Monday, November 21, 2011

Exhilirating Gypsy Jazz from Debarre and Beier

I was introduced to the jazz accordionist (and accordina player) Ludovic Beier when he performed at the Kennedy Center as part of the Django Reinhardt Festival All Stars with Dorado Schmitt and others. This concert of “Gypsy Jazz” preceded the actual Festival run at New York’s Birdland and was among the best musical performances I have been fortunate enough to see in some time. The mix of their astonishing virtuosity, wonderful group interplay and melodically based improvisation was exhilarating to listen to.

Subsequent to the concert I purchased several recordings by participants and others in this musical tradition that takes its inspiration from the legendary Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France. One such album was by guitarist Angelo Debarre and Beier, Swing Rencontre on Le Chant Du Monde. DeBarre is one of the leading guitarists in this style today and these recordings (originally recorded in 2001) have the two backed by rhythm guitarist Michel Delacroix and bassist Antonio Licusati. A drummer is added on two selections, and on one number, Jean-Paul Jamot replaces Licusati.

This recording is comprised of interpretations of a few standards, several classic Django Reinhardt compositions, and some recent contributions from Debarre, Beier and Dorado Schmitt. Beier on accordion plays a musical counterpoint to Debarre’s guitar, similar to Stéphane Grappelli’s violin to Reinhardt. The accordion has had a prominent place in the French musette tradition as well as in gypsy jazz and Beier brings a rich approach to complement Debarre’s dazzling fretwork while Delacroix and Licusati lay a swinging backing.

After playing a couple bars of There Will Never Be Another You, at a dreamy tempo, Debarre kicks up the tempo a couple of notches as he states the theme and launches his improvisation followed by an equally dazzling accordion solo. The dazzling, and crisp technique is matched with marvelous melodic improvisation and its a delight to hear them trade fours. Though instrumental, the music they produce sings and soars. Several of the selections are amongst the most famous of Reinhardt’s repertoire including Swing 42, Dinette, Minor Swing and the lovely Nuages.

“Minor Swing,” originally from Reinhardt and Grappelli is a high-spirited romp and they certainly do justice to it. Most of the arrangements were contributed by the pair, but bassist Licusati provide the dramatic overtones to the rendition of El Maintenant, which is known in English speaking parts of the world as What Now, My Love. Beier penned Paris Plage, a lively duo with Debarre that opens with driving accordion and Debarre comping behind him before the two switch roles with Beier providing an organ-like texture under the guitar. Debarre’s Have You Something? is a lovely ballad while Beier and bassist Jean-Paul Jamot contributed the lively original Michel Got Rhythm, dedicated to rhythm guitarist Delacroix.

This is a recording that should be readily accessible with its strong melodic foundation, swing rhythms and driving inspired improvisations. The music on Swing Rencontre is exciting and brilliant.

And a youtube video of these two live.

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