Saluzzi and Lechner’s Ojos Negros

Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner, Ojos NegrosNPR aired an excellent review yesterday of Ojos Negros, the new album by Argentinian bandoneon great Dino Saluzzi and German cellist Anja Lechner. Saluzzi and Lechner have been collaborating for years and play chamber music rooted in Argentinian folk traditions.

Their music floats between classical and jazz, combining the formal structure of Saluzzi’s compositions with intimate interplay and improvisation between the bandoneon and cello. They’re touring the United States this month, including a show during the “Compressing the World” accordion music series at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

You can listen to the full review on the NPR website:

A Room at the Polka Hotel

Headed to Frankenmuth, Michigan this summer? If you want to stay somewhere steeped in polka lore, check out the Marv Herzog Hotel opening next month. Each room at the hotel will highlight a different year in the life of Little Bavaria’s polka legend. There will also be a Marv Herzog Museum of Memorabilia showcasing Marv’s accordions, music stand and songbook, and vast collection of beer steins from Germany and Austria.

Inducted into the International Polka Music Hall of Fame in 1979, Marv Herzog was a popular accordionist and polka band leader. Herzog started the Frankenmuth Summer Music Fest which attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually. He passed away in 2002 after a 58-year music career, but it sounds like the Marv Herzog Hotel will be a fitting tribute to this polka king.

Accordion + Banjo = The Scarring Party

For further proof that accordions and banjos can live together in harmony, check out The Scarring Party. This unique Milwaukee quintet plays 1920’s-style music with gothic, macabre lyrics delivered through vocals that sound like they should be coming out of an old Victor Victrola. The catchy “No More Room” — off their debut album A Concise Introduction — “fortells certain doom to the bouncing rhythm of tuba, bass, accordion, banjo, and tongue drum.” Certain doom never sounded so good.

This Week in Accordion: Vagabond Opera

What’s squeezin’ this week?

  • Vagabond Opera (Various dates in Northern California)
    Klezmer, gypsy, tango, jazz… the Vagabond Opera is all this and much, much more. The Portland band brings its eclectic, bohemian cabaret style to Northern California for a string of shows this week.
  • Marie-Josée Houle (Wednesday in Vieux-Hull, QC)
    The sound of Paris, in Quebec. Singer/accordionist Marie-Josée Houle celebrates the release of her new solo CD, Our Lady of Broken Souls.
  • Los Tigres del Norte (Saturday in San Jose, CA)
    Hot off a win at last month’s Grammys, the norteño legends (and San Jose residents) headline a hometown show. Their latest album, Detalles y Emociones, was released last week.

As usual, this is just a small sampling of the events listed on our accordion calendar this week. Check the listings for more events, and let us know if there’s any we missed in your area.

Back To The Bellows

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been beseiged by phone calls, emails, and homing pigeons from concerned friends and family, most of them asking the same question: “Are you insane? How could you forsake the accordion for the banjo?” Few put it as eloquently as this email from one of our readers:

“I play music with a banjo player, but those guys have plenty of sites and publicity. We Accordion-Americans and our co-accordionists around the planet need an ACCORDION site.”

With those words in mind, I’m abandoning the now-infamous “banjo plan” and returning Let’s Polka to its regularly scheduled programming — all accordion, all the time. Our brief national nightmare is over, and I hope we can move on with a greater appreciation for both instruments. After all, where would Cleveland-style polkas be without accordions and banjos?

(For those who missed the hullabaloo, see my last post and a screenshot of what the site looked like yesterday.)

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Accordions Are Out. Banjos Are In.

I have a confession to make: there’s a new instrument in my life.

It started innocently — one day, I was just sitting on the couch, picking on the banjo that I bought Anna for Christmas last year. Next thing you know, I’m filling my iPod with Tony Trischka albums and hunching in front of the TV to play along with “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”

So starting today, April 1st, we’re switching our focus from the accordion to the plucky banjo. Instead of polka and zydeco, we’ll be discussing bluegrass, proper clawhammer technique, and Scruggs tuners.

To get things started, here’s one of my favorite clips featuring five banjo greats — Earl Scruggs, Tony Ellis, Charles Wood, Pete Wernick and Steve Martin, calling themselves “Men With Banjos Who Know How to Use Them” — playing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on the Late Show with David Letterman:

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