Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. -- Thelonious Monk

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16 Nov

Bireli Lagrène

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“Lagrène has gone way beyond the precocious virtuosity he displayed as a teenager three decades ago. Hearing him is like watching an expert juggler throw more china in the air, not worrying about the occasional drop, while the audience gasps and grins with pleasure.” The Guardian

Bireli Lagrène was born in France, in a traditional Manouche family and community. He started playing the guitar at the age of four. He grew up in the loving but tough environment of the "tzigane". His father Fisso (a very gifted violinist), his mother Berga and his brother Gaiti were his biggest influences. Winning a Romani music festival in Strasbourg at the age of twelve gave him the opportunity to tour in Germany and, later, to record his performance on the LP Routes To Django - live At The Krokodil. Offered a chance to leave for the United States, Lagrène met some of the most distinguished jazz musicians on the international scene, such as Stephane Grappelli, Benny Goodman, and Benny Carter.


In 1984, he appeared at the Django Reinhardt Tribute at Fat Tuesdays in New York City. "Mr. Lagrene showed that he is more than a remarkable clone, as he added his own colorations to the Reinhardt manner, particularly in his original improvisations," wrote John S. Wilson in The New York Times.

In 1997, Lagrene appeared at the New York Blue Note with Larry Coryell and Billy Cobham.  Later, he was introduced to bassist Jaco Pastorius and ventured with him into jazz fusion. Together, they toured Europe, which contributed a great deal to Lagrène’s musical emancipation.

Lagrene has also continued to record a steady stream of albums. In 2002, Dreyfus issued Gypsy Project, a recording that found him returning to Reinhardt and the classic jazz songbook. "This album should not be seen as an acceptable substitute for the original Reinhardt recordings," noted Rick Anderson in Notes, "but should be considered an essential complement to them by any library supporting the study of jazz guitar." Dreyfus issued Gipsy Routes in the late spring of 2008.

He followed the album with Gipsi Trio on Dreyfus Jazz in 2010, accompanied by double bassist Diego Imbert and fellow guitarist Hono Winterstein, and collaborated with the Rosenberg Trio on Djangologists the same year. In 2012, he recorded a straight-ahead jazz set for Univer Mouvements sal entitledwith saxophonist Franck Wolf, drummer Jean-Marc Robin, and Hammond organist Jean-Yves Jung. Also in 2012, Lagrène was asked to participate in the 50th career anniversary concert celebration for violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. He appeared in a trio with the honoree and bassist Stanley Clarke. Though the other members had played -- and recorded -- together before, the guitarist had never interacted with either before that evening. The trio members electrified the audience and astonished one another with their swinging rapport. Two years later they entered IRS Studios in Brussels and emerged with an album four days later. D-Stringz was released by Impulse! in late 2015.


Bireli Lagrene on November 24 & 25, 2017 at Athina Live

Last modified on Monday, 13 November 2017 15:42

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