Le Tzigan Vieux

£0.79

Le Tzigan Vieux

£0.79

2004 – LJCD05 (FA522)

The Guardian UK

06.08.2004
Biréli Lagrène's concert was cancelled because of ill health. Fortunately Angelo Debarre, another virtuoso Gypsy jazz guitarist, was free. And the musicians booked with Lagrène were the regular members of Debarre's quartet, so this was a polished show by a band with an easy improvisational rapport and sharp arrangements. What's more, they really swing, using the musical blueprint sketched out 70 years ago by the Quintette du Hot Club de France, led by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. Who could have guessed that this fleet, drummerless genre would prove to be so robust?

Dave Kelbie's rhythm guitar is the motor tonight, providing a strict, subtle pulse – whatever the tempo. Pete Kubryk-Townsend's bass parts are rarely flashy, but take advantage of the freedom provided by Kelbie's solid four, with occasional vocalised arco playing. Christian Garrick has settled on a violin style compatible with the idiom without pastiching the sweet tones of Grappelli.

Debarre is something else: a lean, dark, seated figure, cradling his guitar – motionless apart from his hands and fingers, which fly around the instrument at speed. Such virtuosity is not a decoration, but essential to Debarre's artistry, turning sentimental swingers such as I'll See You in My Dreams into bittersweet sonatas.

The set list draws heavily on the early jazz repertoire: Limehouse Blues, Ol' Man River and fine Reinhardt compositions such as Tears and Place de Brouckere. The three-part Porta Cabello demonstrates Debarre's assured playing at a slow tempo before charging into hot solos for guitar and violin. A version of the Sheik of Araby prompts a quirky, clipped outing from Debarre, while Impromptu provides the starting point for another dazzling display.
JOHN WALTERS

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