Professor Louie’s Rock and Blues Accordion

We’ve shared our disappointment in the rock accordion lesson books of the past, but now there’s a DVD aimed at a new generation of budding rock accordionists.

Professor Louie’s Rock and Blues Accordion is a two-hour lesson covering 12-bar progressions, right hand pentatonic blues scales, chord inversions and blues and rock improvisation. Taught by keyboardist Aaron “Professor Louie” Hurwitz, the video comes packaged with fingering diagrams and sheet music. Here’s a preview:

Hohner’s New Diatonic Accordions

We got a hot tip that Hohner will be introducing some new diatonic accordion models at the NAMM show in Anaheim starting January 18. But thanks to our accordion spies, we have a sneak peek for you today! Check out these three new Hohner models:

Corona II Supreme

To celebrate Hohner’s 150 year anniversary in 2007, a special edition model of the Corona II will be unveiled at the NAMM show. The Corona II Supreme will include upgraded materials, smoother keyboard action, and an improved look and accessories based on the Corona II Classic. Since it’s a special edition, it will have a limited production run.

Hohner Corona II Supreme (white)

Hohner Corona II Supreme (black)

Accordion Patent Day… Or Not?

Accordion patentMany sites claim that today (January 13) is the anniversary of the day the first U.S. patent for an accordion was granted to Anthony Faas in 1854. A quick look at Faas’ original patent, however, reveals that it was filed on April 7 and granted on JUNE 13 (not January 13). I’m guessing that, somewhere along the line, someone mistook “Jun” for “Jan” and the mistake was unwittingly perpetuated. Let it stop here once and for all!

Faas’ patent wasn’t even the first relating to accordions. The first (non-US) accordion patent was actually granted more than twenty years earlier to Viennese instrument maker Cyrill Demian on May 23, 1829. And Christian Friedrich Buschmann invented the first hand-held bellows-driven free-reed instrument (the hand-aeoline) as an aid for tuning organs in 1822. (Brush up on your accordion history at the Classical Free-Reed.)

For more accordion-related patent fun, give Google’s Patent Search a whirl. I found a couple of odd patents granted to Lawrence Welk — one for an accordion-shaped lunchbox and another for an accordion-shaped ash-tray (which we saw on eBay several months ago!).

Flickr Find: Accordion Blues

Man in underwear playing accordionlow down accordion blues, uploaded by aokeh

A man passionately playing the accordion in his underwear, another guy looking incredibly bored, an ironing board covered with newspapers, food, and what appears to be a bottle of gin… I have no idea what’s going on in this photo, but I love it.

Accordionist Leaves Flogging Molly

Matt Hensley, accordionist for the punk/Irish band Flogging Molly, announced today that he’s leaving the band to spend more time with his family. Matt, a professional skateboarder, will probably also spend more time at Innes Clothing, the skateboarding clothing company he founded with his brother in 1996. From his farewell letter to the band’s fans:

“I would have never thought that playing the accordion, an instrument that almost got me shot when I first was learning, would have led me down a road to Molly Malone’s, Dave King, and an extended family called Flogging Molly. I have been blessed to be so lucky.”

Flogging Molly starts a month-long tour on February 22nd; no word yet on whether they’ll be replacing Matt anytime soon.

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Vlasta’s Chicago Bears Polka

If the Chicago Bears needed any more motivation for their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks this weekend, they’ve got it now. Vlasta, the (self-proclaimed?) “International Queen of Polka” has resurrected the polka she wrote for the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl run and hopes it will inspire this year’s team to bring home another championship.

If the Bears go all the way, will Vlasta’s polka become the new “Super Bowl Shuffle”?

All for Forro, Forro for All!

One of my co-workers showed me a giant photo of accordionist Rob Curto in this week’s San Francisco Bay Guardian. Turns out his band, Forró for All, will be at the Elbo Room in San Francisco next week.

The group is dedicated to forró, the dance/party music of Northeast Brazil, and features some of New York and Brazil’s most talented musicians. Three instruments make up the core of a traditional forró ensemble: accordion, zabumba (a large bass drum carried and played with a mallet and stick), and triangle. Driven by the rhythm of the accordion, it almost sounds like a Brazilian version of zydeco.

Forró for All will be performing tomorrow night as part of the accordion-themed series “Compressing the World” at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. Then they’ll head up to the Bay Area for shows in Santa Cruz, Sunnyvale, and San Francisco. While you’re waiting for them to visit your town, here’s a track from their self-titled debut:

All Hail the Kielbasa Kings

I’ve been on a polka kick lately; I just received a bunch of CDs from Jimmy K. Polkas, we watched It’s Happiness: A Polka Documentary on Saturday, and I’m almost finished with Bob Dolgan’s biography of Frankie Yankovic. I’ve also been doing a lot of polka-oriented web surfing, which was what led me to the Kielbasa Kings of Dearborn, MI.

Like many polka bands, the Kielbasa Kings play a mix of polkas, waltzes, and obereks, but they also throw in an occasional traditional Polish tune (sung in Polish). What really caught my attention, though, were their polka-fied covers of alt-rock songs by artists like Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes. Check out their waltzing cover of Elvis Costello’s classic “Alison”; some might consider it blasphemy, but I think their aim is true.

Bending Notes With An Accordion

Accordion technology has come a long way since the days of Guido Deiro. MIDI accordions continue to grow in popularity and just this past weekend, at a Silicon Valley Accordion Society meeting, we listened to a brand-new Roland FR-7 electronic reedless accordion. But not all of the latest advancements are so high-tech.

Tom Tonon, for example, has developed an acoustic technology called BluesBox that allows accordionists to bend notes (or pitch) much like a harmonica player can. With Tom’s system installed, you can bend notes simply by pressing down harder on any key or button. Check out this video for a demonstration.

It’s not a far-fetched idea; after all, accordions and harmonicas are cousins in the free-reed family. Tom’s looking for musicians willing to give his technology a try, so if you’re interested, check his site to learn more.

Accordion Noir Radio

Accordion Noir is a new all-accordion radio show on Co-Op Radio 102.7 FM in Vancouver. Hosted by Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovits, each show features accordion music from a dizzying range of styles and genres. Last Friday’s playlist alone included tunes from Esteban (Steve) Jordan, Neko Case, Gogol Bordello, Pee Wee King, Guy Klucevsek, and even Marlene Dietrich. Now that’s my kind of radio show.

You can listen online, but unfortunately for those of us in North America, the show’s current time slot is Friday mornings between 2-3am Pacific. (They’re hoping to add a podcast soon so you can listen on-demand.) Sounds like I have a new excuse for coming in late to work on Fridays…

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