Search - Django / Grappelli, Stephane Reinhardt, Michel Portal, Maurice Ravel :: Doubles Jeux

Doubles Jeux
Django / Grappelli, Stephane Reinhardt, Michel Portal, Maurice Ravel
Doubles Jeux
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Soundtracks, Classical


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Laurent Korcia's variety of influence
F. A. Harrington | Boston MA | 12/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"French violinist Laurent Korcia seems to be setting out on a career which will not consist of putting out yet another roundup of the usual repertoire, but with interestingly curated programs which allow him to pursue his musical instincts.

The title Doubles Jeux can be taken many ways. All the pieces here are duets (although sometimes with accompaniment), and most feature elements of both classical and popular idioms. It presents a set of challenges that Korcia and his well chosen group of collaborators meet with aplomb along with great musicianship and intelligence.

Much is made about the influence of jazz on Paris in the 1920's, but it was really more the idea of jazz, the jaunty rhythms and the libertine attitudes that excited them, along with a love of American song, which is of course a prime element of jazz. The classical music it influenced was often syncopated and lively, but stuck closer to traditional harmony and forms, with the odd blue mote thrown in. The "Blues" from Ravel's violin sonata is more authentic than most and is played here with a lot of jazz feeling (which may be easier when playing it on its own). The Hot Club of France, led by guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli, was France's top jazz group of the time First Recordings (Django Reinhardt)and they provide the starting off point for Korica's explorations. If his combo doesn't swing as hard, they swing well and offer a heart-felt tribute. Wieniawski's Duo Caprice is one of his more thoughtful and brooding pieces, though not without moments of his trademark virtuosic flourish. Michel Portal is an interesting fellow who is a master of two instruments (more doubles) is featured on bandoneon in a waltz of his own creation, and a tango of Korcia's (nothing against Astor Piazzolla but I'm glad to see a tango by somebody else for a change) to add a little dance diversion. Also featured is the main love song from Michel Legrand's jazzy operetta film score to the Umbrellas of CherbourgThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg, something almost impossible to mess up.

Gideon Klein and his Duo for Violin and Cello deserve to be more well known. The composer's life was cut short by the Nazi's before he could develop into a mature voice. By far the most somber piece on the album, Korcia describes it as a balance (double?) of darkness and light. Perhaps Jim is right by finding the transition into a Grappelli/Reinhardt tune jarring, but it's a bouncy song called Tears (double again) and as a Gypsy, Django was persecuted too.

The meatiest piece here is Debussy's Violin Sonata, a late work that presents many of the harmonic and rhythmic ideas Debussy developed throughout his career. Korcia and Wendeberg give a bright, detailed performance. (Remember also that Debussy was a prime influence on jazz harmony in the later half of the 20th century.Sorcerer) Korcia made his name with a fine and varied Bartók recording Bartók: Works for Violinand visits his series of violin duos, playing 4 of 44 with the balance of folk rhythm and classical refinement Bartók demands.

The program comes to a close with two tracks featuring French pop singer Jean-Louis Aubert. While some pop singers (and you know who they are) sing bombastically and add strings and choirs and what-not in hope of being considered "classical", Aubert sings Massenet's Élégie directly, with his modest voice latching onto the emotional and expressive core of the song sincerely and beautifully, but without exaggeration.

