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Helen Gillet

Musicians / Band

Music Note
  • Contemporary Jazz
  • Electronic
  • Jazz
  • Punk
  • Rock
  • World
  • Cello
  • Vocal

Helen Gillet is a master of improvisation, using an acoustic cello, voice, and looping techniques to explore the boundaries of synthesized sounds and textures. Her music, rich in depth and color, expresses her experiences as a world citizen, yet is steeped in the humid rhythms of New Orleans.

Born in Belgium and raised in Singapore, Chicago, and Wisconsin, Gillet (pronounced Jill-EH) began studying free improvisation in 1998. She earned bachelor’s degrees in music and anthropology before migrating to New Orleans in 2002 to earn a master’s degree in music from Loyola University. Over the years — working in New Orleans with musicians of all stripes, from avant-garde jazz and classical to pop and funk — Gillet has developed what she calls, “a singular polyglot style.” The core of her work is solo performance, using live looping, layering cello parts and vocal lines. Her shows reflect her international, eclectic sensibilities and can include anything from French chansons and punk rock ala PJ Harvey to Patsy Cline.

Gillet has recorded and performed with the likes of Wardell Querzeque, Arcade Fire, Cassandra Wilson, Dr. John, Harold Brown (of WAR), Kid Koala, Aurora Nealand, James Singleton, Nikki Glaspie (of Beyonce, Parliament Funkadelic), and Bill Summers. She has performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Arts, Lincoln Center, and festivals in Copenhagen, Berlin, Italy, Tasmania, and Australia.

She is featured in an exhibit at the New Orleans Jazz Museum and her original score can be heard as part of the permanent exhibit, “Katrina and Beyond” at the Louisiana State Museum.

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