It says right here in Romain Vuillemin’s bio that he started playing guitar at age 12, and sometimes it seems as though he and I have been trying to get him here ever since then.
True, he did pay us a visit as a guest once—that would have been 2007 or ’08—when he just happened to be on this side of the Atlantic during one of our first Django Camps. At the time he was best known as a rhythm player trained in the école alsacienne by the manouche masters of that region. You can still find many recordings and videos of him in the role of accompanist with them and the likes of Denis Chang, Sébastien Giniaux, Stochelo Rosenberg and Adrien Moignard. Here’s a link to a video (which doesn’t want to embed for some reason) in which Romain is laying down la pompe for Adrien on “Autumn Leaves.”
During those years as journeyman rhythm guitarist, Romain was honing his lead guitar chops and in 2011 he officially stepped out as leader of the Romain Vuillemin Quartet. In 2016 the ensemble released “Swinging in Paris,” which Vuillemin has called a “tribute to Django’s music, mainly his prewar period.” For all his time among the current pride of Parisian young lions bringing jazz manouche into the 21st century, Romain has consciously cultivated what you might call the “traditional” Gypsy jazz guitar style in full evidence on this project. And what might that mean? Well, for example, recalling the role this music played during the pre-war years…
We focused this album on playing slower tempos than what is commonly played in the modern gypsy jazz scene. Django played a lot for dancers and these guys used to play medium to up tempo tunes which were comfortable to dance to.
So that gives you permission to slow down too. You’re welcome. And go ahead and sing! Romain does, as you’ll hear on this slick teaser they produced to promote the album:
The RV Quartet has played major festival all over the Europe as well as all the Parisian clubs you’d expect: l’Atelier Charonne, les Petits Joueurs…and the Sunside/Sunset jazz club where this video was shot in January of this year. Talk about trad Gypsy jazz: the tune is Charleston.
Romain’s indulges his taste for Old School jazz in another project worth mentioning here, if only because in this video we get see one of his awesome archtop guitars. In the the Umlaut Big Band, Vuillemin is back in the role of rhythm guitar, but now marking four-to-the-bar à la Freddy Green. Here’s a tune that Django remolded into one of his signature solos, “Django’s Tiger.” Here, it’s still “Tiger Rag.”