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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Bay Area band Barrio Manouche is ready to delight fans again

The extent to which the pandemic has changed the musical landscape is becoming increasingly evident with the gradual return of personal performances. The artists, driven by the need for work, family support and more accessible excavation, quietly leave. There have been many significant departures and arrivals in the Bay Area over the past 20 months.

It was only during a conversation with guitarist / vocalist Javi Jimenez about Barrio Manush’s upcoming concerts that it became apparent that he had abandoned San Francisco in favor of Montpellier, a culturally rich city in southwestern France. Prior to COVID-19, the Bay Area combo, founded by Jimenez in 2014, gained popularity by combining two distinct but related gypsy musical traditions: gypsy jazz and flamenco.

“Everything changed with the pandemic,” said Madrid-born Jimenez, who returned to California for Barrio Manush’s concerts on October 28 at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and November 5 at Freight & Salvage.

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“We just got a video from the 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival and we had so much energy. I was in tears. We played Club Deluxe twice a month and the musicians came with us. Our music tried to tell this story of what was happening in the Bay Area, with artists from all over the world. “

Despite the move, Jimenez is ready to start a new chapter with Barrio Manush (“manush” is the French word for Sinti Roma, also known as gypsies). Aside from a small gig at New Parish in the summer when the Delta option was picking up steam, the upcoming gigs mark the band’s return to the music scene, which is still in recovery mode.

It’s easy to see why the pre-pandemic environment in which the group grew up is now very similar to the golden age. Barrio Manush became known for his rowdy performances, which often included flamenco and samba dancers joining them on stage. Upcoming performances will feature renowned Madrid-trained French flamenco dancer Fanny Ara, who also plays palm trees (percussive handshake style), castanets and vocals.

Barrio Manouche began gaining attention outside the region with his 2018 debut album Aires de Cambio, which was distributed by the pioneering global music label Six Degrees Records in San Francisco. Jimenez’s complex instrumental compositions, which often gracefully transitioned from two-guitar passages in the Hot Club style to percussional crescendos of flamenco rumba, defined the band’s impromptu sound.

With the second album, Despierta, Jimenez expanded the band’s emotional palette, adding his lyrics and vocals to the repertoire. Several plays also feature musical sets for the poems of his brother, drummer Barrio Mancus Luis Jimenez and the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

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The main line-up of the group is holding on tightly: Frenchman Cyril Guiraud plays saxophone and caxixi, violinist and vocalist from Quebec Magali Sanskartier, Colombian percussionist / vocalist Ivan Rondon and founding bassist Chris Bastian, who recently returned to the band. The newest member is Ross Howe, a Hot Club guitarist.

In a sense, Barrio Manush continues where the band left off when the celebrations for the release of the “Despierta” album were interrupted. But the group is also keen to continue documenting their choppy sound.

“I’ve seen an evolution between the first and second records, but I think we need three albums for that to really happen,” said Cyril Guiraud, whose label doubleOone released the second album. “Our new guitarist Ross Howe is a killer gypsy jazz guitarist. He and Xavi play together all the time, and all the subtleties of harmony come to life. “

From the outset, Jimenez saw the band as a reflection of the international music community he met in the Bay Area. He wants to expand Barrio Manouche’s presence in Europe, but with the opening of France, he is also thinking about finding musical companions near his new home.

“When I arrived last year, everything was closed and people were locked in their houses, a real isolation,” he said. “Now it is gaining momentum. There are many musicians here and I played with some Argentines and tried to find musicians who could play my music here. “

While this would mean traveling a large number of transatlantic miles, he is also determined to continue Barrio Manush’s movement in the Bay Area where the group was born in a “magical time,” Jimenez said. “The whole music community was creating something very powerful, but still quite fragile.”

Contact Andrew Gilbert at [email protected]


When where: 19:00 October 28 at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz; US $ 31.50; 831-427-2227, www.kuumbwajazz.org; 20:00 Nov 5, Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, $ 22, 510-644-2020, www.thefreight.org

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