Busch is a real performer, one of those singers who make seeing a live concert incomparable to an audio-only experience. She pours body and soul into the music, radiating energy like a contagion. Her live presence on stage is nothing short of electric; as essential as each member is to the whole musical sound, it’s impossible, in concert, to imagine Les Quartiers de Boeuf without her.

“When I’m on stage,” Busch says, “I try to bring three elements to the music: energy, ambiance, and flare. The energy is to balance out the rush of the guitars. The frenetic rhythm needs to be not only accepted by the other members of the group, but also responded to with our own energy — bodily, musically. Even though we are not all playing at the same time, and even though we are not keeping the quick pump of the guitarists, we need to be as lively even in the moments when we’re not playing.”

I’m not a musician myself, nor am I much of a music critic, but what this music seems to be — or, say, to the untrained listener — is essentially joyful, communicative, and alive. There’s a manic energy to the rhythm, and though the songs can express sadness or melancholy as well as joy, the result is that it makes you (in as much as this can describe the indescribable feeling of music) feel simply present, even ecstatically so. “After You’ve Gone,” one of Les Quartiers de Boeuf interpretations, begins with a spry skipping of guitar notes, quickly locks into the manouche rhythm, then erupts with sudden energy as Busch’s voice jumps into step, tracing octave hills and valleys across an upbeat landscape expressing here all the fever of jazz and very little, despite the lyrics, of the melancholy. “Autumn Leaves,” or “Les feuilles mortes,” on the other hand, begins sobered and subdued. The guitar rhythm is heavier here, slower, more deliberate. Busch starts out in mournful French and Dioudonnat’s saxophone weaves seamlessly into duo with the vocals before essaying out alone into dolorous solo. Halfway through the song, Busch switches to English and her voice gains in volume and resonance, rising to a full-voiced culmination of sorrow. Finally, the other instruments make their exit and Busch’s voice is left to end in a quiet tremor, like a leaf shaken lonely from its fellows.

In a very concrete way, Les Quartiers de Boeuf’s music is cosmopolitan, relying on a convergence of manouche, swing, and jazz styles around well-known French, German, and American songs that span many decades — and with a pulling, forming, structuring swing beat throughout to anchor all these elements in place. Dioudonnat says, “This music is comforting and free at the same time; it’s not fixed, it’s constantly evolving…Les Quartiers de Boeuf gives room to the ideas of each player and to the mix of musical styles as well, while keeping at the same time the directive lead of swing.” Le Dauphiné, a newspaper covering the Grenoble region, described a Les Quartiers de Boeuf concert in the local Art’Pêche festival early this year: “The ambiance, sometimes jazzy, sometimes swing-manouche or even reminiscent of French popular music, was full of a freshness that only youth can give, and with, among others, essential standards like ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing,’ ‘Summertime,’ and ‘The Girl of Ipanema!”’ The manouche genre, created and developed in Europe, is diversifying itself as well by branching out to other locales — especially the United States, Ireland, and Australia, who all hold annual jazz manouche music festivals.

Grenoble resident Edwin Hatton saw Les Quartiers de Boeuf a couple of times in concert this past summer, and was immediately impressed by this style that is “retro and modern at the same time.” He says that the group reminds him unmistakably of Woody Allen, “There is the same mix of rhythm, lightness, and melancholy that characterizes them both. The musicians take a communicative pleasure in playing together and Andi has a very strong stage presence, playing with the public each time the space in the venue allows it.”

Like the genres of swing, jazz and manouche that Les Quartiers de Boeuf straddles, the group itself is a live medley of different cultural origins and influences. Looking closely at Grenoble, there appears to be a significance that Les Quartiers de Boeuf were formed in this surprisingly cosmopolitan city of 500,000 in southeastern France, where foreign students account for 10 percent of the student population. A university town with the second-largest research hub in France, Grenoble draws researchers and technology professionals as well as students from all over the world. In their makeup, Les Quartiers de Boeuf reflects not only the mix of cultures and backgrounds that populate the city, but also the open appreciation of local audiences for a diverse sound.

“There is no other group that has the same personalities that we do…It’s really quite a trip to pass an evening together because we are all coming from very different perspectives,” says Busch. “Fabrizio being Italian, me being American, and the three Frenchmen all having their own unique lifestyles, it just makes our group so rich with varied life experiences and diverse viewpoints.”

“We all have our roles that help the group move along and progress,” she continues. “For instance, Elie is the one who always has a million great ideas and he just bounces them off us, one after another. And then there’s Fabrizio, who’s less vocal, more timid, but who’ll throw in the one key idea that’ll really stick, and we’ll all be there scratching our heads, ‘Well why didn’t we think of that…?’ Or Jonathan who is all about the big plans for producing our group, and Jérémy who’s all about networking on a local level; we really complement each other in all sorts of ways.”

In another way, the group complements Grenoble, and vice versa. But Les Quartiers de Boeuf is starting to look further afield; their newest exploits concern playing in distant locales like winter chalets and ski slopes, or Atlantic beaches, as well as expanding their repertoire to original pieces. As they move beyond, however, it is probably safe to say that they won’t forget where they started — it’s too much a part of them.

Les Quartiers de Boeuf’s latest album, Morceaux Chosis, is available on Bandcamp or via their Facebook page. Their demo album is also available for free download on the same sites.

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