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Duane Andrews & Dwyane Cote (album review)

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Artist: Dwayne Côté and Duane Andrews
Album: Self-titled
Genre: Instrumental, gypsy jazz, Celtic, swing
Influences: Django Reinhardt; Cape Breton, Scottish and Irish traditional




A Tale of Two Dwaynes (Or is it Duanes?)

This is the story of two incredibly gifted Maritime musicians, who not only share the same name but a keen sensibility for fusing cultures instrumentally.  One is rooted and soulful, the other, playful and cool.

In 2010, Cape Breton fiddle virtuoso Dwayne Côté and St. John’s gypsy jazz master Duane Andrews came together to record ten instrumental tracks for their self-titled album.  Conceptually, the idea was to take traditional numbers and old time classics, reworking them to incorporate both men’s styles, and augmenting them with fresh ideas.  The result is a musically complex, relaxing album which flows seamlessly from the opening track “The Princess” (a Scottish melody originally dubbed “St. Beatrice”) to a jauntier cover of Canadian country legend Hank Snow’s “A Fool Such As I”.

That the performances are remarkable is self evident, so I won’t dwell on the subject.  Duane and Dwayne are super-pros — end of story!  What really struck me was the scope of the music. We go from finding ourselves standing on the bleak moors of Caledonia, only to be sonically transported to a swinging Parisian cafe within minutes.  Yet, somehow it works wonderfully.  On rare occasions, such as track 9 “Back to the Hills,” Dwayne and Duane manage to place us in both locations at the same time, with the Cape Breton native churning out a beautiful Scottish melody underscored by the Newfoundlander’s jazz chords, shivering in an almost Mediterranean rhythm.

To their credit, many of the duo’s original compositions are of better quality than the songs they cover.  Don’t be misled into thinking that technique is everything.  “The Chocolatier’s Lament”, for instance, is much more understated than Andrews’s Reinhardt interpretations, but if you listen carefully, you’ll discover wonderful nuances and musical ideas that transcend flashy soloing.

The Good: Fantastic musicianship, excellent collaborative skills, a sound knowledge of musicology, (almost) pristine album track order, a variety of styles, solid original compositions, prudent album duration

The Bad: Track 1 “The Princess” gets a little bit loose rhythmically, and though it does not merit re-recording the song, I would have recommended starting with something a little tighter.

The Ugly: This music has a particular vibe, which depending upon your tastes and the way you appreciate it, may leave you wondering where it fits into your day to day life.  In my personal realm, road trips are best accompanied by classic and southern rock, country, and Mississippi style blues.  Straight up Celtic music is ideal for a night on the booze.  Classical music is good for writing or studying.  Motown and Soul for having fun while cleaning the house (if such a thing is possible).  When it came to Duane and Dwayne, I was stumped.  Finally, it occurred to me that this is the ideal music for relaxing on a quiet weekend at home.  At least for me.  Unless you are already a fan of gypsy jazz and its offshoots, you may also find yourself faced with a similar question.  You know the music is good — but for which occasion?

By: Lee Mellor


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