Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Accordéon Resolutions (featuring a bonus polka!)


Let's review resolutions for last year:

Music is my joy
1: Keep playing! (Don't know if I dare be more specific than that)
2: Keep blogging ... a tremendous amount of fun this year, and I have some very nice big projects in the works.

3: Sing and play ... at the same time. My eternal resolution.

How did I do? It's complicated. (Forgive me for perhaps over-sharing, but I can't write this if it's not honest.)

I'm going to say that, in many areas, this has been the worst year of my adult life. My wife ended our marriage after fourteen years. And twelve days ago I lost my job.

But music ... music has been my salvation. I recorded and released my CD of French music, L'Autre Diatoniste, an amazing artistic experience working with friend musicians and a very smart, collaborative sound engineer, Caleb Orion.

I have begun work with a new group featuring clarinet, mountain dulcimer, me on accordion, and a French mezzo ... the group is Le Bon Truc. I have to tell you ... I don't have a great history with bands. The psychological element of playing in a band is very difficult for me ... But these musicians ... it is an amazing experience playing with them. We've had about four gigs, and have four more lined up already between now and March.

And also, the tattoo
I acquired a Dino Baffetti three-row F/Bb/Eb. Acquiring things is always nice, of course, but the point is that getting this new instrument with a three-row quint tuning (as opposed to a two-row + acc) has really made me pay attention to both instruments in a new way. I've thought about getting the Baffetti tuned F/Bb/acc so that the fingerings between my two boxes would be transferable (and transposing), but I feel like the two boxes being subtly different is actually making me a better player.

Blogging has dropped off in the past few months, because of events, but the year as a whole has been very active.

Thus, in terms of my resolutions, I have played more. I have blogged more. I have not worked on singing while playing. Instead I joined a group with a vocalist.

MEET THE NEW RESOLUTIONS. Same as the old resolutions (more or less).

1) Play more.
2) Blog more.
3) Work on group playing (i.e., being more flexible in terms of harmonies, accompaniments, and melody. Friend clarinetist, Steve, plays these amazing obligatos. I would love to be able to do that.)

The barrier to these is a creeping (occasionally raging) depression. I'm working on it. Seeing someone. Medicating. Doing what I think is necessary. But it's gotten bad.

I look to my music for respite and joy. When in doubt, do your art. Here's a set of polkas performed by Le Bon Truc. They always make me happy.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 29, 2013

C'est Noël!

Now that Thanksgiving is past in the States, I feel okay drawing your attention to this CD by my Le Bon Truc colleague, mezzo-soprano Joëlle Morris. For this amazing collection of French Christmas songs, Morris is accompanied by pianist Bridget Convey. The whole thing was recorded at the Franco Center in Lewiston, Maine, a ridiculously good space for music. Click through to the bandcamp site in order to listen and buy.

(Apologies for the complete absence of accordéonaire content ... but I'm not really sorry, because this CD is that good.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

L'Accordeonaire Tattoo

My kids are tattoo fiends of a sort. I've always thought I might like a tattoo if I could get the Right Thing. That thing, of course, is my accordion, the Saltarelle Pastourelle III. I wasn't just looking for a generic diato tattoo, it had to by My Box. My kids found an artist who could do such a thing and, as a gift, they paid for the below tattoo. The artist is Moonman Sam Hill, in Hallowell, Maine. I'll let the work speak for itself, but I am delighted by the R. Crumb illustrative quality of it. The words are, L'Autre Diatoniste, which is also the name of ... y'know ... my CD.

Picture by Julia Kimball

That dime is there to give you a sense of scale and level of detail. That's on the inside of my forearm.  Also, since everyone asks, yes, it hurt like a M*&^#r F*&^%r.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pique Diatonique Sept 2013

The twice yearly accordion gathering, Pique Diatonique, took place on September 14. I think of it as an Alsatian event, but really it takes place all around that region. Friend Mary Line took and posted an album of pics, including the following photos. I've written about Pique Diatonique before (and here). One day I'll go back!

Photo: Mary Line
Sylvain Piron Photo:Mary Line

Photo: Mary Line

Photo: Mary Line
Next year, in Alsace!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Breton Music Week

Two North American Breton cultural organizations, Kerlenn New York and Bretons de Quebec, have joined forces to launch the first annual Breton Music Week. A series of events from October 18 to 27 scheduled in a swath reaching from New York City, through Massachusetts, and into Quebec (with, hopefully, one outlier in Maine ... which would be me).

