Bireli Lagrene

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count

Bireli Lagrene
Djangologyand To Bi or Not to Bi
Dreyfus Records

Bireli Lagrene Gipsy Project
Just the Way You Are
Dreyfus Records

Sara Lazarus with Bireli Lagrene Gipsy Project
It's All Right With Me
Dreyfus Records

Born September 4, 1966 in Saverne, France, Bireli Lagrene came under the influence of Django Reinhardt and impressed the world from age 13 as a prodigy who handled the guitar with a love for the swing that it could muster. These four albums, recorded after the turn of the century, find Lagrene proving that his heart lies with that distinctive era.

Featuring Bireli Lagrene with the WDR Big Band, Djangology was recorded in concert Sept. 15, 2005 in Koln, Germany with dynamic guitar solos that give this 10-selection program a contemporary flavor. The guitarist and the band's other soloists make the session swell with excitement. Tenor saxophonist Olivier Peters sends "Impromptu" off on a hard-swinging adventure, trumpeter John Marshall gives "Caravan" a generous uplifting, Jens Neufang stands out with exceptional solo work on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, and trombonist Dave Horler targets "Blues en Mineur" with a swinger's delight, while Lagrene pours forth with consistency. Recorded in concert, To Bi or Not to Bi features Lagrene's solo guitar in celebration of the classical French tradition: expressive, lyrical and filled with passion. Lagrene makes each cascade fall as if he were moving delicate holly leaves against a window pane. His hands weave a natural pattern while his style carries intense spirit. Freddy Mercury's "We Are the Champions" and Brian May's "We Will Rock You" leave no doubt about the guitarist's powerful persuasion. By closing this pop medley with "It Was a Very Good Year," he includes the personal feeling that adheres to his sessions naturally. The album's title track tells a story of one who roams the countryside in his mind and expresses each colorful aspect through song. The two-disc packaging of this box set provides a comprehensive picture of the virtuoso's allure.

Just the Way You Are features Gipsy Project in a swinging instrumental program that brings out all the finer points from Bireli Lagrene's eclectic arsenal. Along with songs by Reinhardt, he includes several originals as well as songs by Billy Joel, George Benson and Elvis Presley. He sings "All of Me" with passable authority and shows deep respect for its lyrical message. The band includes a saxophonist for this session, broadening Gipsy Project's unique image. Born from the familiar role of clarinet and soprano sax in early trad jazz and the Swing Era that came later, Franck Wolf's saxophones color appropriately. Unfortunately, he also lends immeasurably to the "wedding band" impression that takes place through several tracks, where Lagrene and his crew pour sappy emotion over "It's Impossible," "Just the Way You Are," "Flamingo" and "Love Me Tender." His deep, baritone saxophone groove on "Cap'tain Ferber," however, makes up for it. Here, Wolf and Lagrene come up with a winning formula that cannot be considered a copy of anyone else. It gives Gipsy Project a unique voice that evolves from the artistic journey that Lagrene embarked on in the late '80s. Aligned with early Reinhardt swing, far removed from hard rock and fusion, but containing elements of soul, funk and blues, Lagrene's session delineates his unique style with deeply felt impressions.

Sara Lazarus gives Gipsy Project a lucid interpreter of lyrics for their program of Swing Era staples. She sings with a comfortable feel that makes her seem at home while she crosses generations with these oldies. Lazarus toured with the American Youth Jazz Band at age 16 as a tenor saxophonist and singer, closing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Studies at Harvard University followed, where she sang with the school's jazz band. After graduation, she moved to Paris, where the European jazz atmosphere held her gaze, and she launched a promising career. In 1994, she won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition. This joint venture with Gipsy Project gives her the opportunity to visit the Swing Era; each selection features Lazarus with a Bireli Lagrene guitar interlude. They work with strings on "Embraceable You," "Jim" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." She interprets French lyrics on "Dans Mon Ile," creating a lovely romantic atmosphere where Lagrene is at his best. Together, they push fast, as on "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," and slow it down gracefully for emotional content, as on "Taking a Chance on Love." The album's title track, a moderate two-step swinger, lets them celebrate the heritage from Django Reinhardt that has been passed on to them successfully through several generations.

