MP3 Monday: Bette & Wallet

Bette & WalletBette & Wallet is the Canadian duo of Mary Beth Carty (accordion) and Gabriel Ouellette (fiddle, guitar). Hopping seamlessly between English and French, Bette & Wallet mix their Nova Scotian and Québécois roots with klezmer, Cajun, Irish, and blues to create a colorful musical patchwork you can dance to. Mary Beth uses the term ‘musique recyclée’ to describe their music — the art of combining traditional melodies with contemporary folklore — and its an apt description for their vibrant, authentic brand of folk. The duo has already earned Canadian Folk Music Award nominations and invitations to festivals in France and Canada.

MP3 Monday: Jacques Pellarin

After the success of last month’s accordion advent calendar, we’re starting a new regular feature for 2009: MP3 Monday! Every Monday, we’ll kick off the week with a downloadable track from an accordion artist we think you should hear. This week’s song comes from French accordionist/composer Jacques Pellarin. Trained as a classical accordionist, Pellarin has branched out well beyond his roots to mix French, new tango, gypsy, and even klezmer influences into his music. Like many classical accordionists, Pellarin plays the bayan, the accordion’s chromatic Russian cousin.

Grace Jones… on Accordion?

You may think of Grace Jones as a model, a disco diva, an actress, or a tempestuous artiste, but probably not as an accordion player. And yet here’s a clip of Jones performing the strangest version of the classic French chanson “La Vie on Rose” I’ve ever heard. Of course, she isn’t really playing the accordion so much as using it as a prop, though she certainly strikes an intimidating pose. (Watch her performance of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” for an example of her excellence at accordion-holding, if not playing.)

(Found via Lynn of the SF Accordion Club)

25 Songs: Jo Privat

Few musical scenes could compare to 1930s Paris, where bal-musette, jazz, and gypsy influences came together as “jazz manouche” or “gypsy jazz.” Guitarist Django Reinhardt is the name most often associated with this music, but there were plenty of excellent accordionists involved, too. Gus Viseur, Tony Murena, Joseph Colombo, and the artist on today’s advent calendar song: Jo Privat. This Privat track, from his album Manouche Partie, features musette guitar legend Jean “Matelot” Ferret and was recorded at the end of gypsy jazz’s reign, just before its popularity was eclipsed by rock and newer dance music in the 1960s.

Quick Links: El Parche, Amoriental, and Revolution

  • Live Review: Steve Jordan Tribute
    Austin360 reviews Sunday’s Steve Jordan tribute concert in Austin. Despite recently undergoing treatment for liver cancer, Jordan played a rockin’ 45-minute set; check out a clip of him performing with Little Joe.
  • Amoriental Accordion
    My French is rusty — Sylvie, can you help? — but the Amoriental appears to be a brand new accordion created by Thierry Bénétoux, who’s trying to bring the best of Eastern and Western music together in one instrument (note the unique button alignment). The site is short on details, but promises an unveiling next month at the Festival Des Nuits De Nacre.
  • Accordion Revolution
    This fun video slideshow, put together by Abbie Stillie and Katey Gries, includes interviews with members of Accordions Anonymous and the Bad Mitten Orchestre about the accordion’s resurgent popularity.

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Richard Galliano and Tangaria Quartet

Richard GallianoThe annual Ottawa International Jazz Festival just wrapped up and one of the biggest hits was French accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano. Performing with his Tangaria Quartet, Galliano’s concert was “as thrilling a performance as was heard” throughout the entire festival, according to a review in the Ottawa Citizen. Galliano “reeled off one exhilarating song after another,” allowing the audience “to lose themselves in his brilliance.” Not a bad review, I’d say.

Born in Cannes in 1950, Richard Galliano studied at a conservatory as a youth, but quickly changed his musical devotion to jazz after hearing (and memorizing the solos of) jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown. Galliano set out to establish the accordion’s reputation in jazz, becoming a sought-after accompanist and soloist. Astor Piazzolla invited him to be the bandoneon soloist at the Comédie Française production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” starting a close friendship that lasted until Piazzolla’s death in 1992.

More recently, Galliano has become known for a style he calls “New Musette” — a fusion of styles ranging from samba and salsa to waltz and tango. Regardless of what he’s playing, though, it’s always with unparalleled skill and passion. Here’s a fantastic video of Galliano performing Piazzolla’s “Libertango” solo:

Running Off With Babylon Circus

Babylon CircusI always loved the circus growing up, but I’ll tell you — Ringling Brothers had nothing on the high-energy, French ten-piece Babylon Circus. What started as a ska band in 1995 in Lyon has evolved to include reggae, rock, jazz, and numerous other eclectic influences. But with lyrics in French and English — sometimes both in the same song — addressing social and political issues (like the Iraq war), Babylon Circus isn’t pure diversion. It’s music with a message: get out of your seat and take action, whether it’s marching in the streets or jumping on the dance floor.

Their latest record, Dances of Resistance — released in France in 2004, but just making its way here now — continues to mix the political with the carnival, interspersing full-length songs with brief, circus organ-ridden ditties. Described by some as a French Gogol Bordello, the band has a reputation for electric live shows, as shown in this performance of “J’aurais Bien Voulu”:

Joss Baselli’s Accordeon 2000

Jo Basile (also known as Joss Baselli) was one of France’s most popular accordionists in the 1950s and 60s. Rising to fame as the principal accompanist to French chanteuse Patachou, Basile later put out his own records as well. Some were formulaic (Rome with Love, Rio with Love… I think you’re getting the picture), but others (like his album with Brazilian jazz legends Bossa Tres) show what a virtuoso he really was.

Accordeon 2000 was a departure for Basile — an album full of futuristic originals with bizarre titles like “Pas de Camembert sur la Lune” and “Galaxie Valse.” Recorded with an electronic Cavagnolo Majorvox accordion, the resulting sound is far more like an organ than accordion, and helps creates a groovy, spaced-out vibe. Picture yourself in a flying car while listening to this track from Accordeon 2000:

[Found via Whoops]