record. He says it to his colleagues - and, I'm sure, he includes Django.
Let me point out a few of the highlights - there are too many to list them all: Philip Catherine's Django-like solo on "Tears" ( it's a song in itself ! )... Larry's intro to "Sweet Chorus" and his Charlie Christian quotes in "Swing Guitars"... his "Texas sound" in "Djangology" and in the "Blues" ... the free duo of the two guitarists in "Are You In The Mood ?" ( Stephane: "It's free, but don't you know that we did things like this in the thirties ?" )... the power ful swinging entrance of the two guitarists comping in "Minor Swing"... the soulful expression Stephane gets in Philip's tune; it's really not a solo, just Philip's beautiful melody ( someone should put words to it! ), and yet, it's all Stephane ! And above all, Stephane's solo in "Minor Swing" and his unaccompanied solo cadenza intro. It has the strength and the definition of Johann Sebastian Bach's partitas for violin alone. Imagine, this great musician turned 71 the week we recorded ! He sounds the youngest! Young Django ! Larry Coryell is right when he spontaneously shouts, "Oh, that was beautiful !" immediately after the song. And it's Stephane, in the wisdom and modesty of his age, adding: "Maybe it was good"...
At the end Philip, who contributed so much to this record, said: "Django is magic. Of course, we don't want to compete with him. Nobody could dare this. This record is our way to honor him and to thank him for what he has given to all of us".
It seems unnecessary to add that the music on this record, naturally, is non-electric ! As Stephane put it: "No electricity. Only gas".
Joachim-Ernst Berendt ( Translated by R.&J. Weisel )