Putting the French in French Quarter Festival, New Orleans’ Harmonouche will bring their eclectic combination of gypsy swing and traditional jazz to the French Quarter Festival this year. As a fusion of the words harmonious, harmonica and manouche (the French term for gypsy jazz), the band’s name symbolizes their multifarious musical composition as well as far-reaching list of influences.
“I have been working for many years (and am still working) on building up a repertoire and performing on guitar combined with the diatonic harmonica over many styles of music including New Orleans trad jazz, gypsy jazz, French musette, blues, Cuban, African, Brazilian, etc.” explains Raphaël Bas, the band’s founder. “Teaming up and collaborating with such world class musicians who share the same musical interests, and have the experience and knowledge to perform, just quadruples the fun and offers a bigger sound and more possibilities.”
Harmonouche, which includes Bas (jazz guitar, harmonica, vocals), Bart Ramsey (accordion, vocals), Chris Kohl (clarinet) and Tim Paco (bass) began performing together in early 2010. As longtime friends and collaborators, the group immediately attracted attention for their synthesis of traditional jazz melodies with modern elements including Bas’ use of a diatronic harmonica – a harp most often associated with blues and rock. “We are not trying to be purists or copy note for note what has been already done.” he says of the band’s style. “Rather, we are giving an interpretation of our own, based on our multiple different backgrounds and experiences. We take old songs and bring them to a more modern version, sometimes by changing the rhythm or the form. When the music clicks, we can all hear it, as it produces a bounce and a balance.”
Bas cites Django Reinhardt and his style of jazz guitar as a major influence over his development as a musician, as well as on the band’s direction. “Growing up in France, I was largely exposed to American music from early jazz, to blues, gospel, rock, and so on.” he relates. “Django himself had bridged American jazz with his Gypsy style and heritage by recording and giving his own interpretation of many American classic jazz songs. So the trad jazz repertoire when I moved here was not so unfamiliar. What was new, and what makes New Orleans such a unique city, is the spirit and how music has such a historical and daily cultural and social impact. Being in New Orleans made me realize how music is far from being a novelty, but truly a necessity. A part of life.”