The inherent danger in collections such as this is that the "light" pieces compromise the "serious" ones (or vise versa) or that the musicians can't do justice to both. The problem is that usually the "serious" music is watered down to its most easily digestible elements or the popular is dressed in a tuxedo or wrapped in velvet to give it the appearance of propriety it does not possess or even aspire to. Korcia and his colleagues play the music on this disc without compromising any of its composers' intentions, demonstrating the variety of influence that musicians in all genres receive.
Bartok, blues, and the umbrellas of Cherbourg?
Jim Shine | Dublin, Ireland | 11/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Not everything quite fits", says Laurent Korcia in his booklet note. This is true in one way, in as much as Bela Bartok and Django Reinhardt are 2 names you wouldn't necessarily expect to see together (or at least not very far apart). But Korcia writes of relishing this fact, and I'm with him there. Actually on paper the list of composers isn't so strange - after all, Bartok did have his Contrasts, and the Debussy and Ravel pieces always come up when "jazz classical" is mentioned. So the question really becomes, does the disc hold together as a single entity? To which the answer is, very much so.
We start with the Reinhardt-Grappelli composition "Minor swing", and while I did recognise the tune I admit my knowledge of this area of music is woeful; suffice to say I was impressed. It's followed by a charming piece by Michel Portal, which brought to my mind The Godfather reimagined as a comedy. Then we come to the "real classical", first with the blues movement from Ravel's violin sonata. Korcia mischievously introduces some twangs at the start, and although he doesn't seem to mess around too much afterward, this is a much jazzier performance than the piece usually gets - makes others sound like a piece of French classical music, I suppose! Michael Wendeberg's contribution is wonderful, by the way. The Ravel segues very neatly into the Debussy sonata. For some reason I'd never heard this before in its entirety, and I was bowled over. I can't say whether Korcia is better, worse, or different than anyone else. I'm just embarrassed that this music had passed me by. I was also very impressed with the Wieniawski piece, for 2 violins, which begins with a baroque feel to it but becomes increasingly impassioned. And so the mix continues, and all holding together remarkably well, although I felt the gear change from Gideon Klein to more Reinhardt-Grappelli didn't quite work. The Michel Legrand piece epitomises the ethos of the album - the sense of enjoyment and the musical rapport between the collaborators are probably what will linger longest in the memory after the music is finished. The disc closes with 2 songs that were recorded by Caruso, but this time the singer is Jean-Louis Aubert. I hadn't heard of him, and to say he doesn't sing like Caruso is to state the blindingly obvious, but the songs really work. It supports the nagging suspicion I have that almost anything will sound good (or at least better than it has a right to be) if sung in French by a pop singer.
Overall, then, a fascinating and always entertaining hour of musicianship. It was a pleasure to be allowed to listen in."
Sublime sounds
Dean R. Brierly | Studio City, CA | 12/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I suddenly have a new favorite violinist, and his name is Laurent Korcia. I state this having just discovered Doubles Jeux, his most recent recording. Not only does this guy have one of the most personal sounds of any violinist I can recall, he's able to cross musical boundaries in completely organic fashion. But unlike lesser talents for whom genre-hopping is nothing more than an excuse for narcissistic posturing, Korcia's eclectic approach has nothing self-conscious about it. On Doubles Jeux, Korcia has identified the points of connection between seemingly disparate composers like Stephane Grappelli, Maurice Ravel and Béla Bartók, and fashioned a program in which each track flows seamlessly into the next. As Korcia and his cast of supporting musicians work their magic, one loses track of such distinctions as classical, jazz, blues and tango, and is aware only of the blinding beauty of the music. Korcia's technical virtuosity is such that he seems to inhabit, rather than play, these compositions, so closely in touch is he with their emotional core. It just seems to flow naturally from his head and heart at the same time. Much like Sinatra, Korcia has the ability to make me feel as if I'm hearing familiar pieces for the first time. Korcia explores his jazz chops on the Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli tunes "Minor Swing" and "Tears," vamping the melodies with sinuous, seductive ease while engaging in spirited interplay with guest violinist Florin Niculescu. Korcia segues from jazz to tango with Michel Portal's "Minor Waltz," an earthy, sensuous piece on which the composer lends wonderfully symbiotic accompaniment on his bandoneon. Korcia's own "Minor Tango" is an equally affecting excursion into this musical form. On the classical front, Ravel's "Blues" is played with a freer rhythmic pulse and emotional daring than I've heard before. There's something in Korcia's tone and articulation that makes the music "breathe" in a totally new fashion. Likewise his interpretation of Bartok's "Duos for Two Violins." Accompanied by Nemanja Radulovic, Korcia demonstrates his ability to evoke the music's intellectual rigor as well as its emotional lyricism. Korcia also reveals new shadings of famous compositions by Claude Debussy, Gideon Klein and Michel Legrand. On the CD's final two tracks, Korcia is joined by French singer/songwriter Jean-Louis Aubert on emotionally wrenching chansons by Jules Massenet and Luigi Denza. Each is given a powerful reading as Korcia and Aubert conspire to create a mood of dark, dreamlike intimacy."