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Stanley Clarke/Bireli Lagrene/Jean-Luc Ponty: D-Stringz

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Not for nothing is the opener on this all-star acoustic summit titled “Stretch.” Composed by guitarist Biréli Lagrène, it’s an exceedingly limber foray into swing and blues, a performance that establishes this session’s high standards with audacious verve.

But the tune’s title could also be used to describe the album’s expansive reach, as the focus shifts from pieces composed (or inspired) by jazz giants (Reinhardt, Parker, Coltrane, Zawinul, et al.) to a series of original tunes (written, in turns, by Lagrène, Clarke and Ponty) that offer refreshing tangents and perspectives. Frequent collaborators in the Rites of Strings and elsewhere, bassist Clarke and violinist Ponty are accomplished hands when it comes to sustaining the mettle-testing level of interplay evident throughout D-Stringz. And Lagrène? Perhaps to no one’s astonishment, given his virtuosity and track record, he proves equally adept in this challenging setting-and eager, too, as his initial six-string salvo illustrates.

Subsequent standouts, while often more intimately arranged, offer similar rewards. Among them: a warmly evocative tribute to Coltrane’s brand of balladry, via the pop standard “Too Young to Go Steady”; “Bit of Burd,” Clarke’s engaging tribute to Parker and Bud Powell, which takes full advantage of the trio’s resonating contrasts and often-sunny disposition; and an insinuating take on Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” that underscores the group’s seemingly innate, soulful chemistry. And Clarke’s chamber-jazz-tinted “Paradigm Shift,” neatly accented by guest percussionist Steve Shehan, provides a haunting interlude.

Originally Published