The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Biréli Lagrène &Domaine Albert Mann Gewurztraminer

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.

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.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Giovanni Pelosi & Toscana Trittico Azienda Agricola Poggio al Sole

I spent the afternoon watching the NCAA basketball tournament while searching online for groundhog recipes. Punxsutawney Phil was indicted this week in Ohio for purposely, and with prior calculation and design, giving a false forecast for the arrival of spring, causing the people to believe that it would come early. Personally, I say skip the trial, let’s just cook the little furball. By the way, it’s snowing quite heavily here as I write.

So, tonight I though I’d transport my blog to where spring is actually happening, namely Italy. Giovanni Pelosi is a brilliant Italian acoustic fingerstyle guitarist born in Rome in 1952. A meeting and friendship with Giovanni Unterberger, a well known Italian guitarist, and Stefan Grossman in 1981 influenced him to follow in their footsteps as an acoustic fingerstyle virtuoso. His first works concentrated on arranging the songs of the Beatles for solo guitar and I’ve included several of his arrangements below. But his music evolved broadening to include pop, classical, and folk pieces along with solo guitar renditions of jazz classics. My favorite is his arrangement of Weather Report’s Birdland. His music is doing a nice job of helping me forget the fact that it’s snowing and the groundhog must die.

While my guitar gently weeps:
Something in the way she moves:
I wish I could shimmy like my sister:

 An Italian wine is a must for Pelosi’s music so how about one that’s not only great in the mouth, but a mouthful to say. The 2010 IGT Toscana Trittico Azienda Agricola Poggio al Sole ($20.00) is a “baby Super Tuscan” according to its winemaker. It’s 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Suavignon, and 15% Merlot which gives it a dark ruby color. Aromas of blueberries, cherries, and cassis predominate followed by rich blackberry and cherry flavors. The tannins are mild and the wine finishes long and elegantly. It’s got a little heft to it, which is quite fortifying when you’re watching the snow fall. Did I mention I want to cook the groundhog? Grab a chair, watch some B-ball and if your team was Georgetown, kill the tube and listen to a great Italian guitarist and remember there’s always next year.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bruce Mathiske & d'Arenberg Laughing Magpie

Bruce Mathiske is an Australian acoustic guitarist who plays in the mold of another great Aussie, Tommy Emmanuel. He got his first guitar at the age of seven. He studied classical guitar at seventeen and moved to jazz at twenty-one. But when he heard Chet Atkins at the age of twenty-two, he became a hardcore fingerstyle player, although he does occasionally use a flat pick. From the age of twenty-two to twenty-eight he practiced ten hours a day then played in bands in the evening to support himself. As he’s aged, he’s trimmed back to only five hours of practice a day.

While Chet Atkins was a huge influence, he also cites Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon as significant influences on his playing. Although he doesn’t refer to him, I hear a lot of Tommy Emmanuel in his style. His musical repertoire is eclectic ranging from covers of great pop songs to jazz to Latin. Check out Classical Gas Espanol as an example. Hope you enjoy this fabulous Aussie guitarist.

Still haven’t found what I’m looking for:
Somewhere over the rainbow:

A 2009 D’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz ($18.00) is the perfect Aussie wine to compliment Bruce. A blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Viognier,  Laughing Magpie is inky purple with an explosive bouquet of blackberries, plums, and expresso. The taste is full of dark berries, coffee, chocolate, pepper, and hint of wood smoke. It has a nice long finish with velvety tannins. One suggestion, though, aerate this wine for a bit. I suggest either decanting or using something like a Vinturi. It will really open up and bloom. Throw something on the Barbie, grab a bottle of Laughing Magpie, and crank up the music of Bruce Mathiske. After all, it’s the first day of spring!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Slide guitar & Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc

I feel like a little slide guitar tonight, but with so many great players to choose from, I decided to listen to a few cuts from all of my favorites. I don’t need to elaborate because the music speaks for itself. Hope you had a great weekend and to help you slide into the week, I present the best of slide guitar. Enjoy!

Kirk Lorange

Roy Rogers

Derek Trucks

Sonny Landreth

Bonny Raitt

Warren Haynes

Duane Allman

Rory Block

Andrew Winton

Ry Cooder

Readers of this blog know that I love Sauvignon Blanc, especially those from New Zealand and tonight I’m featuring what I believe to be the best one I’ve ever tasted. The 2011 Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Reserve ($20.00 at Costco) is pale straw yellow. The aromas of grapefruit, lemon, and honeydew melon will simply blow your mind. The taste bursts with more grapefruit and tangerine with crisp acidity and a long, lingering finish. I served it with grilled salmon marinated in an orange-ginger-sesame sauce and it was a fantastic compliment to the meal. It’s also a wonderful wine for sipping, which is what I’m planning on doing while I listen to some of my favorite slide guitar players. Try a bottle. I guarantee you’ll like it.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Alain Caron & Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux

I’m going to take a break from the blues and move to something equally near and dear to my heart, namely great bass playing. Alain Caron is a French Canadian jazz bassist who first picked up the instrument at the age of 11. Three years later, he discovered jazz and was hooked on the genre. He started out as a self-taught musician, learning primarily through correspondence courses, but later attended the Berklee School of Music. He returned to Montreal, joining the group UZEB and focused on “jazz-fusion with a melody.” UZEB released 10 albums and toured internationally until 1993 when Caron went solo and released the first of seven solo albums. More recently, in 2007, the University of Quebec bestowed an honorary doctoral degree on him, and he is the only musician to ever receive the honor. He was ranked the No.1 bass player for 10 straight years by the magazine The Jazz Report. Most importantly, he’s one of my favorites.
Turkey loose on the kit: 
Flight of the beebop bee:

Sitting here watching a spring blizzard from my home office window made me think I need a hefty wine for the evening. So I recommend a fantastic bargain, if you can find it. I bought the 2009 Chateau La Tour de Bessan Margaux ($19.00) from PJ’s wine ( It has wonderful aromas of blackberries, blueberries, and violets. The taste is full of dark berries, crème de cassis, and a bit of peppery spice. The tannins don’t overpower (a characteristic I prefer) and slide smoothly into a long finish. I like this wine so much, I think I’m going to open a bottle this afternoon and sit by the fire proofreading my latest novel while I listen to the music of a fantastic bassist. Enjoy!