Biréli Lagrène (solo) at Kings Place

music guitar

A Night of Solo Guitar Mastery

Biréli Lagrène: A Musical Prodigy

Bireli Lagrene

Biréli Lagrène, a renowned guitarist, performed solo at Kings Place Hall One on 22 July 2023. His performance was part of the International Guitar Foundation’s 2023 Guitar Summit. Lagrène entertained a guitarist-heavy audience with his custom-built Fibonacci guitar and an amp, but without any pedals.

The Alsace-born musician released a solo guitar album “Solo Suites” (PeeWee!) just over a year ago, which has been well received in France. Interestingly, neither Lagrène nor anyone else at the concert mentioned the album.

Solo Suites: Debunking a Myth

Solo Suites Album Cover

While the release of “Solo Suites” was hailed as Lagrène’s first album of solo guitar in his mid-fifties, a quick fact-check reveals this isn’t entirely accurate. Another album titled “To Bi Or Not To Bi” (Dreyfus Jazz, 2006) features extracts of solo playing from different concerts. The older album showcases Lagrène’s rapid thinking and nimble fingers when performing in front of an audience, while “Solo Suites” is more tune-based, featuring a mesmerizing rendition of “Nature Boy.”

A Glimpse into Lagrène’s Musical Essence

Francis Marmande, a French jazz writer, penned the elegant and eloquent sleeve note for “Solo Suites.” According to Marmande, Lagrène’s musical essence stemmed from communal and extended family music settings. This background shaped Lagrène’s approach to music, leading him to play with the greatest musicians and lesser-known talents with equal passion and dedication.

Lagrène’s career has taken him in various directions. He has performed with legends like Jaco Pastorius, participated in a brief Cream reincarnation, and played at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London with musicians like Jean-Luc Ponty and Kyle Eastwood. He also has a two-guitar duo with Martin Taylor.

An Astonishing Display at Kings Place

Bireli Lagrene Performing

During the Kings Place performance, the audience was treated to an extraordinary display of Lagrène’s talents. His variety of tone and touch, extended techniques, and ability to create melodies out of anything captivated attendees. Marmande’s claim about Lagrène’s unwavering love for basses rang true when he demonstrated his slap bass technique.

While his performance was mesmerizing, some audience members longed to get lost in just one tune rather than being constantly on the move. Regardless, Lagrène showcased why he is considered one of the great guitarists, leaving attendees wondering if he’ll ever shake off the “gipsy” and “prodigy” tags and be recognized simply as a remarkable guitarist with an instantly identifiable touch.

Upcoming Events and Links

The IGF’s next jazz event is scheduled for October, featuring a duo performance by Elina Duni and Rob Luft on 22 October.

For those interested in exploring more of Lagrène’s music, check out his “Routes to Django” album and the unforgettable live performance from May 1980 when he was just 14 years old.

About Me

I’m Dr. Miles Beaumont from the charming town of York in the UK. I’ve spent over three decades as a medical doctor, helping people and contributing to important research. I graduated from Oxford University, and ever since, I’ve devoted myself to improving the health and lives of others.

When I’m not practicing medicine, you’ll find me soaking up the world of jazz music. It’s been a passion of mine since I turned 30, and I’ve been an active part of York’s jazz scene ever since. Whether it’s going to local gigs, listening to records at home, or just enjoying the rhythmic and improvisational magic of jazz, it’s a big part of who I am.