Duo Duval-Boulanger
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Duo Duval-Boulanger

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic

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This CD was a wonderful surprise! Though I’m familiar with David Boulanger’s fine fiddling, Jean Duval’s flute playing was new to my ears, but is very welcome on the scene. The flute’s not really a traditional instrument in French-Canadian music, but with the influence of Irish trad music in Québec over the years (Québec City was the second largest point of entry during the Irish famine, after New York City), it’s become more common. Duval follows the Daniel Roy school of Québécois flute/whistle playing. It’s a fun style that sounds much bouncier and simpler than the hideously complex whistle playing usually found in Irish music. It’s actually quite similar to Irish whistle playing from County Clare, particularly Micho Russell’s playing, though I don’t think there’s a historical link there.

Anyways, enough history lessons! This is a wonderful album of traditional French-Canadian dance tunes, carried by the powerful fiddling of David Boulanger and the sympathetic flute playing of Jean Duval. Clearly these two musicians have played together often, and they are perfectly in sync throughout the album. Though David Boulanger is one of the best fiddlers of his generation, he isn’t too well known outside of Québec. He was the fiddler for the excellent group La Part du Quêteux, whose album, Paye le Traite, is one of my favorite Québécois CDs, and after leaving that band, he joined with the mega-band La Bottine Souriante as their lead fiddler, filling the departing André Brunet’s shoes. Now he tours the world with La Bottine Souriante and was even featured during the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics! David came out to Port Townsend this year for the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, and his raging, red-hot fiddling was a revelation, not to mention his great charisma.

On Pièces sur Pièces, David Boulanger and Jean Duval navigate some of their favorite traditional tunes, and bring along some excellent compositions of their own. The album features David’s love of crooked tunes, especially tunes from the repertoire of legendary fiddler Louis ‘Pitou’ Boudreault, and brandys. The Brandy is a particularly complex and winding tune from Québec in ¾ time that was used for stepdancing exhibitions. They’re very hard to play, and not only does David race through them effortlessly, but he can also compose brandys that sound as old and weird as the most traditional examples. While it’s true that a full CD of Québécois instrumental music can be a little intense for newbies to these traditions, Jean and David do a great job keeping each track sounding fresh and different. Partly that’s thanks to their thoughtful choice of tunes, ranging from barn-burning reels to beautiful slow airs, but also due to their effortless musicianship. All in all, this is a most impressive CD for the Duo Duval Boulanger, and I hope it harbors more releases to come from these fine young musicians.

Try it for a buck on CDBaby: Perhaps my favorite track on the album is the three-tune medley “Le Step du Bûcheron” (The Lumberjack’s Step). Each of these rare and obscure tunes are played so carefully and thoughtfully, that I find myself wanting to learn them all on the fiddle. I remember reading an interview with Genticorum, a popular French-Canadian band, where they told how they had moved to composing tunes because it was so hard to find old tunes that hadn’t been recorded yet. Well, Genticorum, you’ve been put on notice! This upstart duo have found some amazing gems in the annals of French-Canadian music history and it’s a joy to hear them played for a new generation.
- Self-published 2010


Discography

"Pièces sur Pièces", CD released in May 2010.
You can hear tracks on the Duo Duval-Boulanger website, mySpace and Facebook accounts.

Photos

Bio

Duo Duval-Boulanger was nominated at the 2010 Canadian Folk Music Awards for "Instrumental Group of the Year - Album".

Jean Duval is a pioneer of flute playing for traditional
music in Quebec. He has been involved in Québécois,
Irish and Scottish traditional music circles in Northeastern
North America since the early 1980s. Composer
and multi-instrumentalist, he was a member of
Phenigma from 1990 to 1995. In 2004, he made a CD
of Twelve suites in traditional style for one-handed tin
whistle. He recently left his career as an agronomist
to devote himself to a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at
Université de Montréal on the “crooked tunes” of the
traditional music of Quebec.

David Boulanger has been active on the Québécois
traditional music scene for nearly ten years. A devotee
to Quebec traditional music, David is an active composer
for the fiddle and has a lore of peculiar tunes that we can
hear at traditional music sessions in Montreal. From 2002
to 2007, he was a member of La Part du Quêteux as a
fiddler, feet-tapper and singer. In 2007, he won the Album
of the year award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards
with this group. He joined the famous group La Bottine
Souriante in 2007, with which he has been touring Quebec,
Canada, United States and Europe. David is presently
finishing a degree in music at Université de Montréal.

The Duo Duval-Boulanger turns into a trio or a quartet when performing on stage with Mike Ayles (guitar, banjo, whistle, vocal) and Jordan McConnell (guitar, uilleann pipes, whistle, vocal). A projet including songs and instrumentals emerges from this meeting. Check out the "content" section to listen to some tunes.