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Valse Manouche - Django or not?

Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
edited November 2011 in History Posts: 1,174
I have never been convinced that it is Django playing on the poor quality recording of Valse Manouche/Choti (Fremeaux Vol 20). This is not because of the actual playing which I think sounds exactly like Django but because of the nature of the tune structure and because I could not see under what circumstances Django would perform such a piece. Having said that, I do accept the quality of the performance is such that it is hard to imagine anyone else being able to articulate it so perfectly. Baro Ferret probably had the technical ability but he was usually a very forceful, dramatic player and much of the playing on this recording sounds to me too subtle and nuanced for him.

Yet once Django heard jazz in the early thirties, he had no apparent interest in waltzes (remember waltzes were brought into Gypsy Jazz by the Ferret brothers not Django). Django believed himself to be a jazz musician and I could not believe he would play such a piece after he had become famous as a jazz/swing guitarist with the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Even more anachronistic is the fact that the accompanying instrument is a piano and not a guitar. The structure of the recording is also quite wrong for Django. It is a learned piece that is played EXACTLY the same each chorus. Django simply did not do that. Even “Improvisation No 2” which despite it’s name, is clearly pre-prepared, varies from one chorus to another. There is nothing else we hear Django playing that is anything like this recording in structure.

When I first got a copy of the recording many years ago before it was officially issued, the information that came with it said it was from a 1935 BBC radio broadcast. That made no sense to me. Why would the BBC record (presumably in France) and then broadcast Django Reinhardt, a guitarist just becoming known in the UK as a hot jazz player within a unique string band, performing an obscure sounding waltz with a piano. However, I now actually think this is a possibility. In April, 1934, before he had made any recordings with the Quintette, Django came to England with Jean Sablon to play an engagement at the “Monseigneur” club in Piccadilly, London. During this time, he apparently made a London regional radio broadcast about which, sadly, I have no information. If this is true, it could well be that Django did perform “Valse Manouche” on that broadcast with the pianist Alec Siniavine who also came to the UK as part of Sablon’s trio, and it was somehow recorded. At that stage in his career and on such a program with Sablon, even I feel it it possible Django would play a waltz since his style was still developing and he had no jazz credentials that he felt he needed to live up to.

I am still not 100% convinced it is Django but one of my doubts has, to some extent, been removed.
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