I discovered Florin Niculescu and his music when ARTE TV broadcast a series of concerts and documentaries dedicated to the centennial of Django Reinhardt.  As Stephane Grappelli was Django’s partner, violin played an important role in Django’s music. As Django Florin Niculescu is of Romani origin. Born in Romania in 1967 he came to France in 1991, studied violin at the conservatory in Paris and had the chance to meet Grappelli in the last years of his life and career, as well as Django’s son Babik. The two recognized his huge talent, embraced and supported him, played music and recorded with him on some of his first disks. Today Florin is considered one of the best if not the best manouche and jazz violinist alive, Grappelli’s heir. Another slow piece Tears brings tango rhythms reminding another musical territory close to the manouche style.

 

source http://www.enjarecords.com/cd.php?nr=ENJ-9559

 

‘Django Tunes’ was recorded in two separate sessions in Bucharest (at the Electrecord studios) and Paris in December 2009 and January 2010. The lists of the pieces on the CD and samples can be found at http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=8228212. All the pieces are music played by Django, although not necessarily best known tunes, but two of them (Dream of You, Vipers Dream) were not composed by Django according to the review on Django Station. A selected team of musicians play with Florin on the CD, including bass player Darryl Hall, and Django’s grandson David Reinhardt on guitar, whom I saw last month in Paris at Sunset. On the disk cover each of them says a few words about the satisfaction of playing with the Romanian artist and of participating in this project dedicated to Django’s music.

 

(video source gipsystrings)

 

The CD is a good opportunity for Florin Niculescu to prove his virtuosity while being extremely respectful to Django’s music and spirit. The first two tunes start in a French spirit (Coquette, Brick Top with some classical inflections even). A few slower pieces (Lentement Mademoiselle, Souvenirs, Vamp) are meant to sound at some moments in a sentimental mood typical to Romanian violinists, well-dosed, but enough to remind where the musician comes from.

 

(video source Xiphosss)

 

The full scale of Florin Niculescu’s virtuosity is shown in the faster pieces like Sweet Chorus, Inpromptu (with excellent piano support) and Vipers Dream. I dare say that some of these and especially the last which is also the closing piece of the album sound grappellian. Florin’s violin dominates the whole disk, but some of the pieces allow the other musicians to prove their fine talents on piano and guitar (Nuit Saint-Germain-Des-Pres, Dream of You). A more sophisticated arrangement is tried in Double Scotch, but most of the other pieces have the direct and sincere approach and appeal of manouche. My preferred piece on the whole album is however Porto Cabello which towards the end brings together all the qualities and the virtuosity of the musicians in this respectful tribute to their master.