Sometimes, as far as music goes, one record can lead to another. One hearing of Florin Niculescu's homage to Stephane Grappelli sends the listener back to the old recordings of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, where Grappelli worked his magic with his most famous musical partner, guitar wizard Django Reinhardt.
What a joy to listen to Grappelli. Not only could he make the violin sing and swing. He played with fire and passion. There are times that Grappelli seems to make a u-turn on his instrument that is so sharp that the strings are in danger of being broken or indeed are burning up. Now that's music that swings.
It is no exaggeration to say that Grappelli's music is safe in the hands of Florin Niculescu. Like Grappelli, Niculescu has the ability to make the violin sing. He doesn't just show off with a lot of fast notes, he makes the music flow effortlessly with passion and commitment.
Niculescu has a superb technique and his group consisting of Peter Beets on piano, Bruno Ziarelli on drums and Daryl Hall on bass plus guest guitarists Christian Escoudé; and Marc Fosset are doing a very good job of backing him. They swing comfortably and the record is a treat for the ears from start to finish.
Highlights include a take on the classic Reinhardt/Grappelli composition "Daphné," where Niculescu really shows his chops. Elsewhere, he performs a stunning version of "Old Man River" that manages to be both wild and sentimental.
It is downright impossible not to like music that swings as infectiously as this and Niculescu can play so even the alley cats of Paris must be dancing. An album like Florin Niculescu Plays Stephane Grappelli is proof that the music Grappelli treasured so much is still alive and not just a nostalgic thing of the past.
Personnel: Florin Niculescu: violin; Peter Beets: piano; Brune Ziarelli: drums; Daryl Hall: bass; Christian Escoud