Heralded as “the next accordion star” by Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune, Julien Labro has established himself as one of the foremost accordion and bandoneón players in both the classical and jazz genres. Deemed to be “a triple threat: brilliant technician, poetic melodist and cunning arranger,” his artistry, virtuosity, and creativity as a musician, composer and arranger have earned him international acclaim and continue to astonish audiences worldwide.
Picking up the accordion at 9, French-born Labro was inﬂuenced early on by traditional folk music and the melodic, lyrical quality of the French chanson. Upon discovering the music of jazz legends, he quickly became inspired by the originality, freedom, creativity, and the endless possibilities in their musical language. After graduating from the Marseille Conservatory of Music, Labro began winning international awards, taking ﬁrst prize in the Coupe Mondiale in 1996 and the Castelﬁdardo Competitions in 1997. After sweeping ﬁrst place in the Marcel Azzola, Jo Privat and Medard Ferrero competitions in 1995 and 1998, respectively, Labro moved to the United States, where he further pursued his musical dream. As a musician and artist, Labro is constantly evolving. Equipped with advanced degrees in classical music, jazz studies, and composition, Labro draws from his diverse academic background and eclectic musical influences as he searches for new themes and untried concepts, transforming and developing his creative ideas into new projects.
Piazzolla, a major inﬂuence and the reason Labro picked up the bandoneón, is also the title of his album with classical guitarist and Grammy-award winner Jason Vieaux and A Far Cry chamber orchestra. Other releases include Grammy-award winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson’s Another Country and critically acclaimed Hot Club of Detroit’s Junction. In 2012, Labro embarked on an exciting long-standing collaboration with Spektral Quartet, with whom he performed at NYC’s Subculture in 2014, the International Latino Festival in Chicago, and Wheaton College, just to name a few. Their work has drawn increasing attention and was featured in a 2015 Chamber Music America article entitled “Art of Opportunity” by Paul Brady, who described Labro as an “A-list star” with “deep jazz cred.” Their 2014 album From This Point Forward, which was included in the Chicago Tribune’s list of ten new significant classical album releases, is a genre bending collection of compositions from South America. In these arrangements, Labro delicately melds different genres, styles, and sounds with intricate craftsmanship that not only preserves the original essence of the pieces but also brings in fresh new twists and perspectives that introduce a new understanding and appreciation of the music for the modern day audience. Alto sax great and McArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón joined on a couple tracks. Infusion (2016), marks his second collaboration with Grammy winner Jason Vieaux. It explores and stretches the repertoire with original arrangement of pieces by Brouwer, Gnattali, Metheny, and the British pop band Tears For Fears. Labro’s latest release Rise & Grind (2017) with Finnish jazz guitarist Olli Soikkeli primarily features Labro’s jazz compositions written especially for the project and some fresh arrangements of classical and country tunes.
Labro has collaborated with numerous professional symphonies and chamber ensembles, often playing the dual roles of solo artist as well as composer/arranger. These include the conductorless Boston-based chamber orchestra, A Far Cry, Spektral Quartet, Ensemble Vivant of Toronto, and Curtis On Tour from the Curtis Institute of Music faculty of Philadelphia. He has been a guest artist with numerous symphonies and chamber ensembles such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St Luke’s, New World Symphony, the Hartford Symphony, the Arkansas Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Cape Cod Symphony, the Crested Butte Symphony, the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, The Bijou Orchestra, A Far Cry, the Takács Quartet, the Balourdet String Quartet, the Arneis String Quartet, the Prairie Ensemble, and many more.
Labro’s musical journey has taken him all across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His classical collaborations include A Far Cry, Spektral Quartet, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St Luke’s, New World Symphony, the Qatar Philharmonic, The Paul Taylor Dance Company and the New York City Ballet. Julien has written for numerous ensembles, from quartets to full symphony orchestras. He has premiered works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun, Bryce Dessner, Angélica Negrón, Clarice Assad, Ethan Iverson, and Avner Dorman. Julien has collaborated with Cassandra Wilson, Maria Schneider, Anat Cohen, João Donato, Marcel Khalife, Paquito D’Rivera, Pablo Ziegler, Uri Caine, Miguel Zenón, James Carter, John Clayton, guitarists Larry Coryell, Tommy Emmanuel, and John and Bucky Pizzarelli.
His past performances include venues such as 92Y, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Bing Concert Hall, Birdland, SFJAZZ, Blue Note, Yoshi’s, The Green Mill, The Stone, and Sculler’s, and festivals such as Newport Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Festival, NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland, Jazz Salt Lake City, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Caramoor Music Festival, SF Performances, Phillips Collection, The Gilmore, Soave Guitar Festival (IT), Quebec City Summer Festival (CA), Inchad International Cultural Festival in Constantine (AL), Byblos International Music Festival (LB), Beiteddine Art Festival (LB), Al-Qurain Culture Festival (Kuwait), Jerash International (JD), Daejeon Chamber Music Festival (ROK) and many more.
Labro’s passion for promoting the understanding and love of music has well been recognized through his master classes at renowned institutions such as the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Princeton University, Hope College, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and many more.
After a busy summer touring the US performing at prestigious festivals such as Ravinia Festival and Tanglewood Music Festival, Labro will open his 2023 season performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Orchestra of St Luke’s and the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center. Spring of 2024 will see Labro zigzag the US with concerto appearances, chamber concerts with his ongoing collaboration with the Takács Quartet, a premier and residency with Camerata Pacifica, performances with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and premier a new collaboration with Evan Lurie and Mark Ribot at Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN.
In his free time, Labro is working on composing a second bandoneón concerto that will be a sequel to his first El Fueye Del Tiburón (The Bellows of the Shark).