This album promised great things - 2 superb guitarists, both with powerful technique and musical flair in abundance, playing an interesting range of tunes.
In almost every way, it delivers on its promise. These are 2 of the finest Jazz guitarists in the "gypsy" style, and have considerable experience in other areas too. They obviously enjoy playing together, and do so with great precision and invention. Its a pleasure to hear such great players enjoying themselves.
A couple of the tunes here are real crackers - "Time After Time" (best known of Cyndi Lauper), is the opener, and for me the finest track on the album. Its a brilliant arrangement, honouring the original, and with a unique something that distinguishes it from the original at the same time - there is plenty of superb technique on display too, but never for its own sake. Hearing this one first is a little bit of a problem, because it sets a musical standard rarely matched in the other 12 tracks. A personal favourite is "Made in France", a Bireli Lagrene original which revels in the gypsy sound. "Blackbird" (Lennon/McCartney) is also fantastic.
There is an annoying tendency to use the guitars as percussion rather than strings on this album - I like a bit of tapping and string noise, and a bit of drumming on the soundboard every now and again doesn't go amiss either, but many of the tracks simply never get going, because they are constantly fractured by often intrusive choppy, broken rhythms from the accompanying guitar. Very clever but ultimately unsatisfying. And there is a problem with style here too (for me at least). Its neither one thing or the other. Certainly not "gypsy", except in small sections, so you don't get many dazzling runs, driving rhythms or catchy tunes. And not modern or fusion either - there isn't enough variation in the sound, or in the harmony, or in the arrangements for that matter for this to really escape the "gypsy" category.
As a huge fan of Jazz guitar (and a semi-professional player myself) I found this album a bit flat in the end. There is alot to enjoy for those who like polished playing, and technique and flair measured out evenly all the way through, but for more experienced listeners, I wouldn't recommend this. It sounds like jazz guitar for people who don't listen to much jazz.
It certainly isn't the best place to start listening to the amazing Bireli Lagrene either - he is a wonderfully inventive player with staggering technique and great musical taste, but you only get about half of it here.