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Yohan Giaume
Whisper of a Shadow: Musical Conversations with Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Life Celebration Project
Review by Michael Stone


New Orleans has been oriented to the French and Spanish Caribbean since the slave-trade era. Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), born in this Latin American cultural crossroads of German Jewish and Haitian Creole heritage, grew up with a Haitian nanny, and traveled and performed extensively in Europe, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil, all of which offered musical inspiration.

The first internationally recognized, distinctively U.S. classical composer, Gottschalk melded his itinerant musical explorations in his work. Likewise, he engaged with and inspired such noted composers as Cubans Ignacio Cervantes and Manuel Saumell, Brazilian Ernesto Nazareth, and Texas-born Scott Joplin, among many others.

Gottschalk’s life and music are the inspiration for French trumpeter-composer Yohan Giaume’s Whisper of a Shadow, the fruit of the latter’s own musical sojourn through Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, North Africa, Europe, and the United States.


The recording opens with Giaume’s arrangements of two Gottschalk pieces, “Le poete mourant” (invoking the last piece Gottschalk performed before collapsing on stage from yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro, where he died soon thereafter at the age of 40) and “Mascarade” (with a pointed monologue by Chuck Perkins that deflates polite fictions about the congenial minstrel-show invisible man entertaining the white New Orleans elite).


On “Cold Facts,” Perkins narrates the 1873 Easter Sunday massacre of Colfax, Louisiana, where ex-Confederate soldiers, KKK brigands and the Knights of the White Camelia mobbed and murdered some 150 black folk, their brutal answer to Reconstruction. But counter to that, the closing triptych (“Life Circle Part 1 Death—Passage—Life Circle Part 2 Birth”) concludes with a joyous, brassy, percussive Second-Line affirmation.


Giaume’s keystone collaborator is New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher, who oriented him to the city and brought a number of luminaries to the project, among them Aaron Diehl (piano), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Greg Hicks and Terrance Taplin (trombone), Matt Perine (tuba), Roland Guerin (bass), Herlin Riley (drums), and Perkins (spoken word). Together they capture the musical spirit of New Orleans in this deep, wide-ranging, and historically engaged opus, the first of a series of recordings Giaume envisions.

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