"The goal of Breton Music Week is to extend and increase the awareness of Breton Music and culture in North America!" The week culminates with the Fest-noz Vraz! in NYC. And, hey, they have a tee shirt!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Best Gig Comment Ever

I played for an hour yesterday at a local nursing home. Most everyone seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed it. But one woman -- the oldest in the building -- did not enjoy it. She sat about five feet away, directly in front of me. Between every number she would ask, "Don't you know any of the old songs that I know?" And, "Play 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'" And, "'Tell Me That You Love Me, Sweetheart.'" She was good natured, but I could tell I was frustrating her with my tradFrench stuff. About forty-five minutes in she got up and walked away, leaving behind the best gig comment I've ever gotten.

"If that's what they play in France, I'm glad I live here."

What's the best comment you've ever gotten at a performance?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two Blogs of Note

Sur le blog de ma fille.
I wanted to bring your attention to two blogs of interest to the accordéon-centric. The first (nepotism alert) is that of my daughter, Brigid. Quite the photographer, she is responsible for many of the photos on this site, and undertook to document the most recent performance of my trio, Le Bon Truc. These photos are posted on her blog, Brigid and the World. The photos of her trip to Costa Rica are also amazing.

The second blog is Loafing Aboard. Doc is a denizen of mel.net, and recently spent the summer in Ghent conducting a sort of dream-turned-real accordéon bacchanal. His most recent post is a beautiful essay about that trip.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Préhistoire du Folk

Though it sometimes sounds like an affectation, I'm careful to disclaim extraordinary expertise about this music. I am fascinated by it. I love it. I play it ... I know quite a bit more about it than the average American bear. Yes, but every once in a while I am reminded about how much I do NOT know.

I've had a link to Préhistoire du Folk in the relevant links column since this blog began. Today, the owner of the site -- Jean-Marie le Bas -- contacted me about my La Roulant post. So, I went over to check out Préhistoire for the first time in some months. The concept of the site is very simple: it's a documentary of the owner's record collection, mostly vinyl. It's massive and beautiful.

But you do get to a point where you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of great music I will never hear."

And when you get to that point, banish that thought! As I scan through Préhistoire I am not encountering music I won't hear, only music I have yet to hear. And Préhistoire brings it that much closer.

Below are some of the intriguing items from Préhistoire that I just may hear one day in the future. Thank you, Jean-Marie!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where goest the Nik?

Cynthia and the Nik (to be named
Julietta or Giulietta, still deciding)
Some months ago I sold my Castagnari Nik in order to purchase a Dino Baffetti three-row in flat keys. This week I asked the buyer -- who I will call "Cynthia," since that's her name -- if she'd send a picture along of the Nik in its new habitat.

Cynthia reports that she is loving the box, and that she is settling on a name for her (a phenomenon worth commenting on in another post). A bandmate recently taught her Stephane Delicq's, Les Novis. "I am still very much a novice, but the enthusiasm and will are there. With such a beautiful sounding instrument nudging me on, I know I'm in good hands ... and so is she."

They do, indeed, both look happy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Performance, September 8

On Sunday, September 8, the trio Bon Truc will be playing at the Royal Bean, in Yarmouth, Maine, from 1:00 to 3:00. The trio comprises Gary Chapin (me) on accordéon, Steve Gruverman on woodwinds, and Barbara Truex on mountain dulcimer and percussion. Our repertoire is a quality blend of music centre France, Brittany, Alsace, and other places ... plus some originals. We've played together for some time within the context of the dance band, Nouveau Chapeau. Recently, we started working specifically as a trio. After our first gig at the beginning of August, I felt, "Oh, yeah, THIS is why I started playing music." It was very sweet.

So join us on September 8. Drink some coffee. Eat pastry. Listen to great music.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In Praise of AMTA Cassettes

At a rehearsal last week over at a friend's place I spotted a cassette sitting on top of his formidable array of stereo equipment. It had a familiar look. The red italic lettering. The black bar at top and bottom. The name of the performers in white, just above the smallest text, the title, in quotation marks. There's the circular stamp: MUSIQUE EN AUVERGNE. And the stylized AMTA logo.

This particular cassette was by La Jimbr'tée, and called Virage. The cover shows five men and one woman, an array of vielle, accordéon, and pipes.

Seeing the cassette there, I was cast into a fugue state. I was thrilled. These were the cassettes that changed everything.

I believe I have mentioned before, the role that AMTA cassettes have played in my musical life. The AMTA -- Agences des Musiques des Territoires d'Auvergne -- is an especially effective regional cultural organization that somehow managed to export its music to Amherst, Massachusetts, which is where the Button Box was located at the time.

In 1998, I traveled to the Button Box to pick up my first box -- a red Hohner Corso (G/C) tuned very wet -- and saw a bunch of these black/red/AMTA cassettes on the shelf. I picked up Frédéric Paris's, Carnet de Bal, and Jacque Lavergne's, Cadences d'Auvergne. After getting home, I called the store back and asked them to send  a few others, including the hardcore Bal Auvergnat duo of Guy Letur and Pierre Ladonne on chromatic button accordéon and cabrette.

All of my copies of these cassettes have either broken, melted, or disintegrated into iron dust. (All the more amazing that my friend's were in great shape). My cassettes had lived in my car, mostly, which is never ideal for a music delivery medium. A good number of them I've managed to find in digital form. But that doesn't change the magic of that discovery at the Button Box. The sheer abundance of discovery. The amount of this music suddenly to hand, this joyous, amazing music.

I'd love to hear how you discovered this music. What early finds inspired you? Feel free to add your story to the comments.

In the meantime, thank you AMTA!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Video from Embraud

Time again for the summer festivals in France. Jackdiatonique (denizen of mel.net) posted a ton of videos from his travels. Including these three of an impromptu group playing some very Auvergnat bourrées. Note the instrumentation: cabrette, diatonic accordéon, chromatic accordéon, and two banjos! Note also the foot action going on! Great stuff. Thank you, Jack.

UPDATE: The diatoniste below is Etienne Loic, whose info can be found at the AMTA site. (h/t Chris Ryall).

Go to Jack's YouTube to watch the rest.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wals Voor Polle, Redux

Some weeks ago I posted about Wim Poesen's wonderful tune, Wals Voor Polle. I was pleased to receive a comment from Polle Ranson, the man for whom the wals is voor. He was pleased with the post and shared two other videos of performances on Flemish pipes. Here they are:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Waltz: L'Urosa Jardiniéra

Here's a humble but wonderful waltz, found in Mally's Bal Folk tune book (actually, I found it in the Massif Central Tune Book, pink volume). Playing it on the Baffetti almost entirely on the F row.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tribute: Le Cotillon Vert

I am obsessed with this tune, a scottish/valse called "Le Cotillon Vert." Here I am in my kitchen taking a crack at it.

The scottish/valse is exactly what's on the tin. You dance the A section as a scottish (medium tempo, 4/4 dance), then you switch to a waltz for the B section. Then back to a scottish. Then waltz. Et deliriums cetera. The trick -- and it is tricky -- is that the ones of the scottish have to be the same distance apart as the ones of the waltz. So, the 1-2-3-4 of the scottish has to fill the same amount of time as the 1-2-3 of the waltz. Got it?

"Le Cotillon Vert" is a bedeviling ear-worm of a tune. A bog norm standard that I found in Sylvain Piron's tradfrance. Here's the sheet music:

(UPDATE: And here is a link to diatojo's tab of the tune.)

And here is Sylvain's recording, a bit scratchy, maybe, played on his Castagnari Giordy:

Sylvain Piron, "Le Cotillon Vert"

You can hear that it's a bedeviling ear-worm of a tune! A few weeks ago I was listening to cabrette player Dominique Paris, and heard the same tune, though under the title, "Dis-moi Donc Suzon." Here it is as part of a set of scottish/valses.

Dominique Paris, "Dis-moi Donc Suzon - Pendant la Messe (scottishs-valses)"

UPDATE: Jim Besser, over at concertina.net, posted this version because I'd asked if anyone had done a concertina version. Thank you, Jim!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Accordéon History Book

Philippe Krümm, music columnist and editor of both Accordéon et Accordéonistes and Trad, has come out with a corker of a book. L'Accordéon: Quelle Histoire! (roughly Accordion: What a Story!) is a 120 page book packed with pictures and "iconography" from the 1930s to today. The book is featured at the AMTA website, and is available through Auvergne Diffusion.

This is the second accordéon history book to come out in a the past few months. See the other one here!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

L'Autre Diatonist Physical CDs Now Available

Enough folks have asked, and I've decided to produce physical CDs of L'Autre Diatoniste. I'm not doing a mass run, but will do quality duplicates packaged in very attractive, crafty sleeves (something we're good at, here in Maine). Thanks to those who have ordered the download so far. Your response has been very gratifying!

To order a physical CD, go to my bandcamp page. I will begin shipping on Friday, June 19. Thank you!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Download my new CD!

It's finally ready! Download!

My new CD, L'Autre Diatoniste, is now ready for download over at bandcamp! Minimum cost is seven dollars, which was bandcamp's recommendation. Here's a track list:

L'Autre Diatoniste at bandcamp
1. La Souflette 3:29
2. FRLO Anthem 4:53
3. Polka Piquee & Polka de l'Aveyron 2:42
4. L'intermittent 2:29
5. Les Filles de Saint Nicholas 2:57
6. Catherine's Psaltery 3:15
7. Two Mazurkas 2:34
8. Hanter Dro 3:16
9. Not That Guy's Gavotte 2:00
10. Two Scottishes 2:55
11. Twentieth Century Rondeau 3:41
12. Ballad Of The Bachelor 4:40

I am very pleased with how this all turned out. The recording itself came out great and the process that made it was fantastic and joyful. I'm going to miss working on this project.

I am grateful. Producer Caleb Orion was generous in his time and expertise. And excellent critical friend. Steve Gruverman - of clarinet, sax, and bombarde - has been a part of my musical journey for years. A good number of tunes here, I learned from him. He is an amazing tune finder! Thanks to Will Leavitt. Thanks to Thierry Laplaud, Frèdèric Bordois, and Au Gre des Vents (Danyéle Besserer and Gilles Péquignot), for letting me use their amazing tunes. Thanks also to all the folks over at melodeon.net who have been an invaluable and general support over the past two years.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Letter to a Similarly-Aged Accordéonist

Shortly after publishing my piece on shifting to a three-row, I got the following e-mail from Troy Bennett, of Mystery Jig Studios.

Hi Gary,

The seductive Beltuna A/D/G 
Long time, no-see. How's the new three-row Baffetti treating you? Currently, I've got a three-row, three-voice, 12-bass Beltuna in A/D/G on spec from the Button Box. It's a far cry from the two-voice Saltarelle Bouebe I've had since last fall. The Beltuna is much more mellow and creamy. The action is better and it's heavy at about 16 pounds. The Bouebe is more brash and light. I'm torn. I'm also fumbling over the extra set of buttons on the bass side.

What should I do?

I'm finding the Beltuna a bit intimidating. I certainly don't play well enough to really justify such a magnificent instrument. But, I feel like I might, some day. But I'm drawn to the light little Bouebe, too. It's very unpretentious. Will I ever get used to all the bass buttons? Is a three-row really that much better than a two-row? Is the extra weight justified.

And I have to decide by Monday! Eeek!


To three-row or not to three-row??? An existential dilemma! I responded:

Thinking about accordéons, Mr. Sartre?
Hey, congratulations on the dilemma you've placed yourself in!

"What should I do?" you ask.

I'm pretty sure I'm the wrong one to ask, being as I'm besotted by my Baffetti. According to Sartre, when you go to a priest for advice, you've already decided on the advice you want to get.

Letting it into your living room may have been a mistake!  

Is the three-row better than the two-row? Of course, not … not in any intrinsic sense. It depends on what you want to do. I am absolutely loving my three row. I've been fascinated by the three-row for years, wanting to try one out. And the opportunities it offers me (playing for singers and with other instruments) and the challenges are already making me a better musician and engaging me thoroughly. I worried that I might be sacrificing some of the "melodeon-ness" by moving away from the two-row, but that hasn't been the case. I don't know if you know Andy_from_Vermont, but he plays a ton of Irish and Contra on his ADG.

The thing about the three-row is that it does promote a more fluid way of playing, and offers more opportunities for right-hand chords, and it does give you that extra key (and A is pretty common in the Celtic/Contra world). But you can play up and down the rows and get the push/pull people like.  The extra weight is such that it doesn't slow play (especially if you play while sitting). You WILL acclimate to the extra bass buttons. Really. You will.

Bethany, reading over my shoulder, recommends that you examine your three year growth plan, if you haven't already: How do I want to grow musically in the next three years? Will this instrument challenge me in a way that is enjoyable? These are the questions she asked me when I talked about investing in the Baffetti … even though it ended up being an even trade for the Nik.

Also, I had to make adjustments to the straps to make the Baffetti sit well with my body and its various back aches, etc.

Obviously, i can't tell you what you should do. William James posited that the right-ness or wrong-ness of a philosophy depends more on the temperament of the philosopher than the truth of the philosophy. The fact that you worry that it might be "pretentious" might point to some required self-examination on your part.

Are you worthy of this beautiful thing? Of course. 

Hope this is helpful, but suspect not.

P.S. what made you consider a three-row in the first place?

To which Troy replied:

I decided to have a go at the big A/D/G, like Hillary, because it was there. I was perusing the Button Box website and it looked like a good deal and sounded great in the video. The price seemed more than fair. I'd be wanting to get a G/C, really, because I wrote some words to La Marianne and G is too high to sing them in. D is actually a better key for the song and French tunes sound better on the A row that the D row of my current box. I guess it was a bunch of factors, really.

But, when I got it, it seemed very heavy. I wondered if it'd just end up sounding like a piano accordion what with its three reeds and extra buttons. I'm not a very experienced player, so working with the extra four bass buttons feels like it's setting me back months.

However, I believe you when you say it'll come. When I first started on the two row, I didn't think I'd ever get the 3/4 time right on the bass side. But I did. I'm already better with these 12 buttons than I was two days ago. It's a bit frustrating, though.

The best piece of your eloquent advice/warning is the bit about the three year plan. That makes sense. Will this instrument take me, or can I take it, where I want to be in three years? Yes, I think so. Also, saying that Andy in Vermont plays contra with his is nice to hear. I'm very much interested in the New England repertoire, pre-Celtic tiger. You know, before the 1990's when everyone started playing as fast as they could with as many grace notes a s humanly possible?

So, yes, I think I'll keep it and trade in the little Bouebe so I can actually afford the Beltuna. Thanks for being there in my weak moment.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Alsatian Dance in 7

Here's a tune I learned from storyteller Catherine Piron-Paira and her husband Sylvain Piron, both of Saverne, Alsace. Catherine played it on psaltery, thus I tend to call it "Catherine's Psaltery." I feature this tune on my new CD, but with added clarinets and recorders, and with vastly improved sound quality. I recorded this to include in the melodeon.net Theme of the Month for July 2013, French Tunes.

I'm not sure why my pants figure so heavily in this video.  I apologize.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Announcement: My CD!

My new CD is coming out!

Last week I wrapped up work on tracks for my new CD. I've kept quiet about it. Letting it incubate. Now, I'm pleased to announce that it's almost ready to be let loose on the world.

L'Autre Diatoniste (or, "The Other Accordionist") will be made available at bandcamp early next week. It features tunes from centre France, Brittany, Alsace, and other places and two songs. It's mostly accordéon with a lighter mixture of guitar, tenor guitar, recorders, spoons, clarinet, and bombarde. That's right, I said bombarde!

UPDATE: Totally unnecessary spelling error fixed. Thanks, Oolong!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wals Voor Polle

This waltz, by Wim Poesen, became something of a beloved chestnut for me after I heard the House Band's version on their Stonetown CD. I recently went into a friend's studio to get a quality recording of my Baffetti, and laid down this recording of the Wals. Thanks to Caleb Orion for recording and engineering.

Wals Voor Pollee, played by me on the Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34

And here's a stunning performance by piper Polle Ranson for whom the Wals is voor.

UPDATE: Go HERE for additional recordings of Ranson playing the tune on Flemish pipes.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stephane Deliqc's "Vivre"

The duo of Mark Prescott and Clive Williams play Stephane Delicq's tune, "Vivre," at their June 2013 concert.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sous le Ciel de Paris (Still Learning)

A few months ago I mentioned that I was determined to learn the Edith Piaf classic, "Sous le Ciel de Paris." I had been asked to accompany a singer, but then decided I wanted to learn the Tune itself. I saw the Anders Johannson video and was thoroughly inspired. In the end, I did not use his arrangement. I based mine on the arrangement my singer was using. There are some techniques of Johannson's that I would dearly love to get under my fingers -- those descants! But I'm pleased with the progress I've made. I follow the example of fellow blogger Owen Woods who, in April, posted some "experimental" work he was doing with descants, and then just recently posted a piece about the joys of being "out of my depth." Very joyful, indeed. Sigh.

Some technical points. I'm playing it basically in A minor, but there's a lot of straying from typical diato chords. I pulled the thirds out of the chords on the left hand. My goal wasn't so much to find the right chord for the song, but to find a dyad that fit with the chord.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Vivant: Tree of Life

I wrote about Vivant -- the duo of Clive Williams, melodeon, and Mark Prescott, violin -- some months ago, including some lengthy commentary by Clive himself! At the time I was enthusing about their first recording. Clive mentioned that a second disc was in the works. It's here.

Tree of Life builds on the strengths of its predecesor with a sort of whirling romantic simplicity. There's a bit more of the melancholy here then on the first. And at one point these English and French tunes actually evoked a Russian winter to me. Though that could simply be because I'm reading Dostoyevsky at the moment (for which this recording provides a perfect soundtrack).

This isn't meant to be a proper review. Rather, I'm hoping to call your attention to beautiful work being done by two artists in a way that suits the music, the instruments, and me. Go to Vivant's bandcamp page to stream, download, or order.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

First Tunes with the Baffetti

Videos down below!

The Dino Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34 arrived on Thursday! Very exciting! I had intended to do an internal examination of the box, a la Owen Woods or Daddy Long Les, but I found I couldn't bear to take a screw driver to it, not even to remove the grill. I'm made of less stern stuff than that, it seems.

Instead, I've been playing the heck out of it. Here are some first thoughts:

  • Big one!  Playing a three row is different from playing two or two-and-a-half row or even two-row-plus-accidentals. Possibly this is obvious. The three row quint box can do different things that I don't yet know how to do. New frontiers!
  • The two row repertoire works just fine on this one. Even if it is obvious that playing up-and-down the rows is not what it was built to do, everything I've been learning for the last 15 years is essentially transferable!
  • At melodeon.net there is a recurring discussion about stepped keyboards vs. flat keyboards. Playing a flat keyboard for the first time in years has made no difference to me.
  • Even though this is an F/Bb/Eb box (which is exactly what I was after) I'm choosing to name it as G/C/F and recognize that it's a transposing instrument. All of the sheet music and tab is for G/C/F, so this seems simplest.
  • It sounds AMAZING. Essentially, as one colleague mentioned, it's a clone of a Hohner Corona, done to a absurdly high level of quality. The sound is so very sweet. And the touch is effortless. I do have fond feelings for Hohner accordions, but this is a cut above.
  • I love it.
  • It is a little silly that with five rows of box to my name, I still don't have a D row. What sort of psychological block am I dealing with? Is it PTSD from the Minneapolis Irish sessions?
Here are three videos with the Baffetti. The first is a hanter dro written by Sylvain Piron.

The second is another hanter dro, traditional, that I learned from Steve Gruverman.

The third is a Breton March, traditional, that I learned from the playing of Daniel Thonon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rémi Geffroy

A beautiful piece by Rémi Geffroy's trio. I'm not sure what this genre of sweet, folkish, instrumental music should be called. It's like an amazing soundtrack for a movie that has yet to be made. There's so much story going on in it. It's based in his traditional Aveyron upbringing, but there's a lot there. This piece is from Geffroy's recent, fantastic album, Entre-Deux.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Welcoming Baffetti

The plan unfolds slowly! Made arrangements for sale of the Nik, yesterday, and arranged to purchase a Dino Baffetti, Tex-Mex II/34 from the Button Box. As it happens, both the buyer of the Nik and the Button Box are right near Sunderland, Massachusetts.  Saturday, I'll be making the pilgrimage.

Here's a picture of the Baffetti, and there's a video over on the Button Box site. It's a three-row, MM box, tuned American Tremolo (as was the Nik), with rows in F/Bb/Eb. Baffetti has a stellar reputation as a maker. As the name of the thing suggests, it was made for the Tex-Mex market, but its wider tuning perfectly suits all of the French musics I'm obsessed with. This decision has been a long time coming. I've loved that Nik, but have felt the redundancy of its G/C tuning many times at gigs. Also, working in a chanson trio with Barbara Truex and Joëlle Morris, the need for key flexibility is urgent. Finally, I've wanted a three-row quint tuned box for ages. Now I get my chance. I'm already thinking of the new possibilities for across-the-row madness and right-hand chords.

Here's hoping it all goes off as planned!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Castagnari Nik (G/C) for Sale (SOLD)

UPDATE:  Arrangements for sale have been made!

In order to meet my wider musical goals, I'm putting my beloved Castagnari Nik (G/C) up for sale. It's in perfect condition, comes with original straps, and the Castagnari box. A two row, 8 bass machine, two-reeds tuned MM, "American Tremolo." What does all that mean? It means an amazing simple box with a lovely sound.  I love this box, but having two quality boxes in G/C doesn't serve my needs. I'm asking $2000 for this box. A new box of the same type goes for $2365 at the Button Box. I would also take a good quality F/Bb/Eb (Baffetti, for example) box in trade, if one were offered.

Contact accordeonaire@aol.com.

Here's a video:

And another:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

La Chavannée Videos

The magic that is La Chavannée is on display in some quality videos on YouTube. Here is an assortment. Thanks to Mitch Gordon, and Phillipe Wurlgue and Jeff Dantin (of Morvan Productions) for posting these.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Petite Rosalie (Hanter Dro)

A tune written by Sylvain Piron. His version -- with a traditional lyric -- can be found here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bruno Le Tron and François Heim

Intersection (Compagnie Balagan) is an excellent example of the genre that has been co-created by Le Tron, Heim, Didier Laloy, Wim Claeys, and their compatriots in Accordion Samurai. Two accordéons accompanying each other. Interweaving melodies and counter melodies. Extended harmonies. Virtuosic performance. Very rhythmic with much syncopation. A fascination for odd meters, sevens and fives. It sounds like it's French, at times rural, at times Parisian ... with some Hot Jazz happening. Yes, that's swing. It sounds like it's Balkan, with those wonderful meters and scales and melodies. For some reason it's associated strongly with Belgium. An intersection? A crossroads? Pan-European? This isn't "more-eclectic-than-thou" post-modernism. Out of this many, come one voice from two men. Heim and Le Tron are very good at this.

Listen to two excerpts performed below.

And another.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A New Polka Wot I Helped Write

Here's a new polka written by myself and clarinetist Steve Gruverman. I improvised the theme in connection to a recording project, a song called "The Ballad of the Bachelor." Steve took the theme and morphed it into this, "The Bachelor's Polka." I did mess around just a bit with Steve's harmonies, which I hope he doesn't mind. Here's the tune. The sheet music is below.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Josef Čapek's Accordion-player, 1913

Painting by Josef Čapek, Czech, born in 1887. Most well known for cubist works, but also an acknowledged poet and writer. He was a vocal critic of National Socialism, and was imprisoned in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he died in 1945.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chris Wood: None the Wiser

This is the first time in 135 posts that I've written  about a subject that has absolutely no accordéon content at all, but I trust my readers will not accuse me of breaking our implicit contract or breaching some sort of squeezebox point of etiquette.

The fact of the matter is that Chris Wood has released a new recording, None the Wiser, and it has come to dominate my every waking moment. If you don't know -- and even if you do know -- Wood is a highly regarded English folk musician and songwriter.  On the current recording he centers the groups sound around a sort of baritone urge (his wonderful voice), and the featured instruments are his guitar, upright bass, and hammond organ.  Yes, that's what I said!  Wondrous!

I urge you to seek it out (it's available on Bandcamp now). It will vastly increase the probability of your having a great day. It will improve your quality of life.

ASIDE: You may remember Andy Cutting talking about Chris Wood in this post a few weeks ago.

Here's Chris talking about the new recording:

UPDATE:  Novelist Tom Brown wrote about None the Wiser, exploring the joys of instant Bandcamp access.  Read that here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

French Dance Fundraiser, Augusta, ME

A Night of Traditional French Music and Dance will be held on Saturday, April 6, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Augusta, Maine. Two bands will play.  Nouveau Chapeau -- featuring me on accordéon, Steve Gruverman on clarinet, and Barbara Truex on dulcimer and percussion -- plays music from central France and Brittany. Roy, West, and Friends play New England contra music with a heavy Franco-Canadian influence. The fabulous Marie Wendt will teach and lead dances.

The evening is a benefit for World Teach volunteer, Brigid Chapin (my daughter), who is going to Costa Rica in May to teach English to kids there.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Andy Cutting Speaks About Chris Wood

This is the fifth piece in a series about Andy Cutting. Click through for parts one, two, and three ... and also some pictures of his boxes.

The duets of Andy Cutting and Chris Wood are among the high points of English and European folk music. That's not hyperbole. Cutting's solo playing is a thing of beauty. The work with Blowzabella is a spectacle to be adored. The Cutting and Wood duets are something else.

Andy had this to say about the duet:

Chris and I first met at a late night session at Sidmouth Folk Festival the same year as the Riccardo Tesi workshop. At the end of the session Chris asked if I fancied meeting up the next day to play some more? We had a lovely few tunes on the beach the next day then he had to leave for a gig. A couple of months later he phoned me up to ask if I would play on his solo record. I of course said, “Yes.” He had recently returned from a trip to Canada where he had been taken around various house sessions by Lisa Ornstein. He was very interested in how English traditional music had traveled to Quebec and been changed by the different musical flavors there.

The night before the recording session he came to my house and we played the tunes he wanted to record with me. We played for about ten minutes and knew it would be good so we went to the pub. On the way to the studio the next day Chris said he was doing a couple of songs with Martin Carthy and would it be good if Martin played on our track as well? So, not a bad first recording experience!

From the first time we played together it just worked. It was like we had the same goal and because of this we didn't have to discuss anything. We just played. That has never really changed. After the recording he suggested that we should play some more together as he had quite a few Quebecois tunes we could look at. So the Wood & Cutting duo was born. After a while we started looking at some of the French repertoire that I was playing. A couple of years later we played at a castle on a very cold and wet Sunday to virtually no one, so decided just to play English tunes. We played for four hours. It was so easy and felt so natural to play our own music after spending years trying to play other peoples music. So we had finally reached our goal. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Andy Cutting Interview, Part Three

In the middle of our conversation in December, Andy Cutting went on a wander, performing here, teaching workshops there. I had asked him some questions about the partnerships of his career -- especially Blowzabella and Chris Wood. At the end of February, the answers arrived.

Could you talk about Blowzabella? How did you encounter them, and then join?

Andy Cutting with Blowzabella
I knew of Blowzabella for several years before I really met them. Through seeing them at various English folk festivals. In fact before I played the box! When I started to play, I went to a box workshop run by Riccardo Tesi at Sidmouth folk festival. Paul James, [Blowzabella's piper and sax guy], was helping Riccardo and they asked me to play a bit. I discovered some years later that on hearing me pay Riccardo turned to Paul and said "you need to get him in Blowzabella." Dave Roberts, box player, had recently left and Dave Shepherd (the violin player) was leaving, so that meant they wanted someone to fill their shoes. Fortunately for me I was in the right place at the right time. They asked me to a few of their gigs and then I received a letter saying I was now in the band. 

This wasn't your first time playing French and European music, was it?

As far as the European repertoire goes. I hadn't really heard any until I was given a Castagnari catalogue which had photos of their range of instruments surrounded by LP's made by people playing their instruments. I used these pictures to track down some of the records. Most notably Riccardo Tesi, Marc Perrone, and La Ciapa Rusa. It was just the catalyst I needed.

The Vanilla recording really made quite the impact, what elements do you think came together to make that such a vibrant piece of work?

When we recorded Vanilla the band had spent a year with the new line up, and we had played a lot of concerts so we were a really cohesive unit. Both socially and musically. Once in the studio we just got on and did the best we could. Recording the hurdy-gurdy (Nigel Eaton), bass/cittern (Ian Luff) and box live, then building the track up from that. It was a residential studio so we were all together with no real distractions. A very enjoyable time for me.

Could you talk about the vision of the group? The focused/multi-cultural, complex/simple, thoughtful/intuitive blend?

As a band. Blowzabella doesn't really fit into any of the folk genres. We have always just ploughed our own furrow. The band started off playing bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy music from wherever they could find it. Since then we have written more and more of our own music so now it is almost entirely self composed English dance music. Well. Our hurdy-gurdy player (Gregory Jolivet) is French so he is having an influence on our repertoire now. Which is great. I like things to evolve.

With the recent work (Octomento), and work I've seen from you and Gregory Jolivet, it feels as if a kind of renaissance is happening for Blowzabella. Is that accurate? Or just wishful thinking on my part?

With Greg and Barnaby Stradling (bass) they have bought a new energy to us all. We are starting to play a bit more and are working on a new record. It is also our 35th anniversary this year. I suppose with all that there is more media interest and so people are being reminded that the band is still a going concern. If that's a renaissance, then, yes I suppose that it whats happening.

Next:  The Andy Cutting/Chris Wood partnership.