The Complete Django Reinhardt HMV Sessions (#190)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


The Complete Django Reinhardt HMV Sessions (#190)
“The blur that comes from their virtuosity, Reinhardt’s blistering arpeggio’s for one, can be exhilarating, like a high speed train blowing through town.” – John Ephland, Down Beat
Limited Edition: 7500 copies

6 CDs -  $96.00


Be Transported to a 1930s Small French Café by one of the Greatest Jazz Guitarists

With this rich collection of sides by Django Reinhardt from the vaults of HMV and Swing (the French jazz label), you can instantly transport yourself to a small French café in the mid '30s, very near the beginning of his recording career, where dedicated fans discovered what made this extraordinary musician - the first real European jazz star -- a raging sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Considered by many to be the single most important guitarist in the history of jazz, Django was explosively egotistical, a careless and carefree gambler, but a generous charmer as well. Musically, he was gifted in a way that seldom has been seen before or since these classic recordings were made.

Most people know his story. Born into a troupe of gypsies in Belgium and raised outside Paris, this son of a traveling entertainer was working professionally at the age of 12. At 18, an event marked him, and his career, for life: a caravan fire that robbed him of the use of two of his fretting fingers. While tragic, it forced him to develop a style of playing that was his alone.

Romantic, yet technically brilliant.

Intensely rhythmic, remarkably nimble even for a musician with full capacity, Django in later years developed into a soloist who played with an emotional fervor and romanticism that is common in the folk music of his ancestry.

His ability to riff with abandon, without compromising expressiveness, was what appealed to audiences at the time, and he could count among his admirers Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and Eddie South.

His group, co-led by violinist Stephane Grappelli, was the celebrated Quintette du Hot Club de France, named for and initially sponsored by the society of French record collectors who made Hot Music a passionate and scholarly pursuit. This ensemble, as well as Reinhardt's own playing, exhibited a keen sense of swing while blending the sound of a small Parisian café band.

Sort of hot. Kind of modern. All Django.

But this was Hot Music that later incorporated some extremely modern elements. Django, on first hearing Charlie Parker on record, is said to have dropped his head into his hands and moaned out of admiration and humility. He immediately began incorporating bop idioms and harmonies into his music. In turn, many bop musicians credit Django as an important influence.

The recordings -- 118 in all - span Django's most productive years (and Europe's most painful and chaotic), from 1936 to 1948, and feature him performing solo guitar and in duet with Grappelli as well as with the quintet.

The quintet, which included Joseph Reinhardt, Roger Chaput and later Pierre Ferret on guitar and Louis Vola on bass, became internationally known for these exact recordings now available from Mosaic. They reveal Django's power, his melodic abilities, and his skill at achieving, simultaneously, technical precision and deeply meaningful tonal nuances.

The booklet includes evocative and historically significant photographs as well as a lengthy text by guitarist-writer Mike Peters on Django's life and his music.

Read More About Django Reinhardt:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

“With the best of this material easily deserving to be held in the same high regard reserved for the music figures like Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, having it all in one place is simply wonderful.” – Stuart Kremsky, International Assoc. of Jazz Educators

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
Mike Peters is a magnificent champion of swing and trad jazz. An accomplished guitarist himself, Peters passion for Django’s genius is evident here in his superb notes which not only give us a thorough look at the life of this elusive individual but his knowledge of the music and guitar technique bring us closer than ever before to Django.

In the age of microsizing, every Mosaic Records Box Set booklet is still 11 x 11 inches to allow our customers to appreciate all the extras we put into printing them (and for easier reading).


“The Swing Records sides from 1936-37 are noticeably cleaner and more lifelike on this set than on other reissues I have of this material (no muffling, overdone noise reduction for a change, and high-quality source materials). It's like a classic film where the original print has been found, cleaned, and presented as it should be for the first time in years.” – Customer Review

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Django Reinhardt
The photographs for this set bring us closer to the man who remains one of the most remarkable figures of jazz: Django Reinhardt. Frank Driggs collection takes us back to the 1930s in photographs of Django at an airport in London, to the QHCF’s first cabaret gig in Pigalle, a concert in Paris at the L’Ecole Normale de Musique, the Casanova Club in Paris, a jam session at the inauguration of the Hot Club of France with guest Duke Ellington and at an unknown site outside Django’s caravan. Mike Peters, who also wrote the captivating notes, provided us with rare photos of an Armed Forces Radio Network program in 1945, at a USO show in Nice and backstage at the Civic Opera House in Chicago.

