Musette: An Essential Discography

Until the 1990s, recordings of “musette” orchestras or repertoire were very hard to find in the United States. Most of what was available was only in the form of old 78 r.p.m. discs, and these were either in poor condition or in the hands of collectors. Fortunately, a couple of French recording companies released a great deal of classic musette on CD in the ’90s, and the interest these discs inspired have lead to a new influx of contemporary musette recordings. These can still be hard to find, so I will give you the names and contacts for a group of recordings that I consider to be essential for anyone interested in this genre. I will split the discography into two catagories, vintage, and modern recordings, and give a brief review of each title. I sincerely hope you musette fans out there can find this useful! Be sure to visit “A History of the Musette”, for further historical information.

VINTAGE RECORDINGS RE-RELEASED ON CD

1. ACCORDEON: Musette/Swing: Paris 1913-1941, Vols. 1&2 Produced by Fremeaux & Associates (F&A 005, and DH002)Distributed by Night & Day, 30 Bis Rue du Bailly, 93210 La Plaine St. Denis, France. Tel. 48-13-00-90, Fax 48.20.02.75. Each of these sets contains two CDs of nicely remastered early recordings. Vol. 1 has 50 tracks, Vol. 2 has 36. Both combined will present the accordioninst with a complete overview of what was happening in musette, from the days when the accordion first replaced the cabrette (bagpipe) as the instrument of choice, through the introduction of gypsy stylings, and the influences of jazz and swing. It’s all here, valse, polka, tango, swing, fox-trots, and paso-dobles. Played by the most influential and important performers and composers of the genre; Colombo, Gus Viseur, Tony Murena, V Marceau, Emile Vacher, DePrince, Peguri, Peyronnin, Medard Ferrero, Jo Privat, and many more.There are informative booklets in each set that are worth the price of the CD themselves. A must.

Real Audio Samples: Flambée Montalbanaise

2. La LEGENDE du MUSETTE: les Grands Virtuoses de l’Accordeon 1927-1942 (EPM 982732) EPM 188 bd. Voltaire, 75011, Paris, France This 2 disc set will duplicate some of the material from the “Accordeon” series, but it is still well worth the effort to obtain. A beautiful cover, lots of interesting liner notes about musette history, and a neatly divided set of 49 tracks. The first disc is mostly valse, the second is mainly swing.


Real Audio Samples
: Reproche, Joseph Joseph

3. V.MARCEAU: ses Plus Grandes Interpretations en Soliste (COL 471887 2) Columbia label, a division of Sony Music (France) 1992. The recordings are a bit scratchy, but this is a terrific group of 26 solo performanced by one of the very first big stars of the musette. His style is more between folk and popular than swing or gypsy, and it’s nice to hear both sides of the accordion. He plays simply, with subtle variations and dynamic changes. A real nice study recording, with some very interesting tunes.

4. Les Indoubliables de l’Accorden: Emile Vacher, vols. 1&2 (Music Memoria # 7243 8 39733 2 3 ) Made in Holland. No contact available on the cover, but worth searching for. A well produced and remastered set of 70 minutes. Emile Vacher is considered by some to be the “creator” of the musette. In these recordings he is heard performing his own compositions, aidied by a typical early musette group: second accordion, banjo, piano, sometimes xylophone, sax or violin. Vacher is not part of the swing-fusion group of musette artists. His tunes are waltzes in three different styles ( musette, java, and sentimentale), polkas and fox-trots. Very good quality.

Real Audio Samples: Trotinette

5 & 6. COLOMBO: Compositions 1924-42 (Fremeaux & Assoc. FA009), and GUS VISEUR: Compositions 1934-42 (Frameaux & Assoc.,FA010 ) Two discs that represent the blending of jazz and musette, by the two who are credited with it the most. 18 tracks on each CD, all wonderful. WhileColombo applies jazz mainly to waltz tempos, Viseur ventures into real swing. Viseur worked at times with Django Rheinhardt, and the influence is evident. Buy these!

Real Audio Samples: Jeanette, Germaine

MODERN RECORDINGS

1. PARIS MUSETTE: vol 1-3 Label la Lichere, LLL 137, 207, & JAM 9135-2. Night & Day Distribution, Tel 48-13-00-90, Fax 48-20-02-75, France. This trilogy ( Paris Musette, Swing et Manouche, and Vent d’automne) almost single-handedly pulled musette from it’s death bed and brought it back to life. Realising that the original players had almost all disappeared, the producers called into the studio a handful of the old masters and a group of talented youngsters and made the first modern recordings of older style musettes in 30 years. Then second and third albums brach out into many different styles of musette, mostly jazz influeced, to show that there is still a future of growth and vitality ahead for this genre. Fabulous performances and up-to-date recording technologies help to covey the love and caring the artists have for this music. Once again, the Frameaux have provided us with great liner notes, lots of information. If you can’t find these in your record stores, I believe you can access them on line by searching parismusette.

Real Audio Samples: Brise Napolitiane, Les Nocturnes

2. JO PRIVAT: Manouche Partie (Nocturne, NTCD 308) Though recorded in 1970, this is also a vintage recording, because it contains the most essential collection of tunes for those interested in the gypsy-style, or Manouche, aspect of musette.If you are going to try to put together a swing-musette group, listen to this, learn all the tunes, and you are on the right path. Jo Privat is the ultimate Manouche accordionist, and accompanied by Matelo Ferret, a fine bassist, and an occaisional violin or clarinet, it’s one of the swinginest waltz records ever. Musette waltzes are alternated with gypsy swing classics like Dark Eyes, Kalinka, Two Guitars, and Nuages, played by the folks who made them the classics they are today. You must have this CD!!

3. LE MUSETTE a PARIS: Denecheau Jase Musette (Audivis Ethnic B6817) Terrfic trio recording of a group that recreates the sound of the street-corner band. This is musette before it became respectable and popular in Paris high society. Banjo, Accordeon, percussive noise-makers and slide whistles, too much fun.

Real Audio Samples: Viens Me Griser, Les Ventres Noires

4. MARC PERRONE: Velverde. (le Chant du Monde LDX 274895) Perrone blends musette backgrounds with other world-beat notions, and a bit of Nino Rota. He keeps his ensembles small, and unamplified, so thjis recording has an intimate feel, and it’s easy to hear what everybody is playing. Some of his groupings are a bit unusual ( accordion with clarinet and tablas, or with harmonica and bodhran, or hurdy-gurdy ), but the results are lovely. Not only French, but Brazilian, Celtic and Indian sounds abound.

Real Audio Samples: Suite Merengue, Anatra