I recently spoke over a video chat with the extraordinary musician Everest Witman about this new project from his band Kavaz. Everest, who plays guitar, bass, and diatonic accordion, first met his musical pals Isaac Beaudet Lefevbre (fiddle) and François-Xavier Dueymes (flutes/whistles) at an Irish session in Montréal, where they all live. They loved the sound of the session and eventually decided to combine their talents to create a recording that celebrated the directness and ambience of that sound.
The trio wanted their work to shine without the complex productions that mark many recordings. This is Celtic music from many traditions that doesn’t lean on any arrangements to be good.
The guys’ collaboration took place remotely for about a year during pandemic lockdowns. They chose repertoire from the Irish tradition and then added Breton and Québecois tunes plus some original compositions. There are reels, jigs, mazurkas, a polka, a hornpipe and even a march. It’s a mélange that works superbly, bringing in the expertise and cultural backgrounds of all three musicians.
After lockdowns ended, Isaac, François-Xavier and Everest finally got together in Everest’s home studio in Montréal to record the music. They sat in a circle, replicating the atmosphere of a session, then played the tunes together for the microphones. The sound that has resulted is fantastic. Everest is a sound engineer and really knows how to make the best from the mixing and mastering process. The end result is a work of art that reflects the junction of their collective musical origins, Everest being from Vermont, Isaac from Québec, and François-Xavier from Brittany in France.
The band’s name, Kavaz, is a Breton word that means “fork” or “bifurcation.” It’s all Celtic music, and every tune is based on dance traditions from all over the Celtic world of Britain, Ireland, and western Europe. Think of Irish dance, BalFolk and Québecois square dancing; the music here covers all of those cultures. The CD title, Confluence, reflects the idea of music as a river. Here we have three traditions coming together in a seamless flow of melodies.
The music is both beautiful and energetic and brings something new to the trad music oeuvre from Québec. It’s well worth putting on your playlist.