Today I’m venturing into the world of gypsy guitar. Biréli Lagrène was born into a traditional Manouche-Romani (Gypsy) family on September 4, 1966 in Soufflenheim, Bas-Rhin Alsace, France. He began playing guitar at the age of four with his primary influence being his father, a gifted violinist and guitarist, and fan of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. At the age of eight he was already covering Django’s repertoire.
At the age of nine, he tried to take guitar lessons, but in an interview with Guitar Player, he said, "I didn't even realize that I could play the guitar or that I was a musician. I just played it as easily as eating food. When I got together with a guitar teacher to learn about scales and picking, he told me I already knew everything, and he walked away after about half an hour."
He won a Romani music festival at the age of twelve, which gave him the opportunity to tour Germany and record his first album, Routes to Django-Live at the Krokodil, at the age of thirteen.
In the late seventies he got the opportunity to move to the United States where he met and played with musicians like Stéphane Grappelli, Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, and Larry Coryell. A few years later, he met and toured with Jaco Pastorius moving into the world of jazz-fusion. He is a master on the electric guitar, but to me, his work on his Selmer-style acoustic, playing jazz and the music of Reinhardt is where he shines brightest. He is a prodigious studio artist with over two dozen albums. If you like fast moving gypsy jazz, you’re going to like Biréli Lagrène.
Si Tu Savais: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yfQN8-tVlQ
Les yeux noirs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZey9fRiH4w
Stella by starlight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2MO8jpDC1s
Jazz in Marciac: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cvUnUfmX4A
New morning Paris: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EzwaQQYMps
Minor swing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQC0x-t80XY
Vienne song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI5P9REpiPM
Django’s tiger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnbk5Eq8-Kw
With Sylvain Luc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqt5COQUH0U
North Sea Jazz Festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgquKiTg7OE
It’s only proper to pair Lagrène with a wine from his birth area of the Alsace, so I suggest the 2011 Domaine Albert Mann Gewurztraminer ($22.00). Gewurtztraminer is one of my favorite wines to sip and it finds its finest expression in the Alsace. The Domaine Albert Mann is golden yellow and explodes with dramatic aromas of rose petals and lychee fruit jumping from the glass. Tastes of citrus, mango and a slight bit of honey are accentuated by the usual Gewurtz spiciness followed by a long, long finish. It’s a wonderful wine from the region where Biréli Lagrène grew up. So, enjoy a glass while you listen to one of the premier gypsy-jazz guitarists on today’s music scene.