Gypsy Guitar Masters / Elegance **** Two brilliant discs by two of the undisputed masters of Gypsy Jazz: Romane and Stochelo Rosenberg. Stochelo and Romane have joined forces many times over the years and their approach to playing, performing and songwriting is very complementary. The guitar styles of both shine beautifully on both of these discs and the improvisations are, of course, top-notch. Standout songs include originals Pour Parler, Double Jeu, For Jim, Django Reinhardt’s Djangology and Anouman, and swinging standards like How High the Moon, All of Me and After You’ve Gone. These guys are total acoustic shredders and they can burn when they want or play very delicate, sophisticated improvisations. The VIBE of both discs is really great, beautiful when hosting a stylish soiree or perfect driving music (especially in the fall).
An added feature about both Romane, and Stochelo and his band, The Rosenberg Trio, is that they LOVE their fans and any product is really a great deal! Their discs always come with extras like bonus video or sheet music and tabs. Gypsy Guitar Masters / Elegance both come with a bonus video disc. The concert video is just the two of them together and it’s AMAZING! There is a behind-the-scenes film too, but that is completely in French without subtitles unfortunately for us non-speakers. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage and a lot of ideas listening to these discs over the years and still enjoy listening to them. They aren’t easy to find outside of Europe, but if you see ’em, buy ’em!
Acoustic Spirit /Ombre **** This is the disc that started it all! Well sort of. In the very early 2000s my girlfriend burned me a copy of Ombre by a guitarist named Romane a classically trained, Parisian-style string slinger of the highest caliber. The music was a revelation! I still love the CD because not only is Romane one of the best jazz players on any scene, he is also easily one of top composers anywhere and the textured sophistication and fiery solo work is really what makes Ombre or it’s (basically) re-release with the same tunes and title, Acoustic Spirit, so much fun.
There is a great variety of mood, tones, and textures on this disc. The music recalls the fast bustle of the Paris Métro, the free bohemian mood of the Left Bank, or the slow, quiet current of the river Seine. Romane can dazzle you with unbelievable stuff like Legendé, Gypsy Fire or the funky country twang-influenced Paris Nashville, and then cool you out with really mellow stuff like Selene or the every easy bolero, Monticello, which is built off of a very jazzy E7M9/13 chord. Romane is such a smart player…his improvisations are always so funky and musical and not just a bunch of scales and arpeggios strung together. Other highlights include the very peaceful chromaticism of Traces de Loup, the traditional Gypsy Jazz-sounding Jo’s Remake, Gypsy Fire, and Swing 98 and the fleet-fingered waltz, Patrimonio. Romane is joined on this disc by fellow masters of the style; guitarists Angelo Debarre and Thomas Dutronc, violinist Florin Niculescu, and accordionist Phillipe Cullenier and together they bring this very suave, and soulful brand of European jazz to life.
Move **** Biréli Lagrene is one of the most astonishing jazz guitarists of all time and he certainly proves his abilities on this disc. A musical prodigy, he is primarily known as a descendent of the Django Reinhardt-inspired style of Gypsy Jazz, but has always been comfortable in any musical form and has consistently tried to push the boundaries of sound and invention. This included stints with Jaco Pastorious, Larry Coryell and some incredible duo playing with another French guitar virtuoso, Sylvan Luc. On Move he is joined by long-time rhythm section Hono Winterstein and Diego Umbert with the addition of the very cool and swingin’ Frank Wolf on saxophone. Nice bit of ambiance combining the sax with the acoustic force of 2 guitars and a bass.
To hear Biréli and his band is to listen to a force of nature. There is literally nothing this fella can’t do on a guitar and even seasoned or exceptionally talented players can’t wind up shaking their heads after hearing or seeing the man in action. The disc is dominated by an acoustic Gypsy Jazz sound and while it covers Django Reinhardt tunes like Nuages, Troublant Bolero, Hungaria, and Danse Norvégienne, the band also performs jazz standards like Cherokee, and Biréli originals, Jadis and Place Du Terte . There is a freshness to the music not found in a lot of other people trying to play Gypsy Jazz or acoustic jazz not only because of the band’s collective skills, but also their willingness to experiment and take musical chances. Also Bireli obviously has a deep love of melody and atmosphere; the disc flows wonderfully. Words can’t really describe Biréli’s command of the instrument; his rhythm, chording, solo and unaccompanied work is on a level 98% of all jazz players only dream about. If you are a guitar player even remotely interested in any of this music or need to be seriously impressed by somebody you will definitely be doing yourself a favor by picking this disc up.
Best of the Rosenberg Trio **** I have a few Rosenberg Trio CDs including, but this compilation is my go-to disc and there is a very good reason for that. It’s fantastic! Best of…spans all of the trio’s finest moments over the years with well-known stuff like Impressions, Nuages, and blistering versions of Embraceable You and Night and Day with Stephane Grappelli, mixed with lesser-known cuts like Seresta, a top-notch version of the standard Bluesette and a very awesome flamenco-tinged original, Sevilla. Of course the trio classics: For Sephora, Gipsy Summer and Bossa Dorado are here, as well as fifteen other swingin’ Gypsy Jazz and Jazz/Latin cuts.
For my money the Rosenbergs are the premier Gypsy Jazz band. There is no one tighter, smoother and more capable of playing at lightning bolt tempos than the Rosenbergs. Lead guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg is one of the premier stylists of the instrument; a rest-stroke, swept-stroke playing monster who is always very jazzy and musical. The sheer force and definition he projects on the instrument is dazzling and if you ever have a chance to see it live, go! It is definitely not a stretch to say that as a band, these guys were very responsible for the renaissance that Gypsy Jazz has enjoyed over the last bunch of years. Listening to them has certainly been a huge influence on my playing and seeing Stochelo Rosenberg live was one of the highlights of my musical life!