Wentworth Falls School of Arts, July 13
It is six years since Lulo Reinhardt was last here – much too long when it comes to one of the most gifted musicians alive. That he deserves inclusion in such rarefied company is not due to his phenomenal virtuosity on an acoustic guitar, but to another quality that only the finest artists in any medium possess.
Reinhardt, great-nephew of the fabled Django, loves telling entertaining little stories between songs. These might be anything from a thumbnail history of the Gypsies (his people) to a yarn about how and where a song was written, to tales about working with diverse musicians who have inspired him. The point is that when Reinhardt has finished talking and starts to play, the story seamlessly continues. With him it’s one and the same: the story-telling is just as vivid and narratively enthralling when his beloved guitar is in his hands. That is what sets him apart. He is never playing to impress, he is playing to touch the listener with aural pictures of people and experiences that have moved him. It seems so obvious, and yet most artists let all sorts of baggage get in the way.
Precisely because communication is the motivation, Reinhardt’s improvising is always compelling and intimately related to its host song. All aspects of his playing are in harmony with one another in maximising the impact of that communication: his sound, whether caressing, biting, or explosive; his enchanting lyricism; his integration of passion, drama and humour; his engaging compositions; his constant dialogue with his collaborators.
In this instance these were Australian players: guitarist Bart Stenhouse, bassist John Maddox and drummer Trent Bryson-Dean. All had their strengths and weakness, and all were lifted by working with someone for whom making music is as natural as breathing. In this company Reinhardt eschewed his Gypsy swing heritage, instead treating us to a travelogue of sorts, incorporating influences from Cuba, Argentina, India, North Africa, Romania, France, Britain, Brazil, Spain and more. I hope we don’t wait another six years.