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Bireli Lagrene

When Bireli Lagrene's Routes to Django: Live was issued in 1980, the 13-year-old jazz guitarist was immediately praised by critics as a protégé of Django Reinhardt. He had already won a prize in a festival at Strasbourg in 1978, and his appearance at a Gypsy festival was broadcast on television. For the next five years, Lagrene would mime Reinhardt's style, even recording versions of the master's "Nuages" and "Djangology" on Swing '81. Over time, however, his role as a protégé began to seem limited. "When I was a kid," Lagrene later recalled, "I used to put on the record again and again, until I succeeded in redoing him [Reinhardt]. Afterwards, I understood that respecting the great guitarist was worth much more than imitating him...."

Lagrene was born a Sinti Gypsy on September 4, 1966, in Alsace. His father had been a prominent guitarist during the 1930s, and Lagrene started playing guitar at four or five. "My father was a big Django fan and a Stéphane Grappelli fan and he just loved this Hot Club de France music," Lagrene told Peter Anick in Fiddler Magazine. "He also grew up with it, so since he was a guitar player, he wanted us -- me and my brother -- to become guitar players and to play Django Reinhardt's music." By seven, Lagrene was playing jazz, eventually focusing on Reinhardt's distinct style. "When I was about nine years old," Lagrene later told Guitar Player, "I didn't even realize that I could play the guitar or that I was a musician. I just played it as easily as eating food. Later, I got together with a guitar teacher to learn about scales and picking, but he told me I already knew everything, and he walked away after about half an hour." In his late teens, Lagrene's musical taste began to evolve as he absorbed players like Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix; he also began playing electric guitar. "The concept of the 'heir apparent' to Django playing distorted rock guitar solos on his Yamaha solid-bodied instrument must have disillusioned many diehards," wrote Andy Mackenzie, "but Lagrene has lost none of his original ability."

Lagrene has been an active live performer since the 1970s. In 1984 as his career was just beginning, he appeared at the Django Reinhardt Tribute at Fat Tuesdays in New York City. "Mr. Lagrene showed that he is more than a remarkable clone, as he added his own colorations to the Reinhardt manner, particularly in his original improvisations," wrote John S. Wilson in The New York Times. In 1997, Lagrene appeared at the New York Blue Note with Larry Coryell and Billy Cobham. Lagrene has also continued to record a steady stream of albums. In 2002, Dreyfus issued Gypsy Project, a recording that found him returning to Reinhardt and the classic jazz songbook. "This album should not be seen as an acceptable substitute for the original Reinhardt recordings," noted Rick Anderson in Notes, "but should be considered an essential complement to them by any library supporting the study of jazz guitar." Dreyfus issued Gipsy Routes in the late spring of 2008. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Beautiful playing by this guy. Yet another of Django's children rises to the task.
Got me again, Pandora. Fabulous discovery (for me) and will eagerly seek more. Wow! Aloha
Check out how much $$$$ his cd goes for on Amazon......
Smile, live bravissimo! You surely made me smile with this one Bireli!
Glory be 2 GOD our MAKER 4 blessing this world with such incredble talented musicians as this one! I had heard of Bireli b4 but never listened 2 his music. 2day thanx 2 a very interesting conversation about great one of a kind musicians here I am enjoying the ride!
Always a treat to hear him
paultwatson
Smok'N ha HA!
Romantic
Lagrene is a smoky S.O.B. on Cest Si Bon live. He perhaps single-hande d l y is the reason every noodler should learn their acoustic ABC's before wading into acoustic waters. (Cee Rex)
marqsonkey
Isn't music the breath of life, I thank our heavenly Father for this love of music.
An absolute fantastic, outstanding jazz guitarist. D'Jango would be proud of him being able to play like him. Don Pacheco
One of his songs Minor Swing is from the movie Chocolat. So the other poster got it right. I love gypsy jazz music!
amycmac
bb kradwell has a big moustache
love it
Any body out there remember Joe Venuti? Very similar style. Good stuff.
His take on "Here's That Rainy Day" is truly inspiring... Johnny Carson would Love it!
man sometimes i wish i was born a gypsy and had my entire childhood to study gypsy guitar! :)
I saw him play at Gypsy project in Samoir 2002 and it was sensational I reccomend the album. His violinist Florin was also amazing and talented and the ensemble playing wAS Tight!
Wow... not only was he HOT! he was great at music... Not something that ofen happens if you look at it..
merspirit
wow!
arianna85
just love it when day is done is just the way to my heart
AbFab!
what can one say? Bireli is extraordinar y , a very gifted musician.
gandalfbaile y
Reminds me of the movie 'Chocolat'
This is truly inspirationa l ! I felt his playing all through my body! And I got a lot of body! wuuuhuuu!!!
It's almost difficult to comprehend that it's within the realm of human possibility to master any instrument to this extent! I am always in awe of our great guitarists and fully admire the work they do, but this man pushes all the limits! Thanks!!!!
WOW! AWESOME
fhurwitz
fabulous jazz guitar
Good Lord.
i'm in heaven man
mama_happy
what a beautiful gift--he is!
I remember hearing about this 13 year old kid who played Django stuff back in the eighties... I play guitar and recently picked up the mandolin, i was jealous then and even more so now!! What a great guitarist, i wish i had his ease and grace with the instrument. P-

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