Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
June 13, 2022 - 2:00pm EDT
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Performing their own compositions, Les Fils Canouche is Xavier Margogne (guitar), Samuel Thézé (clarinet) and Stéphane Cozic (double bass).  On Nagori, we also hear several stellar musicians featured on accordion, percussion and oud. The band initially formed in 2005 as a quartet of friends focused on having fun with Gypsy jazz, and their band’s name, Les Fils Canouche, roughly means “The Sons of a French Gypsy Poodle,” a nod to their musical style and dog logo. Now making it a career, their music is best described as jazz manouche décalé, or quirky Gypsy jazz that makes it unique, intriguing and captivating. This contemporary evolution of Django Reinhardt’s genre takes us on a journey emphasizing mournful bass clarinet, firm La Pompe guitar strums, flowing bass lines, and propulsive rhythmic percussion. Their January 2020 EP, Transhumance, was well received, but the pandemic caused their momentum to go into slow motion.

Now, with Nagori (their sixth album), the band appears embarked on a journey of “perpetual renewal” with selections like “Cocodrilo y Pájaro” and “Maître d'Homme” (Master of Man).  In fact, every track seems designed to have an impact on people’s hearts, a sweet reflection of Hyang-Hi Kim’s painting used as the main cover of Nagori. What impressed me most about the arrangements is that the band’s inner fire, soul and conviction show through in each track’s dynamics. Rather than tap into a more frivolous, light-hearted side of Gypsy jazz, Les Fils Canouche performs from the inside out with a powerful vitality in their cohesive sound, organized with good taste and pacing without being free-wheeling.  

Les Fils Canouche’s exceptional guests include accordionists Maryll Abbas and Maxime Perrin, percussionists Minimo Garay and Javier Estrella, and oud-players Mohamed Abozerky and Hussam Aliwat. These added instruments provide a great deal of lively evocative spirit and embellishment to tracks such as “Songe et Cauchemar,” “Doce Lamentação” and “Alfiraq.” The former seems meant to paint the sonic canvas with images of “dreams and nightmares.”

With the release of Nagori, Les Fils Canouche intends to continue touring throughout Europe where they receive a hearty welcome and accolades for their Gypsy jazz sound that also incorporates elements of the Balkans, South American, Asian and Klezmer traditions. Consummate and creative musicians, they are providing new sonic aesthetics that are enthralling and fresh. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)