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Review: Romane, Impair & Valse and Swing for Ninine

Impair & Valse
[Frémeaux & Associés (1999)]

Swing for Ninine
[Frémeaux & Associés (1992)]

Patrick “Romane” Leguidcoq is a Belgian-born master of the “Gypsy jazz” guitar (hence the nickname of this non-Romany player) who is credited with bringing the style forward rather than playing as a nostalgic exercise. He’s even gone as far as to establish a music school in France. If you listen to Django Reinhardt’s recordings with the Hot Club and then listen to Impair & Valse, you will immediately the blues in Reinhardt’s playing, whereas Lequidcoq would seem to be more influenced by flamenco. The tunes on Swing for Ninine are also marked by a degree of metronomic precision that distinguishes them from the original music of the 1930s.

Romane plays with blistering speed, but certainly not with an absence of spirit. “La Gitane” from Impair & Valse is a particularly breathtaking example of his velocity and passion. The “gitane” of the title refers to the Spanish Romany, or gitanos, who invented flamenco, and have a history different from that of Reinhardt’s Sinti ancestors. The brief “Pour Trois Pas” on Swing for Ninine combines drive and speed to gorgeous effect.

While Swing for Ninine consists largely of Romane’s own compositions (and those by his band members), Impair & Valse is a tour of tunes from famous Gypsy guitarists of the generation before Romane, including Tchan Tchou Vidal, Pierre Ferret, and of course Reinhardt. On the first 11 tracks of the CD, you hear Romane double-tracking the rhythm and melody parts accompanied by Alice Bassié on the stand-up bass. On tracks 12 through 20 you run through the same tunes again without the lead guitar. The scores for all 11 waltzes are included on the CD and can be printed out so that the guitarists among the listeners can add the leads themselves. The rest of the audience is left to enjoy receiving an education on the structure and progression of these tunes by hearing them stripped down to their essentials.

Swing for Ninine features Marcel Cazes (clarinent), Laurent Bajata and Claude Garcia (rhythm guitar), Michel Gaudry (bass), and Jean-Michel Ekherian (drums). This album is not exclusively a showcase for Romane’s guitar. Cazes is prominent throughout and delivers solos that show off his masterful control of breath. When Romane and Cazes match each other note for note (e.g. “Charleston”) it is a beautiful multidimensional sound. While Impair & Valse is full of pyrotechnic guitar, Swing for Ninine will have you pushing aside the furniture to do a little Lindy.

—Bill Chaisson (Trumansburg, NY)

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