Bireli Lagrène: Hips




Bireli Lagrene (guitar)


Inferno (Blue Note CDP 7 48016 2)

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Bireli Lagrene (guitar),

Clifford Carter (keyboards), Victor Bailey (bass), Bernard Purdie (drums), Café (percussion)


Composed by Bireli Lagrène


Recorded: New York, July 1987


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

While "Hips" is not one of Bireli Lagrène's best compositions, it did mark a stylistic change for the guitarist. By this time he had moved past his Gypsy and Django roots to play some distinctive electric fusion music, some of which can be found on this album. However, "Hips" and several other cuts (most notably "Action") could easily fit into the smoother trend that players such as Larry Carlton were developing at this time. This was not quite Smooth Jazz (pardon me while I gag), but was dangerously approaching that cliff from which many listeners would be forced to jump. This willingness to change his style showed that Lagrène was quite capable of playing music that might prove more palatable to the commercial market. This may have pleased his bank account and record label, but was generally a bad sign for those of us who really care about the music.

"Hips" is a bit '80s jazz-rock formulaic in the sense it has a strong backbeat that at times seems almost robotic and trends toward the funky. The staccato synthesizer sounds used by Carter were dated even back then. The synthesized horns in particular are a bit annoying. That is not his fault. He was just going with the flow of the times. Underneath the simplification and warning signs, "Hips" was still a rocking jazz-blues number played by fine musicians. It did make you want to swing your hips. Looking back, we can now see where this music led. My guess is that Lagrène was a little too close to the forest. Perhaps he was pushed there. In any case, Lagrène never really forced his fans off that cliff. Close call. In recent years he has revisited his Gypsy heritage and toured with Larry Coryell and Billy Cobham, playing good old fusion music and showing he is still one of the world's greatest guitar players.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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