Tracks and Personnel

Djangologyand To Bi or Not to Bi

Tracks: Djangology: Place du Tertre; Good Life; Djangology; Impromptu; The Shadow of Your Smile; Blues en Mineur; Anouman; Fleche d'Or; Caravan; All of Me. To Bi or Not to Bi: Sur la Croisette; London (Soli Love); R&Bi; Deauville en Ville (We Are the Champions / We Will Rock You / It Was a Very Good Year); Sous les Pommiers; Capucines; La Belle Vie; Madras Express; Amparo; Bar de Nuit; To Bi or Not to Bi; Vague ï l'ïme.

Personnel: Djangology: Bireli Lagrene: guitar; WDR Big Band: Michael Abene: conductor; Heiner Wiberny, Karolina Strassmayer: alto saxophone; Olivier Peters, Paul Heller: tenor saxophone; Jens Neufang: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Andy Haderer, Rob Bruynen, Klaus Osterloh, John Marshall, Frederik Kïster: trumpet; Ludwig Nuss, Dave Horler, Bernt Laukamp: trombone; Mattis Cedeberg: trombone, bass trombone; Frank Chastenier: piano; John Goldsby: bass; Hans Dekker: drums. To Bi or Not to Bi: Bireli Lagrene: guitar.

Just the Way You Are

Tracks: After You've Gone; Just the Way You Are; Lune de Miel; I'll See You in My Dreams; All of Me; Fïerie; It's Impossible; Cap'tain Ferber; Guet-Apens; Flamingo; Before You Go; Lolita; Love Me Tender; Tim and Zoï.

Personnel: Bireli Lagrene: guitars, vocal (5); Hono Winterstein: guitars; Franck Wolf: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Diego Imbert: double bass; Andre Ceccarelli: drums; Roberto Jermaine Landsberger: piano.

It's All Right With Me

Tracks: Gypsy in My Soul; Taking a Chance on Love; What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Embraceable You; It's All Right With Me; Dans Mon Ile; Deed I Do; Down With Love; Jim; The Way You Look Tonight; In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; Cheek to Cheek.

Personnel: Sara Lazarus: vocals; Bireli Lagrene, Hono Winterstein: guitar; Diego Imbert: double bass; Andre Ceccarelli: drums; Alain Kouznetzoff, Marie-Aude Guyon, Christophe Guiot, Jean-Philippe Audin, Jean-Marc Apap, Herve Cavelier: strings.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues Multiple Reviews Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2017
Read The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants Multiple Reviews The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants
by Nigel Campbell
Published: September 9, 2017
Read Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And Rutherford Multiple Reviews Emanem Releases New Music From Late, Great Heroes Lacy And...
by John Eyles
Published: September 8, 2017
Read Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things Happen Slowly & Open Book Multiple Reviews Of Stories, Songs, and Self: Fred Hersch's Good Things...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read The Art (de Vivre) of the Trio Multiple Reviews The Art (de Vivre) of the Trio
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 12, 2017
Read Sven-Åke Johansson's Blue For A Moment Multiple Reviews Sven-Åke Johansson's Blue For A Moment
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 2, 2017
Read "Pi Recordings 2016 Releases" Multiple Reviews Pi Recordings 2016 Releases
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Paul Kelly: Seven Sonnets & A Song and Death's Dateless Night" Multiple Reviews Paul Kelly: Seven Sonnets & A Song and Death's...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "Clouds and Stormy Nights: A New Pair from QFTF" Multiple Reviews Clouds and Stormy Nights: A New Pair from QFTF
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…" Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Duke Ellington on Storyville Records" Multiple Reviews Duke Ellington on Storyville Records
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 20, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.