These are my records: Swing from Paris

Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli: “Swing from Paris”

If you’ve ever seen the movie “L.A. Story,” this record will sound familiar. Reinhardt, with his blistering two-fingered acoustic guitar runs and relentlessly chunking chords, was the defining voice of gypsy jazz, the whitest of the jazz subgenres – but that doesn’t mean it don’t swing. Grappelli’s violin melodies helps keep the tunes distinct; on tracks where he’s absent, it’s easy to get lost. This record is a retrospective of the duo’s output in the late 1930s, so there’s a lot that’s familiar here. The creatively-named “Improvisation” and “I’ve Had My Moments” stand out.

Lou Donaldson: “Midnight Creeper”

Loose and swinging, this is one of my favorite records in one of my favorite jazz subgenres (soul jazz). Donaldson surrounds himself with stellar players (Blue Mitchell, George Benson, Lonnie Smith, Leo Morris) and they deliver. The second cut in particular (“Love Power”) is notable for its lively organ playing and sounds like it was pulled straight from church – Donaldson and the band seem to positively revel in the gospel rhythm of it. This record may well be the best sixty cents I ever spent (dollar bin record + employee discount).

The Booker Ervin Sextet: “Heavy!!!”

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A melodic and soulful hard-bopper, Ervin’s tenor sound on this album has a lot in common with Coltrane’s, but is generally more accessible. The tracks all swing, even if they don’t all push you back in your chair and insist on your undivided attention like the album’s opener does. A thoroughly enjoyable, though not quite essential, soul jazz record.

Miles Davis: “E.S.P.”

There are four or five Miles Davis albums that changed jazz; E.S.P. isn’t one of them. However, it is a landmark for introducing Miles’ second great quintet (Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams), and is a compelling bit of foreshadowing of what the group would end up accomplishing. More than any individual performance or track, I’ve always loved the tone that Shorter, Hancock and Carter each got on this album – rich and round, but not imposing.