Django in Chicago – 10th Nov 46

Django in Chicago –

Civic Opera House ~ 10th Nov 1946

reinhardtDjango’s Tour with Duke was never recorded, except one concert in the Lyric Opera House, Chicago where the jazz enthusiast Dr John Steiner secretly recorded the whole show. This was done for Steiner’s own pleasure only, but years later it was commercially released by Charles Delaunay.

The debut of the “portable” (20 lb.) reel-to-reel tape recorder enabled John Steiner to make some of his most valuable contributions to jazz history. In 1946, he single-handedly taped Duke Ellington‘s famous concert at the Chicago Opera House, and later provided this tape to the Ellington family for commercial release. Steiner taped live radio broadcasts from Chicago clubs, which were not retained by the stations, and took his tape recorder to Chicago clubs to tape live performances. Most important of all, he taped interviews with jazz musicians, club owners, and others who were part of the early Chicago jazz scene.

The Hot Club of Chicago (named after the French org.). The first HCC concert presented Benny Goodman (then in his historic stand at the Congress Hotel) in a trio format with the band’s drummer, Gene Krupa and a local pianist named Teddy Wilson. The idea , a jump-start in jazz history, birthed the band-within-a-band concept which helped Herman, Crosby, Dorsey, Shaw, etc. keep combo jazz alive in the big band era. HCC concerts continued into the 40’s.

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Samuel Insull built this palace of a building in 1929 as a throne to himself. When the design began for this building that would contain both an opera house and dozens of offices, Insull allegedly asked the Architect to make the building in the shape of a throne that faced west. According to local legend, Insull claimed that upon his death his spirit would sit in his “throne” where he could watch out over the growth of the city, much of which he spawned before dying virtually penniless and forgotten years later. Inside, the theatre is a traditional European-style opera house, filled with stacked balcony and side boxes.

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Shaped like a giant armchair facing the river. Early critics, referring to the folly of its builder Samuel Insull, called it “Insull’s Throne“.  Contains a 3,563-seat opera house for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of America’s premier opera companies.

The Civic Opera House in itself is a work of art, something that symbolizes strength, culture, and class in the city of Chicago. A building that is as sophisticated as the great opera houses in London, Paris, and Rome. Every time you step though those doors, your eyes fill with a magical almost overwhelming flood of excitement and wonder. The detail in the design shows the love, passion, the craftsmanship of the artists who built it.  Since its opening in 1929, the Civic Opera House was home to the Chicago Civic Opera, Chicago Grand Opera Company, Chicago City Opera Company and Chicago Opera Company.


DukeChicago46Django Reinhardt with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
Shelton Hemphill, Harold Baker, Taft Jordan, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson (tp); Lawrence Brown, Wilbur de Paris, Claude Jones (tb); Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges (as); Jimmy Hamilton, Al Sears (ts); Harry Carney (bs); Duke Ellington (p); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Oscar Pettiford (b); Sonny Greer (dm)

Django Reinhardt – Guitar (CD 1 – tracks 15, Ride Red Ride (Tiger Rag) 16. A Blues Riff 17. Improvisation No2 and 18, Honeysuckle Rose
Chicago, The Civic Opera, January and November 1946  
The Great Chicago Concerts. MusicMasters 65110-2. – Joseph Scott: “Vol. 20 by Django Reinhardt on Fremeaux reportedly has a more complete recording of Ride Red Ride: 2:47 instead of the edited 2:17.”

Reinhardt only visited the United States once, in 1946, as a guest of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. A recording made during that tour, “A Blues Riff,” presents the listener with a complex negotiation of contrasting musical and cultural values. What we hear in this performance is not just a debate over what notes to play when, but over what philosopher Henri Lefebvre calls “representational spaces,” or the imaginative, symbolic transformations of lived spatial experience. This essay argues that the task of locating Reinhardt in jazz history requires a new theoretical appreciation for the material importance of space and place in the shaping of musical performance. The real treat is 4 tunes featuring jazz guitar pioneer Django Reinhardt. He’s better heard than usual – thanks to shockingly good sound quality and frequent ‘space’ free from the orchestra – and he’s incredible, now exploring complex harmonies, now tearing off rapid-fire blues riffs, never sounding tentative or hackneyed, he’s the beginning and the end of jazz guitar (“Improvisation #2”)

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Personnel: Duke Ellington: piano; Django Reinhardt: guitar (Disc 1: Tracks 15-18); Sheldon Hemphill: Taft Jordan: Cat Anderson: Harold Baker: Ray Nance: trumpets; Lawrence Brown: Claude Jones: Wilbur De Paris: trombones; Russell Procope: alto sax and clarinet; Johnny Hodges: alto sax; Jimmy Hamilton: clarinet and tenor sax; Al Sears: tenor sax; Harry Carney: baritone sax and clarinets; Fred Guy: guitar; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Sonny Greer: drums.

Ellington and his band were on tour throughout 1946 and this double set showcases 2 concerts given in Chicago at the beginning and the end of the year. The November set also saw the appearance of Django Reinhardt on a borrowed electric guitar and his presence on 4 tracks – essentially solo, with opening and finale sketchy arrangements – is a must for those yet to have heard it.

Both CDs were recorded at Chicago’s Civic Opera: the first on 10 November 1946; the second on 20 January 1946. They contain many familiar Ducal compositions but they also include several rarities: like the Deep South Suite on the first CD. This CD is also notable for the presence of guitarist Django Reinhardt. The Duke had met Django in Paris in 1939 and was very impressed with his musicianship. In his book Music is my Mistress, Ellington called him “A very great friend of mine, and one whom I regard as among the 4 great inimitable’s of our music”.

Reinhardt certainly displays his greatness in 4 tracks, where he plays an unfamiliar Gibson ES-300 electric guitar, on which he sounds like a cross between Charlie Christian and Les Paul. It makes a change from the chugging acoustic guitar we usually hear him playing. He shows his astonishing technique in Ride, Red, Ride (a variation of Tiger Rag), a long outing on the blues, and a ruminative unaccompanied Improvisation No. 2. The band joins in for Honeysuckle Rose, punching riffs behind Django’s soloing

DjangoDukeNovember 10, 1946 ~ Civic Opera House, Chicago

Django Reinhardt with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
Shelton Hemphill, Harold Baker, Taft Jordan, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson (tp); Lawrence Brown, Wilbur de Paris, Claude Jones (tb); Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges (as); Jimmy Hamilton, Al Sears (ts); Harry Carney (bs); Duke Ellington (p); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Oscar Pettiford (b); Sonny Greer (dm)
Blues Riff, Honeysuckle Rose, Improvisation #2, Ride,Red, Ride

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Jean Cocteau sums up the Reinhardt mystique:

“His soul was ambulant and saintly; and his rhythms were his own as the tiger his stripes, as his phosphorescence and his moustache. He lived within his skin. He rendered it royal and invisible to the hunter.”

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Marian McPartland, Ben Carlton, DJANGO, Jimmy McPartland, Chick Evans, Don Haines of Downbeat Magazine, Eddie Wiggins, Mrs Haines, Kneeling: Andy Nelson, unknown.
Signed photo of Django with the Jimmy McPartland Band, Chicago 1946