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Bireli Lagrene: Swing 81 (2007)

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Bireli Lagrene: Swing 81 How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Guitarist Biréli Lagrène recorded this tribute to the swing jazz of Django Reinhardt when he was only fourteen (and it was his second album release!). From a Gypsy family in the French region of Alsace, he started out as a child prodigy who learned from his father and brother. But it was the recordings of Reinhardt that affected him the most. This reissue features Lagrène with two rhythm guitarists, one double bassist and guest appearances by drummer Allen Blairman on "Limehouse Blues and "How High the Moon, and clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Bernd Rabe on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love and "Carlos.

The program includes several lovely originals as well as favorites from the Django songbook. A slow ballad such as "September Song can grab your heart every time and the same is true for rich melodic pieces such as the young leader's "Biréli Hi Gogoro and Reinhardt's "Nuages, which Lagrène interprets with the convincing authority of a seasoned veteran.

But it's the album's up-tempo romps and active swing numbers that create the most excitement. The guitarist's finger-style technique spells out each melodic line clearly with accompanying acoustic strings that weave cohesively alongside. They're as closely knit as a family band. Lagrène's brother, Gaiti, plays rhythm guitar along with Tschirglo Loeffler, the three guitarists supported from the bottom by bassist Jan Jankeje, who solos frequently and trades fours liberally.

"Black Eyes, which was translated into German on the original album as "Schwarze Auten, appears to be the traditional "Dark Eyes. It's been a favorite of several generations and represents the kind of theme that endears the young Lagrène to our hearts. In 1981, he brought us lyric beauty along with an incredible technique, all wrapped up in a swinging acoustic package. Age fourteen indeed! This is one of those rare occasions where use of the term "phenomenal seems entirely appropriate.


Track Listing: B.L.; Swing Valse; Djangology; Birli Hi Gogoro; Lady Be Good; Thundering Noise; Erster Tango Soundtrack Querelle; September Song; Black Eyes; I Cant Give You Anything But Love; Carlos; Limehouse Blues; Nuages; How High the Moon; Night and Day.

Personnel: Birli Lagrne: lead guitar; Jan Jankeje: bass; Gaiti Lagrne, Tschirglo Loeffler: rhythm guitar; Bernd Rabe: soprano saxophone; Allen Blairman: drums.

Record Label: Jazzpoint Records

Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


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