After his excursions into modal jazz, rock, fusion and bop, Didier Lockwood has come home again to revel in the music of jazz violin great Stéphane Grappelli with whom Lockwood performed early in his career.
In the process, Lockwood is exposing his astounding talent on a difficult instrument seldom heard in jazz to a broader audience. That audience can't help but sit up and take notice.
With the aid of just-as-astounding Biréli Lagrène on guitar (assuming the Django Reinhardt role, of course) and Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass, this percussionless trio doesn't lack for swing or dynamism. In fact, its swing and dynamism overflow, leaving the listener awash in the thrill that Le Jazz Hot generated over 60 years ago.
Lockwood And Company are obviously beyond technique. They have sublimated the style of Grappelli and Reinhardt and effortlessly interpret the legends' approach to their infectious music, slightly gypsy or Gallic in its gushes of emotion and slightly American in its democracy.
We can expect excellence in the tributes of "Nuages" and "Les Valseuses". But the unexpected pleasures like Lockwood's overtoned and atmospheric introduction to "Someday My Price Will Come", its timbre pure and almost flute-like, or the Brazilian rhythm expressed by the strings on "The Kid" elevate the CD with more than exceptional musicianship. These pleasures communicate joy and youthful delight and extroversion of spirit.
The trio's command of their instruments truly is beyond description. Lockwood's penultimate cadenza and breath-taking final note in the highest register of the instrument on "My One And Only Love" seem to be the tune's reason for existence, the melody itself serving as its lead-in. Lagrène can back up another string musician with irresistible rhythm, but his polyphonal workout on "All The Things You Are" exhibits a free spirit reigned in by the rhythmic needs of the piece. NHØP, ever the solid foundation behind any group, provides nimble soloing, as if the bass were a guitar, before withdrawing into his role as percussive stand-in when the group congeals again as a unit.
More than a mere tribute to Stéphane Grappelli, Lockwood's CD represents an infectious demonstration of the potential of the violin as an inspiring jazz instrument.