Les Yeux Noirs mixes joy, sorrow

by Holly Shaffer | 4/28/03 5:00am

In the spirit of Django Reinhardt, who played the Russian gypsy tune from which the group took its name, Les Yeux Noirs infused Spaulding Auditorium with Jewish-Gypsy dance on Saturday night with inspired klezmer music.

French for "The Black Eyes," Les Yeux Noirs was found-ed by the violin-swooning Slabiak brothers, who must have souls as deep as their group's name implies. The music is a mixture of ancient Jewish melodies, Gypsy tunes and French Gypsy jazz, interwoven in songs both devastating and ecstatic.

In songs call-ed threnodies, a mournful line underwrote fast-paced violin that wouldn't allow your feet to remain still. Yet the lilting sadness was given room of its own in certain songs, at times becoming wind-like in its breath.

The joy manifest in the melodies was mirrored in the brothers' rock-star stance. They played off of one another, quite literally at times. In one song they conversed through a game of Simon Says played on a single violin.

The two violinists were accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist, a cellist and a drummer. In a spotlight solo, the drummer, snake-like, played quiet and slow in a pure, seductive rhythm.

Les Yeux Noirs, not an ordinary band, inspired dreams of retiring to the Gypsy caves of southern Spain -- or at least the desire to open the Upper Val-ley's first klezmer-Gypsy cabaret.