How It’s Made: Diatonic Accordions

If you’ve ever wondered how a diatonic accordion is built, this five-minute video from the Science Channel show “How It’s Made” is the perfect introduction. It follows Raynald Ouellet as he builds a one-row diatonic accordion at his workshop, Accordéon Mélodie in Quebec. (In addition to making beautiful accordions, Ouellet is a fantastic player and founder of the annual festival Carrefour mondial de l’accordéon.) From sealing reeds to fashioning bellows, it’s an excellent overview of building a diatonic accordion.

Story Time With The Great Morgani

The Great MorganiIf you’re in Santa Cruz tonight, head on down to Bookshop Santa Cruz for a one-of-a-kind book signing with colorful accordionist, The Great Morgani. He’ll be signing his new autobiography, The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stockbroker Turned Street Musician, which depicts many of the outrageous costumes he’s created throughout the years. Of course, he’ll be performing, too.

For those who aren’t familiar with The Great Morgani (aka Frank Lima), he’s become a fixture in the Santa Cruz area, performing downtown and at various festivals while covered head-to-toe in mind-blowing, homemade costumes. Most people would never guess that Lima was originally a stock broker who retired at 35 and didn’t start performing as The Great Morgani until after he was 50. Today, he’s 65 and still spends hours with his sewing machine and glue gun putting together new costumes.

“It all depends on the body… I’m doing more now than ever. As long as it’s fun and creative, I’ll keep going. But if you see me at age 85 on a 3-foot stool wearing gold lycra, please intervene.”

Quick Links: October 22, 2007

Squeezin’ Cool Jazz: Cory Pesaturo

Cory PesaturoDo you dig jazz accordion? Yesterday’s Boston Globe has a glowing review of a recent performance by Cory Pesaturo, a 21-year-old jazz accordionist from Boston. Pesaturo is the only accordion player at the New England Conservatory of Music and, according to the Globe, “makes the instrument sound as natural and native to jazz as the saxophone or trumpet.”

Pesaturo switches between acoustic and digital accordions, using the latter to play solos as different “instruments” simultaneously. In an interview with the Providence Journal, he mentions how people are often surprised by the accordion’s versatility:

“It catches people’s eyes, and you can do anything with it. Most people think it’s only the polka box, but you can do totally everything.”

He’s just released a new album, Change in the Weather, with saxophonist George Garzone, who’s a teacher at the Conservatory where Pesaturo is a student. Here’s their rendition of a Cole Porter classic from that album:

International Accordion Festival Wrapup

This year’s International Accordion Festival in San Antonio has come and gone, but thanks to the magic of the interweb, we can live vicariously through reports and photos from folks who were actually there. Some highlights:

  • On his blog, Joe Nick Patoski has an excellent writeup on the festival, along with photos of the opening night concert that featured Santiago Jimenez, Jr. and Chango Spasiuk.
  • The festival’s hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, has a recap of the first two days. Their Night Lights Now blog includes a bunch of photos and hands out festival awards that include “Most radically altered accordion” and “Best dressed band.”
  • Those Darn Accordions have a couple posts about the festival on their blog, including some photos of their workshop, “Calling All Accordion Grrrrls!”
  • Mister Anchovy has a ton of great photos from his trip to the festival, including some from a side-trip to Louisiana.
  • Kay Douglas has some fantastic photos of the festival, with descriptions of many of the bands.

Were you there, too? Drop us a line if you have any photos or videos of the festival and we’ll add the links here.

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Accordion Conquers European Dancefloors

The accordion has always been the ultimate dance/party instrument and this video for “Heater” by Samim confirms it. This minimal techno track was one of the summer’s biggest club hits, tearing up dance floors from Ibiza to Berlin. Bruce over at Accordion Noir sent us the video, which features a prominent accordion sample from the classic Colombian cumbia, “La Cumbia Cienaguera.”

The Bobby Jones Mystery

Bobby JonesA few months ago, we wrote about the sudden disappearance of Bobby Jones, popular polka DJ and accordionist for the Bobby Jones Czech Band. Since then, we’ve received numerous emails and comments from friends and fans of Bobby who remember the joy and music he brought to their lives.

As KHOU in Houston reported this week, though, we’re still no closer to finding out what happened to Bobby. Tire tracks and his license plate were found on the banks of the Colorado River in Wharton shortly after his disappearance, but an extensive search has failed to turn up his vehicle. Was it an accident? Was it suicide? Or is he still alive and somewhere else entirely? Fans have been frustrated by the lack of answers, but in some ways, it seems like the mystery has only served to further build the legend of Bobby Jones.

This Week: International Accordion Festival

Among the events on this week’s accordion calendar, there’s one that stands out: the 2007 International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, TX. Held just a few blocks from the Alamo, this fantastic festival boasts two full days of concerts, workshops (led by many of the performers), open mike sessions, and once-in-a-lifetime accordion jams. It kicks off on Friday night with a concert featuring Santiago Jiménez Jr., Chango Spasiuk, and Brandan (an ensemble from the Canary Islands).

One of the great things about this festival is the wide variety of genres it encompasses. Styles represented this year range from Irish (Johnny B. Connolly) to Creole (Ed Poullard and Lawrence Ardoin) to Quebecois (Yves Lambert) to Bulgarian (Yuri Yunakov) to rock (Those Darn Accordions) and everything in-between. There are some interesting workshops on tap, as well, including “Cowboys and Accordions”, “Native American Accordions”, and “Accordions, Rocked Up.”

Best of all, admission is free! I know some of our readers will be attending this year’s festival; we’re looking forward to hearing your reports. Take lots of photos (and videos) too!

Quick Links: October 8, 2007

  • Veronique Chevalier’s “Vampire Surprise”
    Just in time for Halloween, Veronique Chevalier has written a spooky new accordion tune called “Vampire Surprise” with composer Jann Castor. Veronique’s working on a Halloween-themed accordion compilation for next year called Polka Haunt Us.
  • YouTube: Aonghas Anderson performing “La Mariposita”
    Excellent performance of Pietro Frosini’s “La Mariposita” by Rutherford College student Aonghas Anderson.
  • Flickr: Squeeze Me group
    A new Flickr group devoted to photos of accordions of all shapes, types, and sizes. Check out some of the “spotlight shots” on the group’s home page.

Torch Passed at Art’s Concertina Bar

Art AltenburgArt’s Concertina Bar in Milwaukee is a polka institution. Billed as the “only Concertina Bar in the U.S.A.,” the walls are lined with concertinas and memorabilia, there are live bands and dances every weekend, and the affable Art Altenburg presides over it all, posing for photos with tourists and squeezing out the occasional tune on the concertina.

Art’s been trying to sell his business, though, so he can spend more time with his ailing mother. After a long search, he’s finally found a buyer: Andy Kochanski is taking over later this month and, thankfully, will be keeping the music that Art’s place is known for alive. Art’s Concertina Bar will become Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall and Andy will even allow accordions in (Art had strict concertina-only rules):

“It’s open to people and musicians who just love polka music… I’m going to do as much as I can for the polka community.”

Meanwhile, the 78-year-old Art still has dreams of his own to pursue:

“I’ll probably go chasing women, do a little playing, and do a little traveling.”

Sounds like a plan to me! There’s a farewell party for Art planned for next Saturday night, October 13, on his last night in business. Get there early and roll out the barrel one more time with a polka legend.

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