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Romane/Stochelo Rosenberg

Best of 2001

By Srajan Ebaen
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Romane/Stochelo Rosenberg "Élégance"

Compact Disc Compact Disc: Iris Musique 3001836 / Harmonia Mundi HM87 Compact Disc


Genre: Sinti Jazz

  For those with a finger on the pulse of modern-day Django Reinhardt inspired guitar Jazz, this import album is one of last year’s most memorable highlights. Referred to as Jazz Gitan, Gipsy Swing or Jazz Manouche, the style’s originators were Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli who operated out of the original Hot Club in Paris during the 40s and 50s and revolutionized Jazz by expanding the dominant US-based vernacular with its first authentic European counterpoint.

Patrick ‘Romane’ Leguidoq, like Angelo Debarre, is considered one of Django’s most persuasive heirs. By following his own finely honed instincts, he avoids common carbon-copy discipleship. Instead, over the course of five solid records, he’s penned numerous original tunes some of which, like “Dans le regard de Laura” or “Swing for Ninine”, have already become much-copied classics in their own right.

On Élégance, Romane is joined by another contemporary master of the genre, Dutch Gipsy Stochelo Rosenberg, lead guitarist of the celebrated Trio Rosenberg but no relations to wunderkind Jimmy Rosenberg whom many regard as the quintessential Django reincarnation. Stochelo came to prominence during his first public performance at the annual Django Reinhardt festival in Samous sur Seine. He created quite a stir among cognoscenti and, practically overnight, became validated for his self-taught years of solitary practice. His solo record Seresta [Hot Club Records of Norway, Vintage Guitars Series Volume 8, HCRCD 59] is considered a landmark effort.

Romane and Stochelo struck up a friendship at the Patrimonio Festival in Corsica, an essential gathering for the cream of Gipsy musicians, and Élégance is the inspired outcome of their first joint outing, accompanied only by Gilles Naturel on upright bass and featuring nine original numbers as well as renditions of “After you’ve gone” (Craemer/Layton) and “How high the moon” (M. Lewis/N. Hamilton).

On occasion, the encounter of celebrated master musicians in a temporary formation possesses all the earmarkings for greatness but falters because, while Gods in their own domains, not all crackerjack players gel equally well in team efforts or know how to adapt to sharing the limelight. On Élégance, one deals with the exact opposite, a kind of mutual admiration society where the musicians play off each other with wonderful élan, glad respect and infectious enjoyment. They even share compositional credits such that each assumes the lead guitar chair for his own tunes but also trades places mid-way.

And what tunes they are: Juxtaposed against the traditional shrum-shrum accompaniment of the rhythm guitar and bouncy bass lines of Gilles’ agile yet muscular bass, the boisterous arpeggios, free-form embellishments reminiscent of inimitable but somewhat excessive signatures of great painters, the nuanced and poetic bloom of still notes, the sharply metallic mien of forceful attacks, Stochelo’s positively huge vibrato and monstrously fluid phrasing, Romane’s penchant for letting his solos breathe like a vocalist’s – and, most of all, the effervescent joy, the sheer elegance – there’s the reason for the title – and the infectious swing… from slo-mo Gipsy waltz to hard-driving bop, Élégance is chockfull of cherries and testament that while Django has cast a formidable shadow, guitarist like Romane and Rosenberg are their own very bright lights. This is foot-stompin’, toe-tapping, ear-to-ear smiles fare with that peculiar but easy to place sophistication that the French in particular seem genetically hardwired to. My surefire nomination for best ensemble work album of 2001, and, together with Vicente Amigo’s Ciudad de las Ideas, top year-end must-own recommendation for lovers of virtuoso guitar music.








































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