Apr 18, 2021
Fifteen years ago, French-born musician Yohan Giaume began to immerse himself in different foreign cultures mainly guided by his love for the music of the African diaspora. He explored Cuba, South America, Morocco, Europe and different places throughout the United States. Immersing himself in different musical traditions, he found a "home away from home" in New Orleans. There he made an unexpected discovery: the story and music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a Louisiana romantic Creole composer and pianist, who had taken almost the same route in his travels as Giaume has two centuries apart.
During Gottschalk’s time, he was one of the first, if not the first, American composer to inspirationally embrace Afro-Creole music. Heavily inspired by Afro-creole folk songs that his Haitian nanny sang to him when he was child, Gottschalk’s pioneering music has not been in the musical vanguard for years. Enter Giaume and his album Whisper of a Shadow, Opus 1.
The 11 tracks on the album represent Giaume’s first album as a bandleader with original compositions and arrangements which seek to interact with Gottschalk’s sources of inspiration, re-imagined in a contemporary fashion. Helping him bridge the gap between the old and new is a who’s who of New Orleans musicians – clarinetist Evan Christopher (who also co-directed the compositional interpretations with Yohan), drummer Herlin Riley, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and bassist Roland Guerin. To that was added pianist Aaron Diehl, a French string quartet, poet Chuck Perkins to supply spoken word commentary, and an array of Caribbean percussionists and singers, as well as Louisiana based trombonists and tubists. The result is music with feet squarely in art music and jazz, the old and the new.
I spoke with Yohan by Zoom from his home in Paris, and we discussed the long road to the completion of Whisper of a Shadow, Opus 1, what he learned from his studies of the life and music of Gottschalk and how he hopes the second opus of this project will take him to other musical traditions. Musical selections from the album include "Life Circle Part 2 - Birth" and "Cold Facts."