Bireli Lagrene: Inferno
Bireli Lagrene (guitar)
Inferno (Blue Note CDP 7 48016 2)
Bireli Lagrene (guitar),
Bill Evans (tenor sax), Clifford Carter (keyboards), Victor Bailey (bass), Pierre Moerlen (drums), Café (percussion).
Composed by Bireli Lagrene.
Recorded: New York, July 1987
Rating: 84/100 (learn more)
Much has been expected of Bireli Lagrene. He was playing Django Reinhardt's repertoire at age 8. By the time he was 12, he was touring Europe and being hailed as the next Django. He decided to take that Gypsy style in a jazz and jazz fusion direction. Over the years, he has played with many great musicians. On Inferno, he finds himself with stars of the second wave of fusion that hit the beaches in the 1980s.
"Inferno," recorded when Bireli was 21, is a Gypsy-boogie fusion number, if I may be so descriptive. Victor Bailey's repeating bassline is so perfect it almost sounds looped. There is just enough variation in it to prove otherwise. Over Bailey's never-ending groove and occasional lush chords from Carter, Lagrene's solo comes at you in bursts, full of chorused blues and rapid jagged scalar runs. Moerlen and Café throw in the kitchen sink for contrast, though nothing too heavy. The liner notes indicate that Bill Evans (sax) donates some dulcet tones, but I cannot hear him.
"Inferno" isn't quite an inferno, and the theme could have been developed a bit more. But for what it is – a showcase for some '80s fusion chops – it stands up well 20 years later. On the whole, Lagrene has lived up to expectations. In this fickle world, that is not such an easy thing.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky