Monday, December 28, 2015

Le Lundi Accordéonaire: Duo Expire

This Monday I bring you a video from Duo Expire, featuring Cédric Martin and Flavien Di-Cinto. I met Cédric about twelve years ago, when I was in Alsace. I don't expect him to remember me, but I've always remembered the fluidity and personality he brought to his playing that night.

If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Five Great Bourrées

A conversation over at Mel.Net has gotten me thinking about my favorite bourrées. These are sort of the reels of the Bal Folk world in that they are uniquely foundational to the dance and music culture. So, here are five bourrées that knock my socks off.

Frédéric Paris, Bourrée de St Pierre / Le fendeur (from Carnet de Bal)

St. Pierre is a thing of beauty -- so simple -- but then the vielle a roue (played by Patrick Bouffard) starts droning and you almost physically feel like you're taking flight. Carnet de Bal is one of the most influential recordings amongst the accordéonaire junta -- still transports me every time.

Marcel Plane, La Planette (from L'accordéon En Auvergne)

An archival, anthology recording put out in the US on Sylex records. This particular recording is, I believe, from 1931. The music was very different then ... not folk, not archival, but contemporary. And very speedy! I've been working at this tune for a while. Almost there.

Patrick Bouffard Trio, Revenant De Paris/Les Timides (from Revenant de Paris)

The second tune is the star of this set. You'll know you've gotten there when you suddenly feel like celebrating a victory. Bouffard's trio (with Cyril Roche on accordion) is one of the most energetic units on the planet. The counter melodies are mind-boggling ... also something I'm trying to learn how to do.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Le Lundi Accordéonaire IV

Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.

Presented here is a French Scottish (not a reel), performed by Serge Carrier on a three-stop one row. I love that one row sound, and continue to obsess about it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Le Lundi Accordéonaire III

Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here. This one features Patrick Lefebvre on CBA. He's one of my heroes. I wrote a tribute to him in 2011.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Le Lundi Accordéonaire II

Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.

Thank you, Anahata!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Le Lundi Accordéonaire

Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. Obviously, this is no departure from what this blog is about. In light of recent events I thought I would step up the consistency and pace of putting this joyful music out there -- a strike against the rage, nihilism, and misanthrope that seems to be boiling up out there.

If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here.

Thank you Tim Hall!

Friday, November 27, 2015

L'Autre Diatoniste Sale!

It's been more than two years since I released my CD, L'Autre Diatoniste. It was a great experience recording, and I'm still quite proud of it. This month I'm going to begin the cycle of recording my next CD. As a way of celebrating the process and maybe funding the new project. So, I'm offering L'Autre Diatoniste on sale -- almost 50% off -- $7 for the physical CD (plus shipping), or $4 for the download. Go on over to my Bandcamp page and buy it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Baffetti Factory Video

This video of from the Dino Baffetti factory has been posted on Facebook by the Dino Baffetti Portuguese branch. Really very charming and interesting look at the building of the objects of my obsession.

Caros Amigos,É com enorme Prazer e Orgulho e numa iniciativa conjunta com a Dino Baffetti Accordions, Dino Baffetti...
Posted by Dino Baffetti Portugal on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Two New CDs from Sylvain Piron

Georges Haibach, Catherine Piron-Paira, Sylvain Piron
A joyful package arrived on my doorstep a few days ago. Two new CDs from Sylvain Piron!

The first is a trio recording, Par un beau soir: Chansons Traditionelle, featuring Sylvain along with Catherine Piron-Paira and Georges Haibach. The three of them wield a truly impressive array of instruments, including accordion, basse aux pieds, nyckelharpa, dulcimer, epinette, psaltry, various whistle-type instruments, and objets sonores (sound objects). On top of it all are their three voices weaving genuinely delicate melodies and harmonies. All but one of the songs are traditional or ancient, and the one remaining song is Sylvain's own minor-key mazurka, Le chemin

Le Chemin

The second CD is On est que des cailloux, a set of Sylvain's original songs, played solo by the man himself, recorded over a few years. Sylvain's singing, solo with only the accordion accompaniment, is a sort of pure, earthy thing -- strong and reminiscent of the harp singer tradition. His songs are light but filled with feeling, both pathos and humor.

