Quick Links: May 31, 2007

  • Pepe Maldonado – Tejano Music Forum
    Pepe Maldonado is a semi-retired Tejano musician who dedicates his spare time to keeping traditional conjunto music alive. He hosts weekly Sunday night dances at La Lomita Park in McAllen, TX; this week, Los Fantasmas del Valle are playing.
  • Hiram College T-Shirt Deal
    The Hiram College Library is trying to increase its collection of local music in all styles, including polka. Northeast Ohio musicians are invited to swap a CD for a Hiram College t-shirt. It’s a win-win: get a shirt and a chance to tap a new audience.
  • NPR : Denver Band DeVotchKa Channels Russian Chanson
    An interview with DeVotchKa frontman Nick Urata before their recent performance of Russian chanson in LA. He talks a bit about growing up around “accordion music and immigrants dancing holding hands,” a feeling DeVotchKa tries to capture in its music.

Japanese Accordion/Ukulele Duel

We’ve mentioned jazz accordion here before, but never jazz ukulele, and certainly never the two together. However, this clip of swingin’ Japanese ukulele duo TTCafe (with guests) covers it all. A fairly straightforward rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic “Sir Duke” morphs into a spirited give-and-take between Kunitaka Watanabe on accordion and Takashi Nakamura on ukulele.

Hohner Gola Prototype on eBay

Hohner GolaFor over fifty years, the Hohner Gola has been the top model in Hohner’s accordion line. The instrument is named for master accordion builder Giovanni Gola, who worked for Hohner from 1952 to 1972. You can’t just walk into a music store and buy a Gola, though — each instrument is hand-built and made to the specifications of its future owner.

If you can’t wait for Hohner to make you one, though, check out this auction for a one-of-a-kind “sub-octave” Hohner Gola prototype dating from 1953 (three years before the line was introduced). It comes with a letter of authenticity from the Hohner factory in Trossingen, Germany, as well as a handwritten note from Giovanni Gola himself describing the instrument. The asking price is a mere €50,000, or approximately $67,000. Cheap!

[Found via the Reyes Accordions forums]

Quick Links: May 28, 2007

This Week in Accordion: Motion Trio

What’s on the accordion calendar this week?

  • Motion Trio (Various dates)
    With a goal to “extract notes from the accordion which have never been heard before,” Poland’s innovative Motion Trio plays rare US tour dates this week in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. They don’t come around often, so catch these shows if you can!
  • Accordion Kings and Queens (Saturday in Houston, TX)
    This concert spotlights the diversity of the Lone Star State’s accordion traditions with players old and young (including winners of the Big Squeeze competition) and stars from zydeco (Chubby Carrier), conjunto (Mingo Saldivar), and Western swing (Ginny Mac).
  • Friendly City PolkaFest (Fri-Sun in Johnstown, PA)
    The 10th annual Friendly City PolkaFest features three days of nonstop polka music from bands like Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones, Polka Family, Polka Country Musicians, and many more.

In other important accordion news, today is my wife and co-author Anna’s birthday! Hooray! We’ll be jamming on the porch in her honor this afternoon.

Remember, if there’s an accordion event in your neighborhood, tell us about it!

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Quick Links: May 26, 2007

  • Interview with Lidia Kaminska, Classical Accordionist
    Hugh Sung interviews classical accordionist Lidia Kaminska in the first of a three-part video interview. In this episode, Lidia explains how the chromatic button accordion works and shows off her incredible skills.
  • Corky Bennett
    Corky Bennett is a veteran accordionist/pianist in Reno, NV. He also served as Dick Contino’s arranger and conductor for many years, and still does shows with Dick and his own act around the country.
  • Bester Quartet Cancels US Tour
    Unfortunately, the Bester Quartet has canceled its US tour, which was to include double-bills with Motion Trio in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. (We’ve updated the listings on our calendar.)

Piano Accordion Buying Guide

From time to time, we get email from people looking for advice on buying their first accordion. I try to give them an overview of the instrument, what I found helpful when I was starting out, etc., but it’s difficult to convey all of that information through email.

Recently, though, I found this video guide to buying a piano accordion from the guy who runs Liberty Bellows in Philadelphia. He covers the basics — keyboard sizes, button layouts, numbers of reeds, bellows condition — and how they relate to pricing. Experienced players won’t hear anything new, but if you’re just getting started and want to know what to look for when buying your first accordion (new or used), it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Return of Taraf de Haidouks

Taraf de Haidouks

Taraf de Haïdouks — which translates to “band of honorable outlaws” (a “haidouk” is a Robin Hood-like hero of Romanian folklore) — are a group of virtuoso gypsy musicians from the Romanian village of Clejani. Called the “world’s greatest gypsy band” by some, this colorful cast of characters has charmed audiences worldwide (actor Johnny Depp is one of their biggest fans).

With musicians ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies, the Tarafs play intense, rhythmically complex music at a breakneck pace on fiddles, cymbaloms, and accordions. They’ve also earned a reputation as free spirits, drinking reporters under the table and breaking into song at all hours of the night.

They have a new album — their first studio album since 2001’s Band of Gypsies and the death of their star violinist Neacsu Neculae — due out next month called Maskarada. This time around, the Taraf take on classical music with “re-gypsyfied” renditions of works by Khachaturian, Bartok, Liszt, de Falla, Albeniz, and others.

I’ve seen clips of Taraf de Haidouks where as many as twenty musicians are involved (mostly violins and accordions), but this live performance of “Rustem” features just a quartet — violin, cymbalum, upright bass, and one manic accordion:

Quick Links: May 23, 2007

  • The Polish Diva From Milwaukee
    Terry Palasz’s one-woman show about a Polish-English-Catholic soprano who learns to embrace her polka-lovin’ Midwestern roots. You can catch her performing tunes from the show this Saturday at the Seattle Folklife Festival.
  • Silicon Valley Accordion Society
    The Silicon Valley Accordion Society has a blog! Or, at least, the start of one — so far there are just a few pictures of a recent picnic-meeting. Do you know of any other accordion club blogs?

Coveting the Chemnitzer Concertina

Chemnitzer ConcertinaI know, I know… we already have enough accordions around the house, but I’ve always been attracted to the chemnitzer concertina, “polka music’s workhorse”. There’s just something about those ornately-decorated square boxes and their distinctive tones that have always appealed to me. Maybe one day, when we start the “Let’s Polka” polka band, I’ll pick one up.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been combing through the voluminous concertina resources at ConcertinaMusic.com. They have a huge library of chemnitzer concertina sheet music and an extensive database of concertina musicians (everyone from Rudy Adams to Jack “Zimmy” Zimmerman). If you haven’t heard a chemnitzer concertina in the wild, there’s also a collection of MP3s. Even if you’re just a concertina wannabe like me, it’s worth checking out.

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