Quick Links: Profiles in Courage

Maybe it’s a testament to the joy they spread, but newspapers love talking about accordion players. It seems like I stumble across a glowing feature on a local accordionist almost every day. Here are a few I found this week:

  • Steve Albini and the Accordion: That’s Amoré
    The Marin Independent Journal profiles Steve Albini, a singer/accordionist with a penchant for Italian tunes. After a brief career detour (he joined the priesthood), Albini now plays clubs and restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
  • Musician Played for a Hungry Crowd
    Unfortunately, some of the profiles are obituaries, as is the case with this tribute to Barto Ungaretti, a popular strolling accordionist at the Italian Village restaurant in Chicago. Regulars would often request him to come in and play even on his nights off. “We’d always rev him up, give him a little more amaretto… Especially on those cold nights.”
  • It’s Happy Music
    Elba, Nebraska, recently held it’s annual “Kolache Shoot-Out” and where there are kolaches, there’s polka music. The soundtrack was provided by the Friends Czech Band, featuring 75-year-old Eddie Stepanek on accordion.

Quick Links: Young Accordionists Edition

This edition of “Quick Links” is focused entirely on the future — some young accordionists making their mark on the music world.

  • Kalei Dodson
    Kalei is a 9-year-old up-and-coming conjunto accordionist who has already played with the likes of Joel Guzman, Los Padrinos, Los Texmaniacs, and more. Check out a video of Kalei jamming at home.
  • Phillip Nadvesnik
    Phillip is a young accordionist and polka enthusiast from Melbourne, Australia, who even runs his own online polka radio show. Again, check YouTube for videos of Philip in action.
  • Hunter Hayes
    Hunter is a 16-year-old Cajun singer/songwriter/accordionist. Hunter is probably best known for this performance with Hank Williams Jr. back when he was just five years old.

Quick Links: Remembering Frank Vidergar

A tireless promoter of Slovenian culture and button accordion music, Frank Vidergar passed away late last month. Vidergar started the Far West Button Accordion Jamboree, an event that drew hundreds of button accordionists to Fontana, CA, every year for a weekend of spirited music and dancing. The Jamboree recently evolved into the National Button Accordion Festival, now held on Memorial Day weekend in Yukon, OK.

  • In the Fontana Herald-News, Philip Rue remembers a past Jamboree where Vidergar “directed a patriotic program as 30 accordions and button boxes en masse played ‘God Bless America’ with the audience singing along.”
  • The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has an excellent article on Vidergar’s life, focusing on his Slovenian roots and dedication to the community
  • Accordion USA also has a nice memorial to Frank Vidergar

Quick Links: Finch’s Favs, Galla-Rini, AccNoir

  • Everybody Must Polka When Brave Combo Comes to Town
    Carl Finch of Brave Combo lists five polka albums which “helped shape the face of polka in this country.” In addition to classic albums by Scrubby and the Dynatones, Steve Jordan, and Happy Louie, his list of essential polka artists ranges from the Connecticut Twins to Polkacide.
  • Tony Loved to Learn
    A new children’s picture book on the life of master accordionist and teacher Anthony Galla-Rini, who passed away in 2006. Written by Sharon Riddle and Nancy Sanders.
  • Accordion Noir: Best of 2007
    Vancouver’s finest all-accordion radio show celebrates its first year with a recap of their 2007 favorites. The perfect soundtrack for a long winter’s night, you can download the shows directly from their website.

Best of Let’s Polka 2007

No, we haven’t joined the writers’ strike; we’ve just been in hibernation for the past couple weeks. Now we’re rested and ready to squeeze into 2008 with more accordion news, reviews, and events than ever before!

But first, let’s look back at some Let’s Polka highlights from the past year:

And we have even bigger plans for 2008 — so stay tuned, keep squeezin’, and have a happy New Year!

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Quick Links: Clifton, Creosote, Accordion Man

  • Honoring Zydeco’s King
    Remembering the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, on the 20th anniversary of his death. “Sometimes, if I’m stuck on one of his songs and I can’t figure it out, I’ll go out there [to Chenier’s tomb] and just kind of play it,” said Corey Ledet. “In about 30 minutes, I’ll be playing it.”
  • Grand Royal: King Creosote Charms Up a Storm
    San Francisco Bay Guardian’s music blog profiles Scottish singer/songwriter King Creosote, known for “graceful accordion-and-piano-driven tearjerkers and quirky ’60s-inspired pop.” Check out the video clip, “My Favourite Girl.”
  • Mr. Accordion Man
    At age five, Walter Lawrence received an accordion for Christmas. More than fifty years later, he’s still playing — now serenading customers four nights a week at a local restaurant. “By day, he shuffles paper at an office job. ‘But this is what I am,’ he says. ‘This is my love.'”

Quick Links: November 21, 2007

Quick Links: November 5, 2007

  • Accordion to Jazz
    All About Jazz reviews four distinctive new albums that feature the accordion. Artists include the Ludovic Beier Quartet, Klaus Paier & Gerald Preinfalk, Jurek Lamorski Quartet, and Michael Thieke Unununium.
  • Frode Haltli Quartet on U.S. Tour
    Norwegian accordionist and composer Frode Haltli brings his quartet to America for a brief four-city tour (Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia). An incredible improviser, Haltli takes traditional folk and transforms it into airy chamber music and jazz.
  • Hot Club of Detroit
    Django, by way of Detroit. This sizzling group plays traditional jazz of the ’20s and ’30s with a European gypsy twist. Led by guitarist Evan Perri, the group features Julian Labro on accordion.

Quick Links: October 22, 2007

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.

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