May 4, 1936

It took nearly eight months for the Quintet to re-enter the recording studio. In early 1936, EMI began a series of recordings to take advantage of the growing interest in jazz across Europe, England, and America. The moderate success of QHCF’s Ultraphone and Decca sides, gave the recording giant enough of a reason to warrant including the French string quintet in their lineup. Up until this time, the Quintet only existed for recordings and an occassional concert. The shortage of work prompted the five musicians to individually look for their own work, scattering them across France and the rest of Europe in the process.

The EMI sides benefit from the latest recording technology, first class engineers and the largest distribution network in the world. Within one year, they’d record (and release) 30 sides that firmly established the group as France's premier hot band and Europe’s first great jazz ensemble.

Written and sung by Stuff Smith (with his Onyx Club Boys), I'se A Muggin' was originally recorded in two parts for a doubled-sided Vocalion 78. Smith's 1936 novelty number gets the QHCF in a humorous mood and is a perfect piece to start off a fabulous recording session. Vocalist Freddy "the Hipster" Taylor covers the vocal, with support from the five Frenchmen, and is "muggin' lightly" ala Armstrong . This is the first of two sessions Taylor was to partake in with QHCF (the second took place in October of '36). Django was very familiar with Taylor's fun loving style. He had previously worked, and recorded (though unreleased) with Taylor and His Swing Men From Harlem at La Villa D'Este in the spring of 1935. When Django moved on, Oscar Aleman took over the guitar chair.

I'se A Muggin' predominately features Grappelli, and “The Hipster’s" vocalization. Django is in a playful throughout, bending his way over the descending bass line, then delivering a flurry of perfectly articulated runs. The Jazz Hot July, 1936 review of this side gives Grappelli big points for his performance applauding his “melodic development", and “extraordinarily hot intonations." Interestingly enough, the unnamed reviewer (Panaisse), doesn't even mention Django's contribution.

The second of three vocals from this session finds the QHCF paying homage to Louis Armstrong, with I Can't Give You Anything But Love. The tempo and performance owe much to Louis' 1929 Okeh recording.

Grappelli’s Chicago quote going into the second half of his solo is moving, but it is Django who shines brightest, taking the first chorus in rhapsodic form. Like his idol Armstrong, he completely understands the Fields/McHugh song, and with great finesse, re-invents this wonderful pop standard.

Oriental Shuffle and Are You In The Mood? are two charming original pieces, both credited to Reinhardt and Grappelli. Oriental Shuffle finds the co-leaders sticking very close to the melody, though Django finds a place to rhapsodize at the end of the first eight, effortlessly playing over an interesting series of chords. Are You In The Mood? offers more of an opportunity for improvisation, with Django in magnificent form for two choruses, utilizing nearly the complete range of his instrument. Though harmonically different, these two pieces have a similar overall feel and sound to them, and they're both gorgeous. Django's 1945 Swing date with his American Swing Band (ATC Band) features a big band arrangement by Lonnie Wilfong which sheds new light on this pretty song.

A note about the collaborative listing on these originals. It is Charles Delaunay who recalled Django as being the one largely responsible for creating these (and future) compositions, with Grappelli (sometimes) adding to the Reinhardt pieces. Though Django (with Stephane’s help), waxed two originals for Ultraphone, these HMV sessions present him with the opportunity to document material that he was currently creating. As we shall see (and hear), in addition to offering brilliantly creative improvisations, he was a unique and prolific composer. From now on, very few QHCF recording sessions will go by without an original song or two in the mix of American pop and jazz standards.

