Frank Marocco, Hollywood Accordionist

Frank MaroccoAnna and I recently saw the new Disney-Pixar film Ratatouille (two thumbs up!) and we came away big fans of Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack, particularly for its liberal use of the accordion. (As you might expect from a film set in Paris.) But who was squeezing the bellows as Remy and his buddies took over the kitchen at Gusteau’s? Sure enough, it was the hardest-working accordionist in Hollywood, Frank Marocco.

Frank Marocco grew up just outside of Chicago (Waukegan) and started playing the accordion when he was only seven years old. By the 1950s, he had formed his own trio and played the hotel and club circuit around Las Vegas and Palm Springs before moving to Los Angeles. There, he played with the Les Brown Band, joined Bob Hope on countless tours overseas, and began his career as a highly sought-after session musician. His hundreds of credits range from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Odds are, if you hear an accordion in a movie, TV show, or commercial — it’s Frank Marocco.

One of Marocco’s hallmarks has always been his versatility. Jazz, classical, latin… regardless of the genre, he always plays flawlessly and passionately. Here’s a video clip of Marocco performing his own arrangement of Astor Piazzola’s classic tango, “Oblivion”:

This Week in Accordion: IPA Festival

What’s on the accordion calendar this week?

  • International Polka Association Festival (Thu-Sun in Independence, OH)
    The 39th annual International Polka Association (IPA) Polka Festival brings together polka fans and bands from across the nation. Forget Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr.; come see Henry “Hank” Guzevich and Dennis Polisky inducted into the Highlights Polka Music Hall of Fame on Saturday.
  • Lost Bayou Ramblers (Fri-Sat in Austin, TX)
    Hot on the heels of the release of their new CD, Live: a la Blue Moon, the Lost Bayou Ramblers head over to Texas for a pair of shows this week.
  • Fritz’s Polka Band (Saturday in Saratoga Springs, NY)
    For over 10 years, German liqueur maker Jägermeister has been sponsoring hard rockers like Slayer and GWAR. But did you know they also sponsor a polka band? Fritz’s Polka Band, from Verona, NY, proudly carry the banner for the second most sought after sponsorship in polka (after Mrs. T’s Pierogies, of course).

Know of a squeezebox gathering in your area? Tell us about it!

eBay Find: Civil War-Era Flutina

FlutinaEarlier this evening, I stumbled across an interesting item on eBay: a Civil War-era flutina. Flutinas were a predecessor to the diatonic button accordion, with one or two rows of treble buttons and no basses.

Often made in France (though the name “flutina” came from the English), they’re sometimes seen in old daguerreotypes and tin-types as they were used as photographers’ studio props here in America during the mid-1800s. (They made subjects appear more cultured, even if those subjects didn’t actually play the flutina.)

The flutina in this auction appears to be in good condition, rarely played, and with all leaks repaired. Place a bid and play some tunes for the troops at your next Civil War re-enactment.

Quick Links: July 25, 2007

Pulaski Polka Days Wrapup

Sounds like last weekend’s Pulaski Polka Days, where “polka rhythm filled the air and infiltrated people’s bones,” was a rousing success. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s recap, there was a lively turnout — young and old alike — for the 29th edition of one of the nation’s biggest polka festivals:

“If you think polka music is uncool or only for the elderly, talk to Eric Niziolek, 25, and his buddies, who have been coming to the event from their homes near Wausau every year for about the last five years. ‘Good music, good people, girls and beer,’ said Niziolek when asked what kept him coming back.”

I also found a Flickr photoset that captures the festival parade, as well as some of the bands, including the shot below — appropriately titled “Only in Wisconsin.”

Only in WisconsinPulaski Polka Days 2007, uploaded by The Dana Files

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This Week in Accordion: Accordion Master Class

It’s another busy week on the accordion calendar. Let’s see what’s on tap:

  • Accordion Master Class and Concert Series (Fri-Sun in New York, NY)
    The American Accordionists Association presents a series of master classes and concerts led by the incomparable Dr. William Schimmel. He promises “a weekend romp of questionable, useless and far-fetched information.”
  • 42nd Annual Pillar Polkabration (Fri-Sun in Uncasville, CT)
    Organized by Dick Pillar, the longest-running polka festival in the country brings the biggest names in polka (Blazoncyzk, Gomulka, Forman, etc.) to Mohegan Sun for a weekend of nonstop polka music.
  • Very Be Careful (Friday in Santa Monica, CA)
    Los Angeles vallenato kings Very Be Careful return home to California after a brief trip to Europe.

In addition, there are plenty of artists squeezin’ their way across North America, including Buckwheat Zydeco in the Southwest, Jason Webley in the Midwest, and Weird Al in… Medicine Hat? Yep, and Saskatoon, too!

Remember, if you have an accordion event for our calendar, just let us know!

Gaucho Music from Brazil

If you enjoy the great Brazilian accordionist Renato Borghetti, check out this video of Firmino Tebaldi playing “Missioneiro” by the legendary “gaiteiro,” Antônio Soares de Oliveira (“Tio Bilia”). When most people think of Brazilian music, they think samba, but this is very different — traditional gaucho music from southern Brazil, in the Rio Grande do Sul region near the border with Argentina.

(Thanks, Chris!)

Quick Links: July 18, 2007

  • Denver Post: Accordion Player Aided 6 Presidents
    Henry Kulbaski, a longtime Secret Service agent who played accordion at White House parties, passed away last month. (He once turned down LBJ’s request to play at his daughter’s wedding, saying he didn’t have time to master “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”)
  • NPR: Gypsy Punk Group Gogol Bordello, Live
    Hear Gogol Bordello live on in a full concert webcast from Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club tonight. The show begins at approximately 10pm ET.

Le Cajun Music Award Nominees

The first-ever nominees for the new Cajun/Zydeco Grammy are still a few months away, but the nominees for the Cajun French Music Association’s annual “Le Cajun” Music Awards were announced this week. The CFMA is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Cajun music and culture.

The Pine Leaf Boys lead the pack with six nominations (out of seven categories), including Band of the Year, Best CD of the Year, and the People’s Choice Award. Our favorite category — Accordionist of the Year — includes Kristi Guillory of the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys, and Jason Frey.

The 19th annual “Le Cajun” Music Awards will be held at the Heymann Performing Arts Center in Lafayette, LA on August 17th, and will be followed by a two-day Cajun music festival at Blackham Coliseum featuring a number of award-winning Cajun artists.

[Found via the Cajun Squeezebox Blog]

Daniel Binelli, Tango Master

Daniel BinelliOne of my coworkers caught the San Francisco Symphony’s free concert in Dolores Park on Sunday, which featured bandoneón virtuoso Daniel Binelli. Binelli is a seasoned tango veteran, having been a member of both Osvaldo Pugliese’s orchestra and Astor Piazzolla’s New Tango Sextet, touring extensively with the latter until Piazzolla’s death.

Today, Binelli often performs with symphonies, his own quintet, and as part of a duo with Uruguayan pianist Polly Ferman. A longtime friend of Piazzolla’s, Binelli is considered one of the primary torchbearers of the tango nuevo master’s musical legacy. Here’s a clip of Binelli interpreting Piazzolla’s classic “Adios Nonino”:

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