CD review – Entre Ciel et Terre

December 12, 2006

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This is the latest CD from Angelo Debarre and Ludovic Beier which was released in October 2006. You will probably have read my reviews of their previous studio CDs Entre Amis and Come Into My Swing and know how excellent those are. This one continues that very high standard and perhaps even raises it. many of the tunes are more arranged than on the previous CDs with some very inventive twists to familiar tunes. The CD leaps into life with ‘Caravan’ taken at a cracking pace. Less familiar Django tunes, such as Rue Vingt-Six and Hungaria, get outings and there is a version of Donna Lee taken at a speed approaching that of light. All the playing is top notch but there is a passage in Ludovic Beier’s solo on Django’s Tiger which I play over and over again trying to convince myself it’s true – it sounds as though the accordian has taken off by itself and everyone else is tryng to catch up yet it is also completely musical. My only slight reservation is that Angelo Debarre is listed as playing all guitars (except for one track where his youngest son plays rhythm guitar) which means there must be a fair amount of multi-tracking in the studio, something I don’t feel is right for this type of music, but if I hadn’t read the sleeve notes I don’t think I would have noticed.

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CD review – Come Into My Swing by Angelo Debarre & Ludovic Beier

November 4, 2006

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This CD chronologically came before Entre Amis but I heard it later. Usually a review of ‘more of the same’ might be thought damning but here it is the highest of praise because it means that it is a CD of some of the best gypsy jazz guitar and accordeon playing around. Once again it is a simple line up of lead guitar, accordeon, rhythm guitar and double bass but the playing is anything but simple. There is a good mixture of Django standards and original compositions, the latter being so good that there is no noticeable difference as you listen though the tracks. Some highlights for me were What is This Thing Called Love (with the bebop head Hothouse tagged on the end) and a very spritely rendition of Stomping at Decca. Highly recommended.


CD review – Memories of Django by Angelo Debarre & Tchavolo Schmitt

November 3, 2006

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 A CD with Angelo Debarre and Tchavolo Schmitt on it is never going to be bad but listening to this I fell that someone, either the producer or the guitarists could have made a bit more effort. The tunes are all either very popular Django tunes (Minor Swing, Nuages) or well-worn jazz standards (It Had to Be You, All of Me) and they haven’t been arranged in any interesting ways. What you do get is some good gypsy jazz playing from two great guitarists and there is some interest in comparing Tchavolo’s Alsace style with Angelo’s more sophisticated Parisian style, neither better than the other just different.


CD review – Entre Amis by Angelo Debarre & Ludovic Beier

November 2, 2006

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This is a very hot gypsy jazz CD. Everyone I have played it to have been completely blown away by the playing and have wondered why they have never heard of Ludovic Beier (most have heard something of Angelo Debarre). The band is a straight gypsy jazz lineup with Angelo Debarre on lead guitar, Ludovic Beier on button accordeon, with two rhythm guitars and a double bass. The tunes are mainly gypsy jazz standards (Douce Ambiance, Yeux Noirs, Troublant Bolero, China Boy) with a few originals including solo tracks by each of the lead musicians. Angelo Debarre is on excellent form as usual playing anything from blisteringly fast swing through to ballads with a beautiful solid tone and clear articulation. I had not heard Ludovic Beier until this CD and he is a complete revelation, I have never heard an accordeon played like this. He too can play at amazing speed but the thing I was most impressed with was his thematic development in solos – taking a little motif and carrying it through a number of different chords changes. When trading 4s and 8s with he appears to be able to reproduce anything that Angelo plays at will. These players are astonishing virtuosos who never lose sight of the fact that they are playing music – very highly recommended


CD review – Franco-American Swing by John Jorgenson

October 30, 2006

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This gypsy jazz CD is a bit different. It features the great guitar playing of John Jorgenson but in an unusual setting – many tracks have full string orchestra arrangements provided by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. It is nice to listen to music that has been so carefully arranged – a pleasant change from many albums which are close to jam sessions. Whether a string orchestra in the background is to your taste is an entirely personal preference and I suspect that listeners will fall into love it or hate it camps without much in between. On the tracks without the strings John Jorgenson plays nearly everything himself. I had being listening to the title track for months admiring the almost klezmer style clarinet as well as the guitar before I found out from the sleeve notes that John Jorgenson plays that, and the tenor saxophone on that track. He also plays vibes and percussion on other tunes – and most of us struggle to pass muster on just the guitar!


Book review – Django by Michael Dregni

October 25, 2006

 

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Django Reinhardt didn’t spend a lot of time filling in tax forms, buying houses, giving statements to Congressional committees or writing books (thankfully because that left plenty of time to record the wonderful legacy of gypsy jazz he left us) so getting the information to write his biography has always been very difficult. Up until now there haven’t really been any biographies that could be viewed as close to the truth. Charles Delaunay’s attempt is very entertaining but has a particular bias. This biography written by Michael Dregni and published by Oxford University Press in 2004 has good claim to be the first critical biography of Django. The amount of information is amazing and I am sure took years to acquire. The biography follows a fairly strict chronological order and finishes with a section on gypsy jazz after Django’s death which is fascinating. Michael Dregni takes care to set the social and musical context of each section of Django’s life which is very useful especially for the section where Django travels to America to play with Duke Ellington. All in all an essential read for Django fans.


CD review – Move by Bireli Lagrene

October 25, 2006

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I have had this CD for a while now but was listening to it again today and reminding myself how good it is. The band is Bireli, Hono Winterstein on rhythm guitar, Franck Wolf on various saxophones and Diego Imbert on double bass. Many of the tunes are core gypsy jazz repertoire – Clair de Lune, Troublant Bolero etc., but others are originals or bebop tunes (like the title track). The opening track is a quirky blues head written by Diego Imbert with an idosyncratic rhythm which then launches into storming swinging blues changes. Bireli really lets rip on this with some wild outside playing but holds it all down with some classic blues and gypsy jazz phrases. There isn’t a bad track on the CD and I have been listening to it for months without any lessening of my enjoyment – highly recommended.