Listening to Bireli Lagrene - particularly on this album, filled with standards from the so-called Golden Age of American Song, one is immediately stunned by both that artistry of this man: the interpretation, the blazing speed and clean playing as his fingers move up and down the finger board, and the absolutely rock solid rhythm, (amplified by his collaborators Diego Imbert on stringed bass and Hono Winterstein on rhythm guitar).
I am a lifetime fan of the great Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli and their recordings which come down to us over the years. "Gipsy Trio," in addition to the inherent virtuosity of the three musicians on this album, gives us the benefit of modern recording technology, and so we hear this music as it must have been like to sit in on the Hot Club Quintet in Paris in the 1930s - well, minus Grappelli, anyway.
Yet, this is not a simple cover of works done by Reinhardt. Although we are treated to chestnuts like "Limehouse Blues," "Change Partners," "Tiger Rag," and "Singing in the Rain," Legrene give us his take on songs of the modern era. His version of McCartny's "Something" was beautifully stylized, recalling the original Beatles recording while adding his own stamp to a very pretty song. A song called "Micro" just blazes away and one is left wondering how in the world can fingers mover so fast!
The final track, "Be My Love," a song I never cared much about since the only version I ever heard of it was Mario Lanza's symphonic treatment of it in the 1950's on RCA Victor and, while good in itself, I had heard enough of it while growing up to be really tired of it. But Legrene brings in tenor Roberto Alegna to help out and this recording brings a whole new approach than the one I had heard most of my life.
I had never heard of Bireli Legrene until, while researching classical Gypsy music, I came upon his name in connection with Reinhardt. My interest was now piqued by the comparison I kept reading about, so I listened to a few samples of his music and was blown away. This album is the first (but by no means my last Legrene work) which I will happily add to my jazz collection. "Gipsy Music" is "must" for any collector of jazz standards, in my opinion. You will not keep still upon listening to it.
The really wonderful thing about these kinds of discoveries is that the links to our musical past are still strong and being kept alive by such great players.