No longer Imposteures but leaders in gypsy jazz

Pioneers and successors in the genre of gypsy jazz, usually the domain of men, Quebec band Christine Tassan et les Imposteures will perform at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Nov. 5.

Christine Tassan et les Imposteures, is an all female quartet who specialise in the unique genre of gypsy jazz. Photo: Michel Pinault.

Last time they were on tour, gypsy string quartet Christine Tassan et les Imposteures were travelling the east side of Canada during heavy snowfall in March.

Christine Tassan is the quartet's lead guitar and lead vocals. Photo: Michel Pinault
Christine Tassan is the quartet’s lead guitar and lead vocals. Photo: Michel Pinault

“It was terrible,” Christine Tassan, said during a phone interview. “We really went from one city to another one and we never knew if we were going to arrive at the next city. It was a total adventure.”

While Revelstoke ski lovers can only dream of the weather replicating those conditions for the band’s visit this November 5, they can dance the prayer to the snow gods as Christine Tassan et les Imposteures provide their swinging, gypsy jazz infused music.

The band is a fine-tuned instrument, going strong for 13 years with Tassan at the helm and a few evolutions with different players over the years. Currently the quartet has Tassan as lead guitarist and singer, Martine Gaumond on violin, rhythm guitarist Lisa-Anne Ross and bassist Blanche Baillargeon. They’re all friends and their musical and personal connection is reflected in their easy-going show where humour and improvisation go hand in hand.

While they have performed at over 400 shows and been to Vancouver three times, this will be their first visit to Revelstoke.

As women have gradually broken down barriers in the past decades, music has also seen a change. A band of females playing this unique style of gypsy jazz used to be unusual, as it was a domain reserved for men. Perhaps this is the reason behind the band’s name les (the) imposteures.

“Gypsy jazz, which was created by Django Reinhardt, he was a gypsy guitarist, very well known and famous in the ’30s and ’40s in France and Europe in general,” Tassan said.

But having played this style skillfully since the band’s inception, les Imposteures have obviously succeeded and excelled in this genre. They were welcomed in June 2014 to the Django Reinhardt Festival of Samois-sur-Seine (France). It’s one of the most prestigious gypsy jazz festivals, taking place where the great manouche guitarist lived his last years. In front of more than 2,000 enthusiastic people, Christine Tassan et les Impostures stood out with their “joie de vivre” as the first female, Québécois gypsy jazz band to perform on that famous stage.

Lise-Anne Ross, rhythm guitarist has spent ten years with the band. Photo: Michel Pinault
Lise-Anne Ross, rhythm guitarist has spent ten years with the band. Photo: Michel Pinault

When you listen to their exotic, energetic flavor of the style and you can understand how people are drawn to it.

“Our show, there are a lot of different things,” Tassan explains. “A part is instrumental but we also sing. The harmonies, this creates a lot of variety in the show. There is some humour too, some people like that I think. They’re some songs that are really fast, some are slower, you go from one emotion to another one. People usually respond very well and we like that. We play for them.”

Humour is infused with les Impostueres’ music style. See the video clip below.

The music is fluid, up-tempo and alluring. Tassan is a master at the guitar, her nimble fingers dancing across the guitar strings.

“The gypsy style is kind of a mixture between swing that came from America and the gypsy origins of Django Reinhardt,” Tassan said. “What I love about that style is that it is jazz. You have the freedom to change things every show is different, because we do a lot of improvisation. The reason is swing rhythm. There is a lot of dancing, a lot of energy. So the public that don’t know a lot about jazz can appreciate gypsy jazz because it is straight forward and everyone loves that music.”

The group often are contracted to play at events, not just festivals and touring performances. Tassan discussed her thoughts on music and its connection in life.

“I think music is not only to be played at a festival or in a venue, for me music is — it’s birth and wedding and, eventually, it’s when you die, you need music too,” she said. “It’s important for the whole life. In the gypsy culture, this is very important, for example in the east of Europe there are a lot of gypsies and music goes with every important event in life.”

When: Thursday Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre.

Box Office: $15 (Buy 4+ tickets and receive a 20% discount). Buy tickets online and access online discounts here. Enter promo code revmountaineer for a special online-only 5% discount.

Check out the Revelstoke Mountaineer’s guide to the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre’s loaded winter season of events.