Justin Duhaime and Christian Flores ©Alayne McGregor, 2019
Justin Duhaime and Christian Flores in close musical communication at the Westboro Legion. The show was the first in what jazz fan and Legion volunteer Carol Raoult hopes will be a monthly series. ©Alayne McGregor, 2019

View photos by Alayne McGregor of this performance

Sunday evening saw the debut of a new jazz series in Westboro, featuring a rare collaboration between two popular local gypsy jazz guitarists.

At the Westboro branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, about 20 jazz listeners heard two hour-long sets by Justin Duhaime and Christian Flores. Duhaime told the audience that he and Flores, a founding member of local jazz group Django Libre, hadn't played together for a long time – but they fluently navigated favourites in the gypsy jazz repertoire together, before an appreciative audience.

The set list included music by Django Reinhardt and his successors, plus jazz standards, including several less-commonly-played tunes. Duhaime provided enthusiastic introductions and explanations of many tunes. The guitarists comfortably played in unison and traded off the lead, one playing rhythm to the other's lead, and then switching, with each adding his own take on the tune.

Highlights included the two daring each other to take Fats Waller's “Honeysuckle Rose” further and further out, to the delight of the audience; the fast yet expressively melancholy “Bossa Dorado”, with contrasting intricate interpretations; the tender “Seul ce soir”; the energetic and fun “Limehouse Blues”; the spirited and almost funky “Heavy Artillery”; the vibrant swing of “After You've Gone”; the hypnotic vibe of “Made for Wesley”; and the gentle minor key melody of “Clair de Lune”. The vivid “Blues Clair” and the sweet “Troublant Boléro” were less familiar pieces well worth hearing.

The show was organized by local jazz fan Carol Raoult, who's aiming to run a monthly jazz series at the Westboro Legion starting in the fall. She said she has already lined up several local jazz groups interested in performing there.

“We're hoping to break into a market that's totally different from what's usually here. This was a good way to start because Justin and his music are not too outlandish for people who are not used to it. We've broken the ice here and we had a very keen crowd this evening.”

The Westboro area doesn't have any jazz venues, she said, and the Legion branch already offers country&western nights several times a month. “It's a lively spot and it's a quite decent place to play music. I think we've got the audience if we can just get them in, just let more people in the neighbourhood know that we're here.”

The second-floor room at the Legion had good acoustics (although an announcements mic would have been useful) and air-conditioned comfort on a hot muggy night. There was a cash bar, and snacks of veggies and chips at intermission.

Some audience members learned about the show through the Legion, and others through Raoult at the Ottawa Jazz Festival; all those whom OttawaJazzScene.ca talked to said they enjoyed the show. “We were telling friends that this is a nice little intimate place. I really hope it will grow,” Raoult said.

Raoult has volunteered with the Ottawa Jazz Festival for more than 25 years, and with the Legion for the last decade. She's been a jazz lover since birth.

“My father used to listen to the Hot Club de France, and I always said I fell out of my cradle listening to Django. No choice. And I was very fortunate to grow up in a jazz environment, and I lived in Paris in the 60s, when [jazz] was really wonderful. It's always been part of my life.”

Set List

Set 1:

  1. Coquette [Django Reinhardt]
  2. Songe D'automne [Archibald Joyce]
  3. Honeysuckle Rose [Fats Waller]
  4. Nuages [Django Reinhardt]
  5. Bossa Dorado [Dorado Schmitt]
  6. It Had to Be You [Isham Jones]
  7. Seul ce soir [Léo Marjane]
  8. Limehouse Blues [Philip Braham]
  9. Heavy Artillery (Artillerie Lourde) [Django Reinhardt]
  10. Minor Swing [Django Reinhardt]

Set 2:

  1. All of Me [Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons]
  2. Caravan [Juan Tizol]
  3. Blues Clair [Django Reinhardt]
  4. Made for Wesley [Rinus Steinbeck]
  5. After You've Gone [Turner Layton]
  6. Clair de Lune [Joseph Kosma]
  7. Troublant Boléro [Django Reinhardt]
  8. Minor Blues [Django Reinhardt]

Note: Alayne McGregor volunteers with Carol Raoult in the Souvenirs group at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Read related stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca: