Gypsy jazz band Brishen releases debut disc

Teen guitar master launches new group, records classics – Radiohead included

Gypsy jazz quartet, Brishen.

Gypsy jazz quartet, Brishen.

Despite having recorded three albums in five years, toured internationally and taught university-level master classes, the rascally way Quinn Bachand comments on his music may suggest he’s somehow less invested in his craft than others with a similar CV. Or it may simply point to the key difference between Bachand and the world-class musicians with whom he’s accustomed to sharing the stage: he’s 17.

Bachand is the centrepiece and lead guitarist for Brishen: a gypsy jazz tribute comprised of Richard Moody on violin, Reuben Wier on guitar and vocals and Joey Smith on upright bass. Brishen – meaning bringer of the storm – sweeps from standards by gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt to more contemporary works, including the theme to “Taxi Driver,” songs by Bachand and Moody and one re-imagined Radiohead composition.

“For people who like the swing, we do ones that are really swingy. For people who like shredding, we do ones that are really fast and for people who like cheesy shit – the crowd pleasers – we play that, too” Bachand says at a jam with Wier, in preparation for their CD release party. “Everybody seems to like it a lot.”

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like the gypsy jazz style, or swing music in general – particularly Reinhardt – added Wier, flanked by guitars and boxes of the freshly minted CDs in Bachand’s family living room. “Not only does it swing and feel good, but the more you listen to it, the more interesting it can be. At the bare surface you can still get something out that’s very enjoyable,” Wier says. “You can hum the melody to the tune, but after that, someone takes it apart and re-builds it.”

It’s during that rebuilding process, when songs open wide for interpretation from the accomplished improvisers/composers. Their start goes back to the spring of 2012 when Bachand and Moody, both on tour with Oliver Swain at the time, discovered their shared love for gypsy jazz. When the pair returned to Victoria in the fall, Wier and Smith joined the lineup, creating a platform for Bachand to explore the genre that had first piqued his interest when he was 10 and just then embarking on a Celtic roots career with his sister, Qristina.

“The way it swings is different,” says Bachand, who credits an Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti recording for initially attracting him to the genre. “I like it more than different types of jazz. It sits in a nice place.”

Bachand, Moody and Joby Baker produced the disc that they recorded over a week in July at Baker’s studio. With minimal production and the use of a vintage mic for vocals – an RC44 of the Reinhardt era – the live sound Baker captured hearkens back to their early inspirations.

“You can hear when people are playing together,” he says. “Joby and I were looking at audio files for our CD and for Django’s and we put them against gypsy jazz recorded nowadays. … Django’s moved a bit and ours breathed, but the other ones – they’re so over-produced. It’s very intense and it’s nice to hear the silence. It’s very important.”

“It’s not nearly as compressed and there’s a lot of interplay between everything,” Wier adds. “It’s a very enduring type of music, too. Some of the most exciting recordings we have are from the ‘30s and they’ve always been the most exciting.”

While the 2013 Vancouver Island Music Awards’ Young Performer of the Year is navigating new territory with Brishen and has aspirations of touring, he hasn’t left behind the banjo and fiddle for which he’s perhaps best known alongside his sister. The duo plan to return to the studio next month to record their third album. And then there’s the business of finishing his high school education at Reynolds secondary – Bachand’s youth a facet to his life that no longer evokes much of a reaction from musical counterparts and audiences, he says. The group’s wide range in age is now is primarily a source of comedy – or perhaps just good marketing, when each member of the band appeals to a different demographic, the two agree.

Jokes aside, Bachand’s hopeful for what possibilities their love letter to the genre yields.“I’m putting in lots of time and I’ll see where it goes,” he says. “I’m falling in love with this stuff.”

Hear Brishen with guests Maureen Washington and Al Pease at their CD release party Saturday, 7:30pm at Fairfield United Church (1303 Fairfield). Visit brishenmusic.com.

 

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