Thursday, November 18, 2010

On jazz accordion, accordionists, and the Northeast Accordion Festival

Anonymous young accordionist
As a former student of the squeezebox, I love how much accordion we're hearing these days in all kinds of music, including jazz. This year alone I've heard Will Holshouser play with Regina Carter, Ted Reichman with the Claudia Quintet, and Richard Galliano with Kurt Elling (I had to fly to New York for that and it was worth it). I've driven to Zumbrota for the annual Accordion-O-Rama extravaganza, gone to the Loring Pasta Bar to hear Dan Newton, headed to Fireside Pizza for Denny Malmberg, and followed Patrick Harison around town.

In years past I've seen Gary Versace with Maria Schneider, Fausto Beccalossi with Al Di Meola, Marcel Loeffler with Dorado Schmitt, and Charlie Giordano with James Carter, when Carter was on his "Chasin' the Gypsy" tour. I think I've seen Vinicius Cantuaria perform with an accordionist but I can't remember who it was. My point being, if there has to be one, that a band with an accordion generally gets my attention.


Harison treats his instrument (a button accordion, not even a piano accordion, which I always thought would be easier to play) as though it has no limitations. He plays hot club and klezmer, Western swing, country, "old-tymey hot jazz," and in-the-minute improvisations. He has a couple of new projects I can't wait to see, one called Crisis Mode (with keyboardist DeVon Gray of the hip-hop group Heiruspecs, bassist Cody McKinney, and drummer Joey Van Phillips) and another called Zations (chamber/jazz/world music with Kip Jones on violin and James Buckley on bass). I list all the gigs I know about on my live jazz calendar and have gently nudged him to update the calendar on his website. (Maybe if I transcribe and publish the interview I did with him months ago he'll do that--perhaps we can strike a bargain?) Meanwhile, you can listen to some of his music here. A new Patty and the Buttons release is planned for spring.

Even Joan plays accordion
Those of you who also love the accordion (or have some curiosity about it) might want to check out the Northeast Accordion Festival this weekend, going on at Elsie's Restaurant, Bar & Bowling Center in Minneapolis. Starting at 9 a.m. when the doors open, ending whenever the last pin falls in the "Bowling for Free Reeds" closer, it's an all-day party of workshops, performances, and jam sessions. C.J. Chenier will stop by for a meet-and-greet on his way to playing the Dakota Jazz Club later that night. Malmberg plays at 7, Harison at 8. You can download a full schedule here.


Thanks to Jeroen Nijhof for his extensive accordion-themed "Jazz and Avant-garde" list of links and descriptions. I can see I'll be spending a little time there.

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