There are any number of exceedingly laudable factors to this CD—not the least of which is the subject matter, the well-famed stellar gypsy guitarist who invented hot jazz, or the percussionless trio configuration (two guitars and contrabass)—but ace axeman Frank Vignola also located an astounding accordion side player who measures up every inch to the base group, shown in the very first cut, Rhythm Futur. I've had occasion to hear some very good squeezebox artists, including Nick Ariondo live at Genghis Cohen's in Hollywood, but Julien Labro is in a class of his own.
The Azica label has been issuing some real dynamite lately, and 100 Years of Django is no exception. No sooner does Labro tamp down his whirlwind passages than Vignola waltzes in, highly reminiscent of the exquisite fingerings of Gabor Szabo. He soon, however, also cuts up into speedy leads and variations, going on at length until Labro jumps back in and the pot boils over. It takes no more than this very first track to pin your ears to the wall, ready for the rest.
Thus, Troubland Bolero is actually a caffeinated samba, light and agile but deft and inventive. Thank the music gods that Vignola went with Vinny Raniolo on rhythm and Gary Mazzaroppi on bass because those guys keep the tempo lively, pitch perfect, and dancing from start to end, through all 10 cuts. But, lordy lord, that accordion. More than once, Labro provides rhythm right along with Raniolo and Mazzaroppi, but when he and Vignola trade off leads—oh my God! If the band doesn't expand to a quartet, then someone needs his head examined. This CD stands way out among a raft of extremely good kindred releases lately (Hot Club of San Francisco, John Jorgenson, etc.) precisely because the front duo is a juggernaut. Vignola is undeniably a master (catch the intro to Tears, though there are numerous instances everywhere) but shines all the more when paired up with that unbelievable 'cordine. And the fact that every song is composed by Reinhardt brings past and present together for a tribute that the man himself would've loved to have sat in on. The esteemed Django was every inch as important to the guitar as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and I can't think of a better way to keep him alive than through 100 Years.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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