Both CDs are available directly from Sylvain himself. You can contact him at his email.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Two Waltzes from Le Bon Truc

Barb and Gary rehearsing. Steve is off to the
left, also rehearsing.
On May 29, Le Bon Truc Trio (Steve Gruverman, Barb Truex, and myself) presented a concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Augusta, Maine. Barb recorded the evening and it came out great! So, I'll be posting those recordings sur le blog. Here are two waltzes, each composed by a band member.

Saturday Night in St. Andrew is a beautiful waltz composed by Barb Truex. The dulcimer is well featured, but the accordion comes in and the trio as a whole really shines.

Saturday Night in St. Andrews by Le Bon Truc

Dill Waters Run Steep is a fast waltz I wrote many years ago, but which I still find very fun to play. People who haven't been playing it for fifteen years seem to find it intriguing. Notice that I've left in the false start. It goes on for quite a while as I try to get back on the rails. Finally, I bring the festivities to a halt and restart. Just a little bit "you were there" verisimilitude!

Dill Waters Run Steep by Le Bon Truc

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Interesting One-Rows at the Button Box

Temptress Margaret at the Button Box
She of the seductive e-mails
About once a month I can count on an e-mail coming over my transom from Margaret, at the Button Box, letting me know of new joys that are sitting on their shelves. It's always interesting, but only occasionally prompts biblically suspect levels of covetousness. The latest note (June 30, 2015) did provoke such covetousness, which is very unusual since I only last month took delivery of a new (to me) Hohner Erica A/D. There were many interesting boxes, of course, but the ones that tweeked my interest were these.

First, there's the Dino Baffetti ART organetto, one row plus (8+3), in, get this, Ab. That's right A - bloody - flat! Aside from its value in obscurity (four flats? really?), I've been curious about these organettos since I got my Baffetti three row and loved the heck out of it. Baffetti makes quality boxes. Price on this one is $500 (used). Comes with a hard case.

Dino Baffetti in Eb
Similar, is the Romeo Erminio organetto, one row plus (9+3) in Eb. (I've not heard of this maker before.) As opposed to the Baffetti, which has two reeds per note (LM), this one has three reeds (LMM), with a stop for the low reed. Wow. All this for only $400 (used). A price so low it makes you wonder? Also, if you look at the little windows on the top of the box, you'll see pictures of two lovely women. There are all kinds of incentives.


On the other end of the posh scale is the Castagnari Melodeon. A box I've been craving for years now. It's a one row in D, with four reeds per note and four stops (classic Cajun structure, though the tuning doesn't typically have the weird third that Cajun boxes have). I'll tell you, not to fall sway to a brand name, but there is nothing like playing a Castagnari. It's really true. Boy, would I love to get one of these. Price $2,300 (used).

Romeo Erminio is Ab, note the two pics

These boxes are interesting to me maybe because I've been dancing around the idea of a one row for a long time (see Rees Wesson's boxes, for example). But it's really all moot. I report the prices to you, but I am completely tapped this summer. In this case, I am serving the role of matchmaker. True? True.

ALSO: Another interesting thing about the Button Box notice is the large number of Irish style boxes available, 12 of them. I wonder if this is a sign of the high popularity in Irish playing (the Button Box stocks these because they expect to sell them). Or if it is the sign of a decline in such popularity (if interest were high, Irish boxes would be more rare). I don't know. Pondering.

All I have to say to the Button Box is, "Thank God you are here!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Welcome to a New Box

A beautiful box
Ah, joy!

Today I took delivery of my new box, a Hohner Erica A/D, sent from England by its previous owner, a denizen of the inestimable

I've had my eye out for an A/D box for a while. I found myself playing in situations where my disdain for "the peoples' key" was becoming more than a charming eccentricity. I had boxes that played in C, G, F, Bb, and Eb. I needed an A and a D. (Anything beyond three sharps or three flats seems a vulgar affectation.)

