Lulu Weiss Ensemble / Lulu Weiss

Palatine Summer

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Besides being Europe's first jazz superstar, Django Reinhardt was, first and foremost, a Gypsy. Proud to be a member of that maligned, often ostracized group, Reinhardt built some of his most famous songs on folk tunes of his youth. However, history focuses more on Reinhardt's innovations than his roots, which is part of what makes Lulu Weiss such a pleasant surprise. Lulu Weiss (who, contrary to the American version of that first name, is a man) is a Gypsy jazz guitarist in Reinhardt's tradition, but with an even deeper rooting in traditional Gypsy music; his ensemble consists of his brother Nello Weiss on upright bass and friends Caruso Lehmann and Bodo Jaworek on second guitar and violin, and this close-knit group's music is a combination of traditional Gypsy tunes, originals by various bandmembers, and three Reinhardt classics, "Ninet," "Manoir de Mes Reves," and the standard "Dinah." All 15 tracks are played with the same economy, eschewing flash in favor of tight group playing and small, tightly constructed solos that build upon the melodies without obliterating them. Add a layer of background hiss and you might think you were hearing previously undiscovered Hot Club recordings from the '30s.

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