Biréli Lagrène may have just painted his masterpiece.
His career has traveled widely – a manifestation of his Gypsy legacy. He stunned the jazz world with his debut live LP in 1980 when he was just 13. The songs were primarily originals, yet the music was steeped in Django influence. Lagrène played with a sure swing belying his age, and when Django’s brother heard him pick his guitar, he broke into tears, stating it was Django born again.
Within years, Biréli had mastered this music, and restlessly picked up an electric guitar to join Jaco Pastorius in creating avant garde fusion. In time, he moved on to play mainstream jazz before returning in ’01 to his roots with the Django-centric Gipsy Project albums and DVD.
Move brings together many of Biréli’s influences into a cohesive – and impressive – whole. Django is the foundation here, but Biréli builds on this with his own modern compositions, stylish guitar solos, and dynamic interplay with horn man Franck Wolf.
The repertoire here moves between Django covers, jazz classics like “Cherokee,” and both Biréli and his bandmates’ originals. Bassist Diego Imbert’s “Un Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi” is an ideal example of the melding of influences: Biréli’s solos and comping are stylish and inventive, dashing from Gypsy jazz to American blues to a surprising modern sensibility. It’s great stuff.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.