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A Gypsophilic afternoon

 

From the sidewalk, the six figures beyond the window must look caught up in a silent hurricane, eyes closed and instruments swaying. Up the wooden stairs and through the front door: the house is filled with rich jive. Bright gypsy-tinged jazz bounces off wallpaper and dangling disco balls, is draped across doorframes and furniture, and reaches back around to the sextet laughing and jamming on couches in the living room. Sunday afternoon stretches on infinitely alongside Gypsophilia, Halifax’s swing and gypsy jazz connection.

The Gazette met with Gypsophilia in the home of Ross Burns, one of the troupe’s three guitar players, for a photoshoot. The band is among the East Coast’s most prolific. They won two East Coast Music Awards with Sa-ba-da-OW!, their sophomore release,  and are returning to the limelight with a third full-length, Constellation (which has been nominated for three East Coast Music Awards this year, including Best Album).

Blending gypsy folk and swing-era jazz, the seven-piece outfit is Ross Burns, Alec Frith and Nick Wilkinson on guitar, Sageev Oore on keys and accordion, trumpeter Matt Myer, violinist Gina Burgess and Adam Fine on the upright bass (who was unable to attend).

The band has been performing for eight years, evolving from covering Django Reinhardt tracks to developing music that recalls the warmth of dusty records and the weird worldliness of foreign words whispering from alleyways. Having released three full-length records and toured Canada extensively, the band has become celebrated for high-energy live shows.

“The music is transformative,” says Oore, “Sometimes we play something different live, and we all like it and add it into the song. There are parts of songs that are very structured, and other sections left open for improvising.”

Since the beginning, Gypsophilia has run swing concert parties in churches and theatres. The parties have become increasingly renowned: recent shows exceeded 250 people decked out in their 1920s best.

“We heard that around the time of our last event that all the local thrift shops sold out of gloves and hats and dress-up stuff like that,” says Burgess with a laugh.

Gypsophilia is preparing their biggest swing party to date, which will be held March 30th at Saint Antonio’s Hall.

A record spins on Burns’ high-fidelity stereo system as photographers and musicians set up for the shoot. As the record cuts, the absence is filled with an impromptu Gypsophilia jam-session. Those off-camera play along with those in the frame. Uma, Burn’s grey-speckled cat, weaves between shuffling feet, unfazed. This is a page torn from the Gypsophilia handbook; the camera is invisible within the action. From the jagged deer antlers hanging above the fireplace to the 80s-themed family portraits on the fridge, an air of hominess pervades the peculiar scene.

As the afternoon wanes, cameras are packed away but the living room performance continues. Even as the exit march commences and goodbyes are shared, the outro music continues. This is what the group lives for. Music is a weightless expression of good times past, excitability for the present, and who knows what? for the future. It never stops.

                

Mat Wilush
Mat Wilush
Mat Wilush once went to see Agent Orange on the outskirts of Toronto, where the beer was salty and drunken teenagers took turns sitting in a prop electric chair. The music had aged poorly. A mohawk’d middle-ager danced through the first couple songs, but quickly tired out. There just isn’t much room for surf rock in the world anymore. What next? Mat Wilush wants to know. Mat is the Gazette's Arts Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @wilushwho and email him at arts@dalgazette.com.
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