Album Review: Swing Noir – Music From The Jazz Clubs of 1930s Europe (2014 Compilation)

This is certainly a swinging album of hot gypsy jazz of the 1930’s. Featuring some of the most influential musicians of the time – Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to name but a few.

Although title Swing Noir this is certainly more of an example of the hot club jazz style rather than of the slow dark trad jazz that the title may invoke. Many of the musicians in this style worked in Paris in various popular Musette ensembles. The Musette style waltz remains an important component in the Gypsy jazz repertoire.

Reinhardt was noted for combining a dark, chromatic Gypsy flavour with the swing articulation of the period. This combination is critical to this style of jazz. In addition to this, his approach continues to form the basis for contemporary Gypsy jazz guitar. Reinhardt’s most famous group, the Quintette du Hot Club de France, also brought fame to jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, with this line up heavily featured on the album.

The American musicians featured include a very young Louis Armstrong who sings “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” in a very subdued voice. This is a rare example of the start of his career before he had fully developed his unique signature vocals. There is only a hint of his distinctive gravel and growl that he is now so well known for.

Tunes on the album include; “Georgia (On My Mind)” – Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, “Carolina Shout” – Fats Waller, “Love Is The Sweetest Thing” – Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees, “One, Two, Button Your Shoe” – Billie Holiday, “Stormy Weather” – Art Tatum, La Dernière Bergère – Jean Sablon, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” – Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.

It is an interesting journey into the lesser known period of jazz despite it being such a significant driver of the sound of modern swing. Although not necessarily the best example of this genre it is a pleasant listen whilst enjoying a little sojourn down memory lane. This album provides a fascinating insight into a dynamic musical movement, some of the best known musicians playing memorable songs.

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10

Swing Noir is available now.