Biréli Lagrène

My Favorite Django

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When guitarist Bireli Lagrene first debuted as a 13-year-old, he sounded like an exact duplicate of Django Reinhardt. Since that time, Lagrene has sought to develop his own individuality but most of his fusion and rock-oriented records have been of lesser interest. For My Favorite Django he returns to the Reinhardt repertoire (all but "Clair de Lune" are Reinhardt compositions) but with a difference. Keyboardist Koono reharmonized most of the songs drastically, aiming for an orchestral sound with his synthesizer with several pieces utilizing his charts for woodwind and string sections. However there is a good use of contrast, including a spontaneous guitar/piano duet on a medium-tempo "Blues for Ike." Lagrene sounds more original than he did in his early days and he has a very impressive technique. Unfortunately the rhythms played by electric bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Dennis Chambers are unremittingly funky and so unimaginative as to sound as if they were recorded on a different day! One assumes that they were following instructions but, whoever's fault it is, that fatal flaw sinks this effort. The complete lack of swing from the rhythm duo (even on the up-tempo "I Got Rhythm"-based "Babik") drains most of the joy and purpose from these songs. Simply put, the original versions by Django Reinhardt are much better.

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