Les Yeux Noirs Tchorba

Les Yeux Noirs (the Black Eyes), are a French band, but their music comes from all over, combining gypsy and Klezmer, all with a touch of jazz. Founded by violinists Eric and Olivier Slabiak, the group try to encompass some of the relationships between the Gypsies and the Jews — musical cultures with a lot in common, and social cultures with a shared history of both celebration and oppression. This is an album with a head-spinning variety of moods and sounds. Each track is different from the next, and often the juxtaposition of a sweet and sentimental ballad like "Reve” will move straight into a blazing instrumental track and then back to a ponderous song like "Yankele,” a Yiddish lullaby to a little boy who is growing too quickly in his parent’s eyes. What caught my interest the most were the instrumental tracks, which show off the serious chops these guys have — the opening "Tchorba” has this fabulous funky backdrop that brings in the gypsy strings, and my favourite, "Doïna Si Joc De Marian,” which shows just a little of the real speed and virtuosity inherent in Klezmer and Romani music. This is an album with a lot to offer to any listener, and although the changes from one song to the next might rock you back on your heels a bit, pull it back in and brace yourself for the next one — it’ll be worth it. (World Village)