©Brett Delmage, 2019
David Renaud's clarinet playing immediately drew the quartet's attention - and that of the audience at the Options Jazz Lounge (l-r: David Renaud, John Steele, Justin Duhaime, Nabil Yaghi)  ©Brett Delmage, 2019

The Justin Duhaime Quartet with David Renaud
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Friday, February 22, 2019 – 8 p.m. to midnight

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

If the bright, inviting rhythms of gypsy jazz are most often heard on guitar and violin, they can equally effectively be performed on guitar and clarinet. In fact, during World War II when violinist Stéphane Grappelli was in England, Django Reinhardt replaced him in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with clarinetist Hubert Rostaing. Reinhardt wrote some of his best-known tunes, including "Nuages", for guitar and clarinet.

Ottawa guitarist Justin Duhaime has been enthusiastically promoting Reinhardt's music for the past few years, most recently teaming up with fellow guitarist and jazz manouche enthusiast Nabil Yaghi to perform music written by Reinhardt and played in Reinhardt's style. Last summer, they collaborated with accomplished jazz clarinetist David Renaud in a sold-out show of music written and recorded in Paris during the Nazi occupation and beyond.

They brought the show, for its third airing, to the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata on Friday evening. It was a fast-paced and jam-packed evening of music, with Duhaime providing friendly introductions and explanations of the tunes. OttawaJazzScene.ca's reporters heard all of the first two sets and part of the third.

The set list included Reinhardt's own compositions, jazz standards which he recorded, and a few later pieces (such as Chick Corea's “Armando's Rhumba”) which Duhaime said were fun to imagine how he would have played them.

The music was high-energy from the start, with Duhaime and Yaghi on jazz manouche-style acoustic guitars combining with John Steele on double bass to provide a strong forward momentum. Duhaime and Yaghi added dancing melodic lines on top, sometimes alternating the lead and sometimes playing in unison, and Renaud's clarinets (he alternated between two tunings) soared above all.

It was an evening very much in the Django spirit, opening with one of his best-known pieces, the gently sauntering “Minor Swing”, with fluid clarinet interjections over the vivid guitar rhythms.

Some pieces – “Django's Tiger”, “After You've Gone” – evoked the sweet feel of ragtime, while others were in a more classic jazz manouche style. I particularly enjoyed “Artillerie Lourde” (Heavy Artillery), a song Reinhardt wrote to celebrate the Liberation of Paris by the Allies. Its memorable guitar riff and joyous clarinet lines melded well together to create a celebratory mood. “Clair de Lune” (by Joseph Kosma, who also wrote “Autumn Leaves”) had a very French spirit evoked by the quiet guitar and slow and deeply emotional clarinet lines.

“Danse Norvégienne”, which Reinhardt adapted from a classical piece by Edvard Grieg, had an evocative melody, while his “Dream of You” featured a fine insinuating clarinet strain. The insistent guitar rhythms in Oliver Nelson's “Cascades” were a perfect counterpoint to Renaud's smoothly rolling clarinet lines. And “Blues Rag” was a classic blues given a manouche twist, with flying clarinet notes accenting a funeral-paced march section in the middle.

If you wanted an introduction to the full range of Reinhardt's musical interests, you had it in this performance, which was clearly well-prepared with an eye to flow and variety. Duhaime's inclusion of some more up-to-date pieces in the same style, including one by Reinhardt's acclaimed successor Bireli Lagrene, complemented the classic material, and the band played them all with verve and understanding.

Throughout the show, those patrons interested in the performance were clearly listening closely and applauding enthusiastically. Unfortunately, at several tables near the stage people were talking loudly over the music. As well, the flashing images on the bar's three large TV screens were annoying – and in fact, when we checked over a period of time, no one in the lounge was watching the hockey games. It would have improved the experience to have left the two screens nearest the stage dark, and directed patrons interested in hockey or just conversation to the section away from the stage.

But the sound and sight-lines were otherwise good, and the quality of the music allowed one to mostly ignore the distractions.

It's impossible to be sad listening to Reinhardt's music. It buoys you up and gets you energized – particularly when played by a quartet so dedicated to immersing themselves and the audience in its joyful ethos. I hope Duhaime continues his collaborations with Renaud: they clearly complement each other in their performances.

Set 1

  1. Minor Blues [Django Reinhardt]
  2. Caravan [Juan Tizol]
  3. Django's Tiger [Django Reinhardt]
  4. Songe d'Automne [Archibald Joyce]
  5. Blues Rag
  6. Clair de Lune [Joseph Kosma]
  7. Well, You Needn't [Thelonious Monk]
  8. Viper's Dream [Fletcher Allen, Bill Coleman]
  9. Invitation [Bronisław Kaper]
  10. After You've Gone [Turner Layton]
  11. Cascades [Oliver Nelson]

Set 2

  1. Dream of You [Jimmie Lunceford / Michael Morales / Sy Oliver]
  2. Chega de Saudade [Antonio Carlos Jobim]
  3. September Song [Kurt Weill]
  4. Indifference [Tony Murena]
  5. Nuages  [Django Reinhardt]
  6. Douce Ambiance [Django Reinhardt]
  7. Donna Lee [Charlie Parker]
  8. Si Tu Vois Ma Mère [Sidney Bechet]
  9. Armando's Rhumba [Chick Corea]
  10. Artillerie Lourde [Django Reinhardt]
  11. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To [Cole Porter]

Set 3

  1. Swing 39 [Django Reinhardt]
  2. Djangology [Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli]
  3. Danse Norvégienne [Edvard Grieg]
  4. Made in France [Bireli Lagrene]
  5. On Green Dolphin Street [Bronisław Kaper]
    ...additional tunes that we didn't hear

Read OttawaJazzScene.ca stories about Justin Duhaime and David Renaud: