Photo by Shannon Brinkman
Clarinetist Jacques Gauthe passed away while on tour in France. I was told it was of natural causes. I received the call early this morning in Newcastle while on tour with the PHJB in Great Britain. The news came from our dear English friend clarinetest and New Orleans Jazz Enthusiast Brian Carrick.
I grew up knowing Jacques. He moved to New Orleans from France to play music and cook in the best kitchens in the city. He was head chef at the Plimsol Club and later at Galatoire’s Restaurant where he regularly cooked for my dad Allan. Jacques and my dad had a special bond. My father lived to eat and Jacques loved to cook for him. I remember one evening at Preservation Hall the two of them sitting in the courtyard eating a pate Jacques had made. There were crumbs from the French bread they were sharing everywhere. On these frequent occasions, my dad would pull out a vintage bottle of wine from his private stash and he and Jacques would drink and eat with the most incredible enthusiasm.
Jacques’ sound on the clarinet was like him, full of energy and robust. He played with such excitement, I always got the sense that he was always on the verge of bursting into great laughter. On one trip with the PHJB to Omaha, NB, we had a day off. The band was invited to spend the afternoon at a friends house. Jacques and I agreed I would purchase and prep the food and he would cook. It so happened that it was the first day of the asparagus season!! I bought a case of asparagus and dozens of steaks. Jacques and I got to work. He was at home and at great ease in the kitchen. He handled his knife and pans the way an artists mixes paints, with complete confidence. The recipes he showed me that day I use regularly. He created five completely different asparagus dishes and it was, barring the last time he cooked for our family at Galatoire’s, the best steak I’ve ever had.
He suffered and moarned greatly over the loss of his prized home in New Orleans from the flood waters following Katrina. He was an avid stamp collector. His extensive collection was destroyed as well as his instruments and music.
One of the last conversations Jacques and I had was about making salami. Once a year, Jacques would grind his own meat and hang it on a rope he would hang from the front door, down the hallway to his back door. He told me he had to put newspaper down to soak up the oil from the drying meat. He said it was a lengthy and messy endeavour with delicious results. I asked how long it takes. With his typical shrug of the shoulder he replied with his heavy French accent, “When it’s ready. Until then, salami is my wife’s enemy!!!” We burst out laughing.