Florin Niculescu

Django Tunes

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Violinist Florin Nicolescu recorded this set of Django Reinhardt compositions in his native Romania and in Paris, accompanied by a shifting complement of sidemen that included various combinations of two guitarists, two pianists, a bassist, and a drummer. The arrangements are unusual; typically, a musician this enamored of Reinhardt will tend to duplicate the Quintet du Hot Club de France's traditional lineup: one lead guitar, two rhythm guitars, violin, and bass. But Nicolescu has opted for a more standard jazz rhythm section even as he plays in a style heavily influenced by (though not strictly imitative of) Reinhardt's famous partner Stéphane Grappelli. The result is quite effective, though it would have been even more so if the production style made the rhythm instruments a bit more audible and the echo on the violin less pronounced. But some listeners will find the arrangements themselves to be problematic; a large part of what made Reinhardt's music so thrillingly engaging was the relentless, driving beat generated by the twin rhythm guitars, and the more restrained comping of the piano coupled with a less insistent drum set often means a less viscerally powerful sound. But Nicolescu does a fine job of keeping the energy levels high, and his combination of taste and technique is especially impressive on "Sweet Chorus," the swaggering "Double Scotch," and the beautiful composition "Brick Top." "Tears" features a particularly elegant and lovely guitar solo, though unfortunately, the liner notes do not identify the soloists. This may not be the best introduction to the Reinhardt/Grappelli oeuvre, but Nicolescu's slightly different take on this venerable tradition is well worth hearing.

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