For musicians among the Roma people — also called Gypsies — the name Django Reinhardt occupies a lonely echelon. The 20th century guitarist combined American swing rhythms with techniques from his own European ethnicity to birth the genre Gypsy jazz and develop a nearly unsurpassed legacy.

Around 1970, 4-year-old Bireli Lagrene began his own ascent. The Roma guitar prodigy would learn his idol’s repertoire by age 8 and win a Strasbourg music festival at age 12.

When Lagrene came to America in the 1980s, his impact was immediately felt. He began to move in circles with titans like guitarists Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola and bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Though he has experimented with jazz fusion, Lagrene has always returned to his traditional Gypsy jazz roots and homages to Reinhardt. However, after nearly 40 albums, his lightning-quick ideas and bountiful phrasing make him a master in his own right.

The Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed will salute this unique musical voice on Monday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m. The program at Mobile’s Gulf City Lodge (601 State St.) will feature the musical interpretations of Caravan, a riveting Gypsy jazz ensemble from Pensacola.

Entrance is $12, $10 for students and military and $8 for MOJO members. A light jambalaya dinner is included and a cash bar provided.

For more information call 251-459-2298, email mobilejazz@bellsouth.net or go to mojojazz.org.


Strains of African voices on the ESho
In 1984, traveler Ray Barnett gave a Ugandan child a ride to refuge and the kid’s simple reward for the deed — a song sung for the kindness — birthed an institution. Barnett assembled a vocal group from various African nations composed of poverty-wracked children who had lost one or both parents to war or disease.

In the decades since, the African Children’s Choir has found international acclaim in performing for nonprofit humanitarian relief assisting thousands of African children annually. The choir has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and alongside Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Keith Urban and Mariah Carey, and now you can catch them in the Mobile area.

The African Children’s Choir will appear at Fairhope United Methodist Church (155 S. Section St.) on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. The event is co-hosted by Fairhope UMC and Page and Palette Bookstore.

There are no tickets being sold for the event, but donations are welcome.
For more information go to africanchildrenschoir.com or call 251-928-5295.


GulfQuest Museum hosts book signing
The lobby of the Waterman Building in downtown Mobile is a treasure. Not only does it contain resplendent Conrad Albrizio mosaics, but a plaque dedicated to those lost at sea in service of its namesake corporation spurred the creation of a book.

Author John L. Marty penned “Hostages to the Sea: Waterman Steamships at War, 1941-1945” after the memorial inspired him. The writer will be at the GulfQuest Maritime Museum (155 S. Water St.) to sign copies of his new work on Saturday, Feb. 20, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During World War II, 40 officers and 147 men died when 20 Waterman vessels were lost at sea during the global conflict. Marty created a narrative for each of these in addition to 13 other Waterman ships sunk or damaged during the war.

Copies of the University of South Alabama Publications release are currently available in the GulfQuest museum store.
For more information go to gulfquest.org.


Planetary homicide in Science Café
While we often think of our planet as a perfect paradise, the scary fact is it wages constant warfare on every living creature calling it home. It’s so thorough in its job that the planet has seen five major extinctions, and there might be a sixth just over the horizon.

That’s the subject of the Feb. 23 Science Café being held at 6 p.m. at OK Bicycle Shop (661 Dauphin St.). Doug Haywick, USA associate professor of geology and adjunct professor of marine sciences, will tell everyone in attendance about “Five Ways the Earth is Trying to Kill You!” in sessions that blend informality with a love of knowledge.

If you like geological and meteorological havoc — and what resident of a hurricane zone can’t relate? — then this is made for you. The free event is sponsored by the USA Archaeology Museum.

For more information call 251-460-6106, email bfilion@southalabama.edu or go to southalabama.edu/org/archaeology/museum/.