Dreyfus Records: Crossing Continents with Music
Sara Lazurus with Biréli Lagrène's Gypsy Project
It's All Right With Me
Compared to Philip Catherine, Biréli Lagrène is a very different guitarist. In terms of style, Lagrène plays a stunning kind of gypsy guitar in the tradition of the legendary Django Reinhardt. On the album It's All Right With Me, he teams up with elegant singer Sara Lazarus, winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Vocal Competition, and it's a match made in heaven. Lagrène's rollicking, folkloric licks suit the singer's sophistication perfectly, giving tunes such as "Taking a Chance on Love" and "Down with Love" a vibrating freshness. The latter is particularly impressive, with the guitarist's lightning fast runs matched by the potent phrasing of Lazarus. Together they engage in a musical dialogue where the songs twist and turn in a joyful celebration of life. However, there is also time for more subdued moments, as when a string section accompanies the singer on a softly sighing version of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." The Dreyfus catalog boasts some very strong singers, including Anne Ducrus and Terez Montcalm, but no one is more versatile than Lazurus, who is an eminent swinger, a sensitive balladeer and an accomplished stylist interested in a broad range of musical traditions.
A special musical tradition lies at the heart of the artistry of accordion player Richard Galliano. He is steeped in the genre of musette, a kind of French ballroom music that emerged in early 20th century France. However, Galliano is also something of a romantic eclectic who isn't afraid to bring flavors from around the world into his jazzy folk-music. This is clearly heard on the opening track on the album that is considered one of his masterpieces: French Touch (Dreyfus, 1999). Here, Galliano kicks off with a warmly swinging version of Brazilian master Hermeto Pascoal's composition "Bébé."
Elsewhere, he delivers a virtuosic version of Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring," changing convincingly between tempi. Helping him out are two solid rhythm sections, with Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark and Rémi Vignolo sharing the bass duty and Daniel Humair and Andre "Dede" Ceccarelli taking care of the drums. emphasiz lies on the waltz, but Galliano never grows stale in the treatment of his instrument. He makes it laugh, sing and cry like a human voice. He never loses sight of the empathic display of feelings that connects his art with a romantic aesthetic, conveying the image of amorous lovers sitting in abandoned cafés on a starlit night. There's a chamber-like intimacy about Gallliano's music that serves it well. It is modern French folk-music of the highest order.
Mingus Big Band