The two up tempo numbers from this first Gramophone session, are sublime. Reinhardt and Grappelli are fearless in their romp over these two jazz classics. Right from the start of After You've Gone, Grappelli is soloing, never even hinting at the melody. Why waste time when you’ve got something “hot” to say! (Stephane admitted years later that “youth” was to blame for his haste to improvise). Taylor returns for (another) Armstrong- inspired vocal, which sets the stage for Django. His chorus is a study in balance and pacing, as trills, and glissando’s beautifully knit phrases of long, rapid fire arpeggios.

Limehouse Blues gets a second reading by the Quintet, which first recorded it for Decca in 1935. The earlier version is light; this one is fire. Grappelli is surprisingly muted throughout the session. Stories of his owning cheap violins in those days abound. He performs brilliantly all the same. You can feel how the entire ensemble lifts off when Stephane begins to solo, and Django goes full steam into rhythm. Geoff Sisley, in his three-part profile of Django in BMG (April/May/June 1936), talks about “the great gliss." Many dismiss it as a simple running of the index finger up and down the string. Not the way Django does it. He fingers all the notes when executing it in the first position and makes the big run to the upper reaches of his guitar with his mighty index finger. On Limehouse Blues, Django uses it to great effect in his second chorus, bridging the first sixteen bars with the second sixteen, flying over the fingerboard, and landing like a great ice skater. Sonja Henie would have been proud.

These sides were issued in the summer of '36 with other selections in a series featuring French jazz players (Warlop, QHCF), expatriates (Garnet Clark, Bill Coleman) and a few imports (Goodman trio, Mezzrow).

For decades there have been second takes listed as unissued in discographies for I'se A Muggin', I Can't Give You Anything But Love and After You've Gone; they don't exist, and according to Charles Delaunay, probably never did.

Across the channel, and on the other side of the Atlantic, reviewers (and guitarists) were at loss to explain Django’s playing. The articles are often filled with erroneous assumptions such as, “he played with finger picks”, or “the records have been sped up.” Wrong, but nonetheless, they provide a glimpse of the kind of commotion Django stirred up during his early years. He faced many of the same problems associated with Art Tatum. The major obstacle was that their styles were so personal, they were elevated to the celestial position of being “beyond category”. For Django, the guitar community embraced him spiritually, but was incapable of giving him a place in their minds.

After listening to this first session, you immediately notice a change in the band. They’re more relaxed, confident, and the rhythm is tighter than what you hear on the Ultraphone, and Decca sides. For the QHCF, the maturation process has begun. For Django and Stephane, with Armstrong now ingrained and serving as a constant source of inspiration, they too are evolving, finding their own voice(s).


