Perfect Songs – “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Django Reinhardt

Over the years I’ve noticed that I have a pool of songs that I always want people to hear when I make a mix disc. This continuing series will highlight these songs, provide me an excuse to write about music, and hopefully do what I love most: turn people on to new music.

Let’s get this out of the way: Django Reinhardt was the greatest guitarist of the 20th century. Done.

I’ll admit that as a young firebreathing guitar monkey I was not impressed by 1.) jazz and 2.) old recordings. So my slow immersion into the hot tub de France that is Django took a few years. I could hear the guitar gymnastics, but the rhythms were always so…polite. There’s not even a drummer! Just that same boring quarter note rhythm. Ugh.

Then I heard this song. For those not impressed by guitar histrionics, wait out the intro guitar solo. Skip ahead to 1:05 when vocalist Freddy Taylor comes in. His sweet, possibly drunken voice glides over everything, smoothing out the sharp edges of the martial guitar beat. When he starts scatting, either for fun or because he doesn’t know the words, the landing gear goes up. Shades of Ella Fitzgerald making up the words are all the more distinct for Taylor’s very feminine voice. For years I thought he was a she.

Having listened to this song hundreds of times, I still never tire of it, and it helps me approach the rest of Django’s catalog from a better point of reference. It’s not one of his better-known tunes, but I have heard it pop up in a couple of movies, so at least I know my tastes in gypsy jazz align with those of Hollywood sound editors.

>> Buy “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” on Amazon.