What happened to the 1949/1950 Rome Masters?

Svanis1337Svanis1337 ✭✭✭
edited June 2014 in History Posts: 459

I was hoping some researchers could step forward and shed some light on this mystery. :)

As I understand it, the sessions were funded by a Count Sergio Sangiorgi, and organized by another man named Christian Livorness. Circa 1960 the discs were sold to an RCA executive who proceeded to release a few of the tunes on an album called "Djangology" in 1961. It has been debated whether they are the true masters or simply second-generation copies, with the masters being or having been in storage within the Italian radio station archives, or perhaps owned by Count Sergio Sangiorgi or his heirs.

This release had a total of 12 tracks. (The CD re-release has 12 bonus tracks). More 1961 RCA LP's would follow with other tracks from these sessions. Notably a three-part series of LP:s, "Django Reinhardt & Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France" Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

HOWEVER, not all the tunes from these sessions were released by RCA, (at least not at first) some weren't released until EMI Pathé's 20-volume DJANGOLOGIE set. The volumes containing the 1949-50 sessions were released in 1970 (volumes 16, 17, 18) and 1971 (volumes 19 and 20).

I believe that all subsequent releases were sourced from these early LP releases, and didn't use the original masters. Why? because they were lost!

The Intégrale series has a few different sources for these recordings, some sound much better than others. Some sound even better than the great Bluebird CD re-release of the 1961 Djangology. For example "Tchaikovsky's Pathetique (Starry Night)". On the Bluebird CD, they added reverb, which just ruins it for me. The one on Intégrale sounds much better. Artillerie Lourde sounds like crap on Intégrale, and it has a ton of reverb added. That one sounds better on the Bluebird CD. The ball is thrown back and forth a few times like that between the Intégrale's sound quality and the Bluebird CD's quality. That is when I started to question what sources they had and started investigating.

It all comes down to me wanting a proper sounding HI-FI release of these recordings, much like Mosaic Records' "complete" set. However, I began to wonder if they even used the masters for those recordings, or if they were sourced from early generation LP's that used the masters.

Some of the Intégrale-exclusive recordings, like the two takes of "Chinatown, My Chinatown" are definately taken from the masters, as they were never released in any format until Intégrale Vol. 20, and the liner notes give thanks to the man who loaned them to Frémeaux for the Intégrale. They don't sound a whole lot better than other recordings already released from this time (1936). This leads me to believe that many of the recordings that we have on the Mosaic set and the Intégrale come from the original masters, but not all of them.

Some of the 1949 Rome recordings have such presence. It's what I think matters the most when it comes to sound quality. You should be able to feel the musicians' presence in the room. I listen with Sennheiser headphones and some of these recordings just pop like none other. Listen to "I got Rhythm" on the Intégrale, or "Minor Swing" and "Swing Guitars" on the Bluebird CD. Django's guitar is crystal clear. Other recordings sound like crap, Webster for example.

What happened to these discs? Where did they disappear to? Are they with Pathé or with RCA (now owned by Sony)? Does Count Sergio Sangiorgi's heirs have the actual masters? There are at least nine unissued recordings from these sessions, including another "Nuages". They were unissued due to damage, but modern optical- and laser readers could read them without damaging them, much like a modern CD player. Broken glass discs have been successfully transferred this way.

Research needs to be done to find and get a fresh re-release of these recordings and not rehashes of the same 50-60 year old LP releases. Along with the unissued recordings, if all goes well. There's just no information out there. Nobody seems to know where they went, or the entire story behind these recordings. I'm just hoping they're simply forgotten, and not lost forever.



  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    It would be important to know the original media. 1949 was right about the time of the introduction of magnetic tape in studios. It was the new technology and so likely would have been used for recording a big artist. Wax, metal, and wire were also used back then, and all have better longevity. Granted, audio tapes can take a bit of degradation with grace, but over the long term, tape de-laminates and melts into itself. You can expose it to temperature to unwind it - but then you have a very short window of opportunity to transfer the contents to a new media vehicle because the heating process makes the polymer quickly become brittle. Of course it depends on the tape and how it's been stored, but when I was in grad school (about 20 years ago) there was an interview of Sony's restoration & archival team who were working on some early Janis Joplin master tapes. The tapes were in very bad shape due to age, and un-salvageable in parts. So... Janis hit it big about 1966 making those tapes 29 years old at the time. Django's 1949 tapes would now be 65.

    Still... miracles happen. Someone might have made a copy on more permanent media in the 60's. Or maybe they were metal-plate masters - or even wax. One can hope. The Smithsonian recently restored the original Alexander Bell recording from a wax cylinder. It was recorded in... what... the 1880's?
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    Can't add any info, but what I think of as the Rome recordings is a cd called Djangology 49. The recording quality (and Stephane and Django's playing) are the best to my ear. There are also some clear mistakes where it sounds like Django gets to close to the mic and others where the mic sounds to hot altogether, but the presence on all of it is special sounding.
    I hope someone can answer you. You make it sound like there's a lot more there than what I'm used to thinking of as his Rome recordings.
    So many mysteries, but I'm often amazed at what people on this forum turn up with!
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • rimmrimm Ireland✭✭✭✭ Paul doyle D hole, washburn washington
    Posts: 605
    ..what I know as the rome recordings is certainly the best quality recordings of the guys I know of. If there's more of this stuff out there it would be truly epic.
    I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell
  • Stored away in an old attic in a castle somewhere?
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    That's the sound of the Djangology 49 cd, but I've never heard the minor swing cut. The piano, lite drums, and Stephane are all on the cd with that same sound.
    It was the first thing I heard of Django and even when I bought other complilations, I was wanting to hear that sound again.
    Is there more "Rome" that you know of. Djangology 49 can be had on Amazon used, for nickels and dimes any day.
    What else "Rome" is out there?
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,264
    There are over 60 tracks that have been issued from the Django/Grappelli Rome sessions on various CDs (Fremeaux, JSP etc). At least 5 were never released.
  • nicksansonenicksansone Amsterdam, The Netherlands✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 274

    As it would be the most amazing discovery, I'm guessing no one has any further information on these masters.. Body and soul, I'm in the mood for love, Que reste t il .. hearing Django's interpretation of these tunes in these years would be a dream come true .

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 658

    Some discographers believe those masters were damaged and no longer exist. Maybe, like the masters from the Radio Luxembourg broadcasts, they were (maybe) stolen. Some things should remain a mystery, I think.

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