Click here to write a review

  Almost perfect - but there's a glitch
The collection in itself is something to behold - it's wonderful. Not only the tracks with Grappelli are great, but the ones with Hubert Rostaing in the clarinet are very beautiful. The stories and photographs are, as expected, definitive. But there's a sad problem: in the cds I've got there's a glitch on Disc VI, track 19 (Bricktop), at 2m28 aprox. It's not a big problem, just a couple of seconds of noise, but what made me sad it's that I've written to mosaic asking about that (if this is a problem with my cd only or with the whole batch) and they didn't answer. So much for being part of the community...
Upbeat, soulful jazz. When I get a little down I liten to one of these discs and my mood lifts.
  Viva La Fries
Frenchie could play and the guy on violin is just as good.
  This Music Is A Dream
This music is a dream I don't want to wake from. All of it is glorious, gorgeous, with a sound that encompasses centuries. This is timeless music. And it sounds amazing! Like it was recorded yesterday. Thanks Mosaic for your wonderful present to the world.
  Go to France without leaving home
Mosaic is right about this music transporting you to a French cafe in the 1930's. The music is great as well with superb takes of many jazz standards from that era.
  Best sound on 1936-37 sides yet
The Swing Records sides from 1936-37 are noticeably cleaner and more lifelike on this set than on other reissues I have of this material (no muffling, overdone noise reduction for a change, and high-quality source materials). It's like a classic film where the original print has been found, cleaned, and presented as it should be for the first time in years. .... And the QHCF was peaking during these years, with most sessions featuring the great rhythm guitarist Baro Ferret. He was driving the group fiercely, in my mind for the better (some think the swing is not as supple as on the 1938-39 sides, but I think the differences are minor, and the whole period from 1936-39 is pretty much golden). BTW, Baro was a solo artist in his own right later on, and also a small-time gangster who spent many years behind bards. .... Ironically, the sound is better on this earlier material than on the wartime sides from 1940-1942 that follow it in this set. By that point a drummer and clarinet player were involved, so perhaps the engineers had a bigger challenge getting balances right, or maybe it was simply a case of less talented engineers or poorer equipment. The earlier sides just sound more vivid and three-dimensional. But what the later, "clarinet-quintet" sides do have in their favor are some of Django's strongest impressionistic ballads, tunes that really deserve to be more widely known by lovers of small-group swing. "Nuages" of course is one of these, but it is far from the only important composition from this period of Django's career. Readers of the recent Django biography by Michael Dregni know that Django was much more famous in France during the war than he was when the original QHCF was together (indeed, during these years he was able to record a couple of dozen sides with a big-band backdrop, which was a sign of his having arrived). He was not hiding from the Nazis in a trailer camp by any means. However, Mosaic has wisely omitted the big-band work, which, while no embarrassment, is not really special in the way that the small group recordings are. Hep records of Scotland has conveniently assembled almost all of them on one lengthy CD for the curious. .... While this whole set is great, though one really needs the Decca sides from 1938-39 to get the complete picture of Django's greatest years (had they been a part of this project, it would have 95% of his greatest work). I'm dying to know if the Decca sides have the potential to sound as good as the early Swing sides presented here. .... The essay included in the booklet is also quite valuable, by a writer who really gets Django. Django was both a true improvising swing genius and something of a proto-rock and roller--he's just not like anything else, hence the whole mini-genre of Gypsy Jazz that the original QHCF has spawned (which all too rarely rocks--or swings--as hard as Django!). The booklet also corrects a couple of commonly made historical errors (such as the failure of most reissues and cover artists to note that the tune "Artillery Lourde" credited to Django is really "Tuxedo Junction" by Erskine Hawkins).
  Django Wrote the Book
Any serious guitarist in an style of music needs to listen to Django. His technique is astonishing, but more importantly, his understanding of music and his sense of harmony is second to none. His ideas, his compositions, his sense of rhythm and his style tower above the rest. He makes it seem so effortless. If you want to experience a truly wonderful and entertaining listening experience, this is the set to buy. As far as I'm concerned, he wrote the book on guitar playing.
  The best Django set & perhaps the best Mosaic set!
I was unprepared for the excellence and splendor of this set. I had some acquaintance with Reinhardt's music, but I did not know how truly great he was. Now, I'm busily acquring Reinhardt's recordings on labels other than Swing & HMV. All of them are currently available on the French label Fremeaux in chronological order. But the sound quality on this Mosaic set beats that of the Fremeaux CDs hands down. This is the best Django set out there, and arguably the best Mosaic set available. Buy this Mosaic set, and then fill the gaps with some Fremeaux CDs.
A truely amazing collection. Clarity as though it were recorded yesterday. Variety. Life.
  Moving and Motivating
There is so much sheer life bubbling through on this collection. Django alternately plays to the heart, the intellect and, as always, the sense of fun and playfullness. What a gift this man had, and on these CD's that gift is right back 'atcha! Great stuff!!
  Like a Whole New Set of Django Recordings
