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Defender Picks


Helen Gillet

Music Playlist Series

Hola Nola, and hola local cello whiz, Helen Gillet.


Ms. Gillet was raised in Belgium, Singapore and the heartland of America before coming to New Orleans. Fresh off a new CD release (Running of the Bells), Gillet has taken her cello, loop pedal, and vocals to Europe for a two month summer tour. If you missed her final gig on New Orleans soil at the Blue Nile last week, don’t fret. She’ll be back soon. And you won't be the only one to miss her. Like many of the artists we've featured, Gillet counts herself a mere element of many local musical compounds, namely Wazozo, Schatzy, Happy Talk Band, One Man Machine, the Naked Orchestra, the New Generation Orchestra, VocaCello, the Impenus Trio and the Krusche-Gillet-Lott trio. While she’s away, keep up with Gillet through her personal playlist below.


From Helen:

Music saves me, and for those of you who know me more personally, PRINCE saves me...everytime! Never fails! I have been influenced by so many amazing performers, recording artists, sound sculptors, poets, characters, composers. Here I am now to share some of the really inspiring people and performances that have kicked my butt as a person and performer.  


1. “When 2 Are In Love” -- Prince  

What can I say...when I first heard Prince, my world changed and has never been the same. He was influenced by Joni Mitchell, whom I also love. He continues to rock my world.


2. “Down by the Water” -- PJ Harvey

I love how honest and brave PJ Harvey is. I also admire how she lets herself evolve musically to whatever she hears and cares to share with the world.  Another one of hers that remains very inspiring to me is "Man Size."  


3. “Time After Time -- Miles Davis

This one covers both Miles David and Cindy Lauper. I love Miles Davis' amazing melodic sculpting and the freedom he had to follow his creative muse throughout his life to whatever music captured his attention. Cindy Lauper's hit song from her album "She's So Unusual" was probably one of the first ten albums I ever owned.


4. “Skin No. 1” -- Julius Hemphill

Cellist Abdul Wadud remains one of the most influential cellists on my development as an improviser. You can hear how rhythmic his playing is here - an important driving percussive force in this group. The track I really would have wanted but couldn't find on YouTube is “The Hard Blues” by the Julius Hemphill Sextet. A great tune, with Abdul Wadud shaking the boat in his amazing way.


5. “Proud Mary” -- Tina Turner (Live performance)

Love me some Tina Turner...pretty much anything she does or says is golden with me.


6. “Oh Bondage - Up Yours!” -- X-Ray Spex

"Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard...but I say..."


7. “Hidegen Fuinak A Szelek” -- The Ex + Tom Cora 

Tom Cora is a gritty, beautiful improviser and rhythmic rock monster on the cello. In yet another strange coincidence, I learned this song in a "trade" with a friend in Hungary. His name was Robby and he asked me to teach him how to sing “Milord” by Edith Piaf in exchange for a Hungarian song named “Hidegen Fuinok a Szelek”. Six months after coming back to New Orleans from that trip a friend was playing a tape in the kitchen that had this song on it and I flipped out. Tom Cora's solo work is also worth checking out!


8. “Chanson pour l'Auvergnat” -- Georges Brassens

I listened to Brassens in the back of my parents’ car during my childhood. He is a master of lyrics and poetry, not to mention a brilliant melody weaver. I believe him to be most influential out of a long list of French songwriters: Boris Vian, Felix Leclerc, Patachou, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, Julos Beaucarne, Camille, Charles Aznavour...


9. “Unnacompanied Cello Sonata (mvt.1)” -- Zoltan Kodaly 

This piece requires the cello to be tuned differently than usual, a process called scordatura (mis-tuned), which enables the cello to capture the harmonies of the folk music that influenced this piece; I love it so much. Alongside the Bach unaccompanied cello suites, it continues to be a major resource.


10. “Who Is It” -- Bjork (live first run through of song in Rome)

Bjork makes me feel lucky to be alive at this time in human history.

Helen, you are a real

Helen, you are a real treasure. Keep up the good work :)

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