Album Review: Barcelone by Les Violons de Bruxelles

Les Violons de Bruxelles is THE acoustic jazz ensemble right now (at least to us Django nerds). If you haven’t heard of them before, please stop reading this review and listen to them on Spotify or visit their record labels website, Le Jazz et All and buy all of their albums immediately. Their self titled release from 2012 has been the bible to most of us students of Tcha and company for the last few years. The dense harmonies, virtuosic soloing, beautiful and romantic guitar playing, and strong bass playing has really set the standard for how dense and thoughtful a ‘gypsy jazz album’ can be (if you can even call this ‘gypsy jazz’). It is one of those albums where the more you listen to it, the more things you find you like about it. Their new album, Barcelone, does all of this and more.

Les Violons de Bruxelles is more of a small orchestra then a jazz group. Their unique instrumentation consisting of two violins, viola, bass and guitar allows them to explore all sorts of arrangement and rhythmical possibilities in unique and fascinating ways. Their latest album, Barcelone, is an impressive collection of songs ranging from Django Reinhardt tunes, to Choro music, to Jazz standards, to some tunes I am not even sure where they came from. It is fascinating to listen to and see how each member performs different small roles to make a big sound. They deal with the age old problem of ‘what to do when you only have one guitar in the band and he goes to solo’ in an amazing and endlessly interesting way. Every song is different, sometimes it is a simple ‘chunk chunk’ on the violin, other times it ranges from long tones in three part harmony, to riffy back ups that create rhythmic interest and clarity. At times all the instruments are performing the percussion parts together to give the sound of a full ‘Choro’ rhythm section. At other times melodies are interwinding in contrapuntal ways to create lush, dense music that is enjoyable to the ear and to the mind. The other interesting thing to note about the ensemble is that it is not always easy to tell which violin is soloing. It is almost part of the fun to think , “Oh, that must be Tcha. Wait! It’s Renaud!! Or…maybe Alex??” haha it brings me much joy.

My Top 3 from the record are:

  1. Receita De Samba

  2. I’ve Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

  3. Black and White

Dig y’all!! Such an amazing group and record.

Zach Serleth