Flickr Find: Vintage Galanti Ad

Galanti 1948
uploaded by Al Q
“Tried the rest? Now try the Best!” I love this vintage (circa 1948) Galanti Accordion ad. With a name like “Super Dominator”, you could take on anything with this accordion. A Pietro Frosini solo? No problem. A vicious street gang? I’m not worried — I’ve got my “Super Dominator”!

Galanti Accordions was founded by Antonio Galanti in the late 19th century in Mondaino, Italy. His sons Domenico, Egidio and Robusto carried on their father’s work, building an accordion factory (“Fratelli Galanti”), and then later bringing the accordions to America (hence the “R. Galanti and Bro., Inc, New York” on the ad). According to this history, as musical tastes changed, the company turned their focus to electronic instruments (organs, even electric guitars) in the late 1950s.

Is a Cajun Music Revival Brewing?

“Cajun Sound, Rock ‘n’ Roll Energy” is an excellent article from Sunday’s New York Times on the resurgence of Cajun music among young musicians and dancers in Louisiana. Up-and-coming Lafayette bands like the Pine Leaf Boys, Lost Bayou Ramblers, and Red Stick Ramblers, have been electrifying the local dance floors with a fresh approach to traditional Cajun music:

“‘I want to document what’s going on here,’ Joel Savoy, 26, said, ‘because it’s exciting to see all these young kids playing this weird traditional music with accordions and fiddles and to have all these young kids eating it up like it’s the coolest thing ever.'”

The article centers on the Savoy family, particularly the role that Marc and Ann Savoy played in passing the music down to their children. Marc is a master button accordion maker and musician, while Ann was nominated for a Grammy last year for her Zozo Sisters project with Linda Ronstadt. Raised around Cajun music legends, it’s no surprise that their children — Wilson plays accordion, Joel plays fiddle — have become leaders of the new Cajun scene.

There’s also a brief discussion of the difference between Cajun and zydeco — a distinction that, admittedly, we don’t often make on our site. If you’re curious, the Rochester Cajun Zydeco Network has a great overview of the origins and differences between the two styles.

Let’s Polka’s 1st Birthday Contest

Let's Polka stickerCan you believe it’s been a whole year since Let’s Polka first came kicking and squeezing into this world? It seems like just yesterday we were interviewing polka greats, hanging out at Camp AccordionLand and the Cotati Accordion Festival, and being written up in the San Francisco Chronicle. We’ve seen squeezebox zombies, zydeco prodigies, accordion-toting Finnish metal bands, and bizarre Slovenian polka videos. We even managed to anger some Garfield fans along the way.

To celebrate the occasion, we’re engaging in our favorite hobby: giving away free stuff! But first, you have to give us something in return.

Your mission: Write a comment on this post and tell us about an accordion artist (solo or group) that we should hear. It could be a musette accordion player from the 1930s, your cousin’s conjunto band, or a punk/polka combo you found on MySpace. If there’s an accordion involved, we want to know about it!

We’ll send a handful of Let’s Polka stickers (see photo above) to everyone who posts a comment. Three lucky, randomly-chosen commenters will also receive one of these items from our holiday gift guide:

We’ll hold the drawing for those three prizes next Monday, so you have one week to post your comment. (If you comment after Monday, you can still get stickers but you won’t win one of the three prizes.)

Sound good? Then start posting — and winning — today!

This Week in Accordion: NAA Convention

What’s squeezin’ this week?

  • National Accordion Convention (Wednesday-Sunday in Richardson, TX)
    The National Accordion Association’s annual convention promises a diverse lineup of concerts, workshops, jam sessions, and more. It’s possibly the only place you can attend a Fred Ziwich Cleveland-style polka workshop followed by a Joél Guzman Tex-Mex button accordion workshop. (Update: There’s an article and video about the festival over at the Dallas Morning News.)
  • Klezmer en Buenos Aires (Wednesday in Stanford, CA)
    The acclaimed duo of César Lerner (accordion) and Marcelo Moguilevsky (clarinet/sax) make their first Bay Area appearance at Stanford on Wednesday, followed by a show in Berkeley on Saturday. Their unique sound combines Argentinian folk music with jazz, tango, and klezmer. (For more info, read the writeup in Sunday’s San Jose Mercury News.)
  • Musical Fortunes (Thursday in Berkeley, CA)
    Berkeley’s Jewish Music Festival kicks off with an original work composed by one of our local favorites, composer/accordionist Dan Cantrell. His “Musical Fortunes” explores themes based on traditional Jewish and Romani (Gypsy) music and features the Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, Michael Alpert, and Rumen Shopov.

Check our calendar for more, including Daran Kravanh in Los Angeles and a tasty zydeco lineup at the Cajun-Zydeco Crawfish Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida.

If there’s an accordion event in your area that we’ve missed let us know!

Pushing Buttons at Eurovision

As America settles into another season of Ryan Secrest and Simon Cowell catfights (aka American Idol), Europe gears up for its annual continent-wide song competition, Eurovision. Each country votes on a song to represent them at the Eurovision finals, then viewers across Europe vote on a winner from that pool of entries. This year’s entries have their work cut out for them — it’ll be hard to top last year’s winners, Finnish heavy-metal rockers Lordi.

This year, there’s controversy brewing around Israel’s chosen Eurovision entry: a song called “Push the Button” by the band Teapacks. Eurovision organizers have threatened to ban the entry due to its “inappropriate” political message. The song warns of the dangers of nuclear war and seems to be a thinly-veiled jab at the nuclear ambitions or Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One verse goes: “There are some crazy leaders they hide and try to fool us / With demonic, technologic willingness to harm / They’re going to push the button.”

Musically, the catchy song jumps back and forth between folk, hard rock, and even hip-hop, with the lead singer singing in English, French, and Hebrew. In the video, there’s even a (somewhat lazy) accordion player smoking a pipe:

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The Will Holshouser Trio

Accordions are still all too rare in jazz, but Will Holshouser is doing his part to change that. A master accordionist, composer, and improviser, Holshouser’s unique sound crosses a wide range of genres, from chamber-jazz to folk to avant-garde and experimental.

It’s no surprise given his eclectic list of collaborators; in addition to his own band, the Will Holshouser Trio, he has played with David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness, Matt Munisteri & Brock Mumford, Musette Explosion, and numerous others. In a recent interview, Holshouser talked about the relationship between jazz and folk in his music, with emphasis on his involvement in klezmer:

“Playing klezmer has certainly changed the way I play the accordion. Among other things, I’ve learned to spit out runs of notes, to play peppery, dry, percussive chords, and to use ornamentation to tease out harmonic color. Many of these musical nuts and bolts are interesting and quirky, but what’s really fascinating is how they create such compelling effects — how they punch through our daily existence and help us to have these musical and emotional experiences that are so fulfilling.”

Most of Will’s original work is with the Will Holshouser Trio, which includes skilled improvisers Ron Horton on trumpet and David Phillips on bass. Their latest CD, Singing to a Bee, was recorded live in Faro, Portugal, during the Jazz No Inverno Festival in December 2004. To show you their versatility, here’s a track from that album that teeters between zydeco and jazz:

Have a Polka Question? Ask Zosia

Zosia, the polka advice columnistWondering how you can get your kids interested polka? Or where you can learn to polka in New York City? Take your polka problems to Ask Zosia, home of the “polka world’s lighthearted advice columnist.” (Ask Zosia is for entertainment purposes only; don’t blame us if she gives you bad directions to the Bayway Polish Home.)

Johnny Pecon TV Clip

Johnny Pecon and Lou TrebarHe may not have the name recognition of Myron Floren or Dick Contino, but few accordionists (past or present) could match the talents of Johnny Pecon. Pecon joined fellow Cleveland native Frankie Yankovic’s band in 1947; Yankovic played melodies on his piano accordion while Pecon harmonized on his chromatic. Pecon even introduced Yankovic to the song that would become his biggest hit: “Just Because”.

After a couple years of recording and touring with Yankovic, Pecon left and began a successful partnership with another excellent Cleveland accordionist, Lou Trebar. To this day, the Pecon-Trebar Orchestra is considered one of the greatest Cleveland-style polka bands of all-time.

Here’s a rare TV clip from 1958 of the Johnny Pecon Orchestra playing “Marybelle Polka”:

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