Despite the boldness of the title, there’s other essential Reinhardt to be had elsewhere.
The recordings on this release, which is a retitled, repackaged edition of a 1983 RCA release called The Indispensable Django Reinhardt, 1949-1950, represent a series of sessions held in Rome at the end of Reinhardt’s career and feature two different ensembles. One reunites Reinhardt with his longtime accompanist Stephané Grappelli. Interestingly, Reinhardt’s final sessions are full of standards and they open themselves up to the innovations of bop, which is fascinating to hear. There’s also a sense that, as a stylist, Reinhardt’s willingness to absorb the chordal innovations of Parker and Gillespie mutes his own, highly-individuated take on the possibilities of jazz. In other words, these later recordings achieve the odd distinction of appearing simultaneously more innovative and slightly less distinctive than the earlier sides. This isn’t a complaint about the music but it is a warning: despite the boldness of the title, there’s other essential Reinhardt to be had elsewhere, particularly in the Hot Club of France recordings of the 30s where Grappelli plays a more pronounced role.