Various Artists

The Django Reinhardt NY Festival: Live at Birdland

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Whether or not many jazz guitarists have any gypsy blood, the influence of Django Reinhardt is often readily apparent in their playing. The Django Reinhardt NY Festival saluted the late master with several critically acclaimed concerts at Birdland in the fall of 2000, featuring no fewer than five Django-influenced guitarists, including his son, Babik Reinhardt (heard in one of his last recordings prior to his death a year later), as well as veteran Bucky Pizzarelli, two rising stars in their thirties, Frank Vignola and Birelli Lagrene, and finally the young sensation Jimmy Rosenberg. Most of the pieces, which include both timeless standards and originals by Reinhardt, date from his heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, with the exception of originals by Rosenberg and Babik Reinhardt. The guitarists are mixed or matched in pairs or a trio, joined by bassist Jon Burr (who was Stephane Grappelli's bassist for the last decade of his life) and on occasion, violinists Regina Carter or Florin Niculescu, the brushes of Joe Ascione, and pianist Pete Malinverni. It is tough to pick a favorite between Rosenberg, Vignola, and Lagrene (the spotlighted players, though Pizzarelli is no slouch), as their instinctive interplay and reactions to one another throughout the CD are a treat. Carter, however, is a clear cut above Niculescu, whose solos just aren't as striking. Most of the tracks are short and to the point, excepting an almost ten-minute interpretation of Django's best-known composition, "Nuages," though the quick run through Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" rivals it as the most memorable performance. Fans of jazz guitar will devour this very tasty release.

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