John Jorgenson,
Istiqbal Gathering,
One Stolen Night
(J2, 2010)

When John Jorgenson was a member of the Desert Rose Band, he was the perfect country-rock guitarist. When he led the Hellecasters, he was the perfect hard-rock guitarist. So when he turned to gypsy jazz, it was only fitting he become Django Rinehardt for the 21st century.

On these two albums, released the same day, Jorgenson shows the range and variety that gypsy jazz offers. One Stolen Night offers us his standard road band, the John Jorgenson Quintet, in a program of small-group jazz that sounds like the old Django Reinhardt-Stephan Grapelli records from the 1930s. Jorgenson's guitar and Jason Anick's violin bounce off of each other, weaving lines against a steady four-four pulse. Each artist solos and each comments on the other's playing. Jorgenson also offers bouzouki leads and adds clarinet and soprano sax to create a music that reflects Django but is never nostalgic, even though when you listen to the CD, you feel as if you're sitting in a Paris club in the '30s listening to a group of musicians so involved in their own music that they barely notice an audience is there. This is a band playing music it loves just for the joy of playing.

Istiqbal Gathering gives us Jorgenson in a classical setting, playing a concerto he wrote in gypsy jazz style. It was commissioned by Paul Gambrill, conductor of Orchestra Nashville, which backs Jorgenson in this live recording. The CD includes on two cuts the Turtle Island Quartet. It's a beautiful work, placing Jorgenson's gypsy style in a totally different context. The orchestra opens the sound, echoing, supporting and commenting on Jorgenson's leads.

The concerto itself is in three movements. The first, "Roma Arise," swells and recedes like breakers washing over the shoreline, while "Seaside Waltz" floats lightly. The third movement, "Tarantella & Reverie" is dreamlike, based on growing and changing dynamics. The concerto is a fine piece of work. Two pieces featuring the Turtle Island Quarter follow, placing Jorgenson's guitar against a string quartet. The strings swirl and dance around the guitar without ever burying it. Instead, they enhance it.

These are fine CDs, featuring wonderful writing and playing. They give us a couple of hours of daring and challenging music that will spend a lot of time in your player.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

6 February 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

Click on a cover image to make a selection.

what's new