Album Title: Gypsy Trio
Performer: Biréli Lagrène
Label: Dreyfus Jazz 46050 369272
Running time: 46'58"

Returning periodically to the Jazz Manouche genre, Biréli Lagrène's latest poignantly titled Gypsy Trio is not only what it says—parsed down to the essentials with Hono Winterstein on la pompe guitar, Diego Imbert on upright—but also unusually electrifying and electrifyingly unusual. The former is the quality of playing, the latter the choice of material. For the one obligatory homage à Django with "Micro", there's a plethora of usually far less visited options in this metier, i.e. Broadway ("Singing in the Rain" with its whistler intro), George Harrison ("Something"), Fritz Kreisler ("Schön Rosemarin") and Sammy Cahn ("Be my Love") with Roberto Alagna on kitsch-as-kitsch-can high tenor antics in deep Cabaret style.

Of course there's also a made-over "Limehouse Blues" with the scrappiest of basses trading riffs with a truly effervescent solo guitar and audacious bushels of non-Manouche phrasing. Very likely deliberate, most of the fourteen tunes hover at the ± three-minute mark to withstand the intensity of innovative playing and virtuosity Lagrène packs into them. On "Poinciana", it's an extended top-of-the-bridge flageolet interlude which completely alters/alienates the guitar's timbre. The following soulful Kreisleriana waltz is mere intro for a churning stomper that shifts a second time into lithe nimbleness, then revisit the waltz thematic in double time on four.

Two tunes are from Lagrène's own pen, "Sir F.D." and "Made in France". Both are merely a good two minutes in length but what glorious miniatures at that. The Francis Dreyfus homage for fifteen years of record producing collaboration is a sophisticated solo workout, "Made in France" a high-speed swing-on-six number. The Beatles stroll down Django avenue is a tongue-in-cheek "Something" blast which, like everything else on Gypsy Trio, pushes the envelope to stake a claim for this often painfully purist style that goes well beyond expected borders.

By the time the allotted 45 minutes of Gypsy Trio are over and the only —so corny as to be refreshingly stellar—vocal number has expired, one wakes up out of a semi trance, having just brushed against greatness delivered as nonchalantly as only true masters manage after a life time of hard labor. That's the earlier mentioned electrifying element. It's a contact high with real inspiration. Gypsy Trio is a landmark recording and true high point for French Gypsy Jazz. It's also a wake up call for the Django purists to get busy and, beat that, be innovative for a change! And to not make too big a deal of it, certain ax slingers will seem more like ax murderers once you inspect the scope of this man's horizon and technique. Weddings and funerals, some get cremated, Lagrène walks away smelling like roses...