Yohan Giaume – Whisper of a Shadow – Life Celebration Project (Limited Edition) – 58:41 – ****1/2
French trumpeter/ composer Yohan Giaume has taken on a major undertaking for his first recording as a leader. The results are exquisite and deeply moving. On Whisper of a Shadow, he explores how European and African influences inspired Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a Creole composer/pianist of Louisiana, to embrace these multi-cultural roots in the mid 1800s. Louis was the son of a German Jew born in London, who married a francophone Creole, from Haiti. Like Yohan, Gottschalk traveled the world absorbing the musical mix from different countries. He then composed music, largely classical, that helped lead to the musical stew that New Orleans embraced into the new century.
Giaume’s CD uses Louis as an inspiration to blend gospel, Creole, classical, and NOLA jazz into a wide ranging project that utilizes a French string quartet, Caribbean percussion, a six person choir, a jazz brass quartet, and poetry (French), along with spoken word. Evan Christopher, a brilliant clarinetist appears throughout the project, and fits perfectly in both jazz and classical settings.
Yohan’s rhythm section is first rate with pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist, Roland Guerin, and drummer, Herlin Riley. There is plenty of space for Diehl to work his magic, and Herlin Riley’s drumming is NOLA proud on the tracks that feature New Orleans rhythms. The string section is sublime throughout, and on many tracks you feel that this could be a film soundtrack of Academy Award consideration.
There is a feeling of deep comfort at times, balanced with heavy spoken word sections dealing with slavery and the relief provided by Sunday Congo Square meetings. There the slaves could freely express their determination to avoid the slave holders’ efforts to “beat the Africa out of us..”
Yohan opens with “Le Poete Mourant.” Clarinetist, Evan Christopher, who collaborated with Giaume on this project, has a stirring opening, floating above the string quartet with gorgeous intonation. Chuck Perkins is the featured spoken word performer on “Mascarade” as well as on three other tracks, backed by musical accompaniment. His “commentary” deals with themes of the day, and deserves deep contemplation. We are given a “history” lesson (“ the music makes me free…and the fiddle is going to save me.”), as well as a music primer. “Cold Facts” deals with a 1873 Colfax, La. white supremacy movement. Along with the musical stew, there is a lot to digest here..
The brass section (trumpet, two trombones, and tuba) on the two “Life Circle” tracks is pure New Orleans bliss, blending New Orleans second line with some somber funeral dirge passages. Herlin Riley shines on these tracks. There are two tracks (“Lez African E La” and the closing “Le Poete Mourant” poem) that have French lyrics. They are both effective in mood setting, but it would have been beneficial to have them translated in the CD’s liner notes.
Other highlights include the six person choir on two tracks, as well as the Caribbean style percussion by Bago Balthazar on “Lez African E La.”
The blend of classical strings, ethereal clarinet, and swinging brass on Yohan’s brilliant compositions and arrangements, is both intoxicating, as well as dancing feet ecstatic. I can hardly wait to experience Giaume’s new projects. This one is very special…
(Yohan Giaume – musical director, trumpet, piano (#12); – Evan Christopher – clarinet, and collaborating partner; – Aaron Diehl – piano; Roland Guerin – bass; Herlin Riley – drums ; Tristan Liehr, Louis-Jean Perreau, Emmanuel Francois – violins; Thomas Ravez – cello; Nicholas Payton – trumpet; Terrance Taplin, Greg Hicks – trombones; Matt Perrine – tuba; Chuck Perkins – spoke word / poetry, and lyrics (#2, 4, 6, 10, 11); Didier Sandre – spoken word (#12); Nell Simmons, Kid Merv, Troy Sawyer, Casme Barnes, James Germain, Cedric Margron – choir (#8, 11); Bruce Sunpie Barnes – lyrics (#8); Philippe Makaia – vocal and percussion (#8); Bago Balthazar – percussion (#8)
Le Poete Mourant
The Promise of Dawn
Bamboula Dreams (Parts 1 & 2)
Les African E La
Life Circle (Part 1-Death)
Life Circle (Part 2-Birth)
Le Poete Mourant (Poem)