If you are one of those people who have been collecting all types of jazz recordings for 40 years or more, you probably have much of what is in this set. However, don't let that deter you from obtaining this release. The sound quality is fantastic and you will hear much more in each piece. Django was a unique individual and musician. Very few individuals have been able to capture his style, with the possible exception of some of David Grisman's groups. I believe that all the recordings in this set are made in the studio, yet they have a spontaneity and "presence" of being live. So, maybe keep those old albums for their historical value, but get this Mosaic set for your total enjoyment.
  Great stuff!
Django could do more with a crippled left hand than most great guitar players with full use of all their digits. As a guitarist, I am amazed at his facility- period. More important than his technique is his phrasing and excellent melodic sense. Djangos' improvisations have a soulfulness and a rarified air of genius-every note seems to be close to perfect. Stephanie Grappelli is great as well. The band on these discs gets a tremendous forward momentum and swing without drums. Some of the other musicians on these discs are not in the same league as the leader, but like Armstrong, Django becomes so central to your ears that the other band members become emeshed into the background. This set really makes it easy to get the essential Django material without being distracted by the confusing sprawl of his work over countless labels and C.D.'s. Mosaic ought to continue tackling Ellington whose music suffers from the same syndrome! This set is totally worth your time and ears.
  Great Set !
just a marvelous set by a marvelous musician.I want to thank the person who made the correction to my mistake on the Baritone Sax player Lars Gullin he deserves so much better.
  Lars Gullin
were swedish and his name is spelled as above, but his recordings should indeed make a great Mosaic box
  django reinhart
  Great Set !
This is a great set and Django rates very high on the short list of influential musicians on his instrument.Now all mosaic has to due is put out a boxset on the great danish baritone saxophone player Lars Gullien.
  Brillant Guitarist !
Just want to say great set and one of a kind guitarist. First true great european musician on the scene. He's influence is still felt today buy everyone who plays the instrument. Mosaic strikes again with a winner.
I agree with the other reviews and just wanted to add that the digital mastering on this set is great, you will hear the music better here than on any other Django record I have heard.
  Brilliant and innovative
I always liked Django's sound but never collected any of his recordings. This one is truly outstanding and shows why Django deserves recognition as perhaps the greatest and most influential jazz guitarist. The notes are also very informative and insightful. Robert E. Spitalnick
  I'm now glad I ignored Reinhardt for so long...
Long enough to pick up this fabulous set. More familiar with Reinhardt's legendary status than his actual music - and not a single Reinhardt disc in my collection - I took the plunge on this set. This is yet another definitive and essential Mosaic set. Musically excellent - Reinhardt's style is almost infectious. The set spans a significant portion of his career and each disc rewards in its own way. Sonically excellent as well. I have this fear that pre 50s music is going to sound awful. Mosaic once again puts that fear to rest as this set is in wonderful sound. Highly recommended!
  Best All-around Django Set
This is a superb set for serious Django fans as well as those that like what they have heard but don't know what to get. Django fans and Parker fans share the same problem of being faced with a ton of very uneven-quality recordings. You can't go wrong with this set, though, which covers both Django with Stephane Grappelli and his later groups, including a vary rare side with a superb French vocalist. Great stuff!
  This shows Reinhardt's mastery of jazz guitar
I had a single Reinhardt CD in my collection but didn't really appreciate how great Reinhardt's music was until I got this terrific set. It really illustrates how important it is to have a complete, well-made compilation in order to appreciate an artist. The usual excellent Mosaic mastering and CD production is here, giving the music a contemporary sound that makes it a pleasure to listen to. I believe this set will sell out quickly.
  If you love swing... this set is heaven!
I could write volumes on how great this set is, and yet, I don't think I could honestly convey how much I am in love with it. It is a MUST for Reinhardt/Grapelli fans. The sound quality is great; Even the sessions from the mid-30's sound clear! (So you can't use your fears about the recording quality as an excuse to put this set off!) The liner notes, as usually found in Mosaic boxes, are comprehensive, well-written, and add several noteworthy items about the musicians and the time in which their music thrived. Musical highlights are too much in abundance to write about here; There is the usual brilliance from Django and Stephane, plus several surprises from the vocalists that joined in on a few QHCF sessions. Really, it's just an excellent collection all-around.

The Complete Django Reinhardt HMV Sessions (#190)
The Complete Django Reinhardt HMV Sessions (#190)
Limited Edition: 7500 copies
6 CDs - $96.00

Customer Reviews:

“There is so much sheer life bubbling through on this collection. Django alternately plays to the heart, the intellect and, as always, the sense of fun and playfullness. What a gift this man had, and on these CD's that gift is right back 'atcha! Great stuff!!”
Read More Reviews »

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Limited Edition Photographs

Selected images became the album cover shots for Blue Note's brilliant designer Reid Miles, and are instantly recognized by millions. Now, museum-quality prints in limited editions can be owned forever... But only by a few.

Each image will be made available for one month only. At the end of that month, only the images ordered will be printed and that will be the end of the Limited Edition.