So, did I want posh box (oh, a Tommy!)? A less expensive posh box (a Lilly)? Or a tiny box (Giordy)? Or a Baffetti organato? I didn't know. Then this box showed up for sale on

I was intrigued. I always had a thing for that old fashion Hohner sound, and had actually started on a mighty Corso. The Erica is a classic bog norm box. Jean Blanchard played one back in the day. Then, accordion fettler, bold Lester Bailey, pointed out that he had worked on the Erica and that it was an excellent model of the species. Also, that the seller was very trustworthy. That was enough for me.

After adjusting all the straps to suit my massive frame, I made some videos. Be kind, still getting used the action and all that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Trio Gig Friday, May 27

The trio rehearsed today and sounds pretty dang sweet. Come on to Augusta. Listen to some beautiful music, in a beautiful space. And eat pastry. Donations go to my daughter to help her in her studies abroad.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Help With the Left Hand

Left Hand: Le Grand Mystère
During my hiatus I received the following letter from a person I'll call John because that's his name. John is a newish player on the button box, asking for help getting a handle on the bass end of the instrument. Uniting the left and right hand is always sort of Kierkegaardian Leap of Gosh I Hope This Works. Here's John's letter, followed by my response. If anyone out there has advice or encouragement for John (or corrections for me) be sure to post it in the comments.

John's Letter


I am writing because I have very much enjoyed your blog as an amazing resource for the sounds of French Accordion music. I am new to the accordion, having started just last spring, but am playing every day and progressing slowly. I however have been enthralled with the french accordion music (some accordion is just too much oom pah oom pah for me!), perhaps because of the years I spent living there.

I see that you recommend a specific book Bal Folk: Traditional Dance Music From Central France for learning some French tunes. My question to you is this: From the google images of the pages, I see that the music scores for that book have no notation for the bass notes. Is there some theory on how to add these in, or does it become intuitive at some point? Any thoughts on how this works? Am I missing something here? I notice the ABC notation format also has this same issue (I like listening to Lester Bailey's tunes, but wouldn't know how to add the bass to those either.)

I think I could get the right hand down for some of these tunes, but when it comes to just guessing what bass notes would work and when, this might be still a bit difficult for my ear to render...

Thanks for considering this email. Any thoughts you have would greatly help this new accordion player.


And my response ...

Hey, John,

Thank you for your kind words about my blog … it is amazingly gratifying to hear that people get something out of it. I didn’t do it for attention or some obscure form of fame. I was just stoking my own fascination with the instrument and the repertoire.

To answer your question about the basses … these are easily the hardest part for people to come to grips with. Getting the left and right hands to go together. The good news is that it not only becomes intuitive, but the system is actually built into the mechanism of the two row box. But how to go about getting there? You have a number of options. Here are your bass/chord buttons:

1 2
3 4
5 6
7 8

The even buttons are closer to the bellows. The higher numbers are closer to the floor. 

First you can recognize some basic tenets: the inside right hand row TENDS TO go with buttons 5 and 7 (Bass/chord); the outside right hand row TENDS TO go with buttons 1 and 3. If you start there, playing one row tunes just using those bass buttons, that will start you to hearing how the Tonic (I) and Dominant (V) work together. Second (meanwhile), start boning up on some basic theory around folk music … it may seem obscure and cryptic, but it’s really not. You only have six bass/chord combinations to deal with on the box. I once wrote a tune for a student that used all of those combinations. It is tricky, and requires you sometimes to squint and think a bit. But not too much. Don’t think too much. Third, I would urge you to find a French tune book (or web site) that had some accordion tab in it. I find I still learn stuff from tab, which tells you where to put what finger when.

I don’t really know what’s in print anymore. But there are a lot of websites out there. I would start with the CADB website (Collectif Accordeon Diatonique Bretagne). Another source is Bernard Loffett, an accordion builder in Brittany, he’s connected with CADB, but has his own great page here. He’s also the very first person I wrote about when starting this blog. Doing these three things, it took me about a year to know what to do with the basses, even if I wasn’t doing it well.

The other thing to do would be get a teacher, but I understand that everyone learns in different ways.

Gary Chapin