Date and Venue 3 May 2008, 8pm | Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre

Musicians Francois Petit - lead guitar, Pierrot Mergerin - rhythm guitar, and Luc Ambry - double bass

Reviewer John Jane


It was with a strange sense of deja-vu that I took my seat in Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre. I found myself occupying the same seat as I had done 24 hours earlier for the Laudate Singers concert.

But if the seating location was the same, the musical genres could not have been more different. Francois Petit, Pierrot Mergerin, and Luc Ambry from Amiens in the North of France who make up jazz trio, Samarabalouf brought their unique brand of jazz manouche and cavalier attitude to the North Shore last Saturday for the last gig on their Canada-US tour.

Their influences are distinctly Django Reinhardt, who was the undisputed master of gypsy jazz, but Samarabalouf don’t attempt cover versions of his tunes, opting instead to perform their own instrumental compositions written by Francois Petit.

Not to be categorized strictly to a particular style, the trio offers a potent mix of Boogie-Woogie Blues, Flamenco Rock, klezmer and Manouche jazz, integrating the tango and rumba with a lot of joie de vivre.

Right from the beginning, the group got the crowd on their side with a couple of unannounced high-energy, toe-tapping, hand-clapping Flamenco styled tunes, that everyone felt compelled to participate in. After a short pause while Petit needed to replace a broken guitar string, the trio blazed straight into La vache folle, a song about a crazy cow who wanted to dance.

Not all their songs are delivered flat-out. When the band performed “Erotic night”, a moody, slower-paced song, it was received with exuberant appreciation by a piqued audience.

None of the three appear to speak English well. Song introductions and verbal exchanges with the audience were left entirely to the group’s leader, Francois Petit, who found it easier to alternate between French and English.

Samarabalouf is a group of virtuoso musicians that refuse to take themselves seriously – they certainly take their music seriously.

© 2008 John Jane