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

My Favorite Accordions

A guide to some nice, light-weight, affordable, professional instruments.

Here is a list of some of the best accordions I have played, in no particular order, and where to find them.

Planet Squeezebox – This is now my favorite, and most dependable instrument. I use a 72-bass, without midi, and a fairly wet tuning (2 clarinets, 1 bassoon). 72, 96, or 120 basses, midi or not, these accordions have the best action and sound I have found yet. Other musicians, sound techs, recording engineers, and audience members repeatedly tell me it’s the nicest sounding, best looking accordion they have encountered. Planet Squeezebox is designed by Ken Mahler of Mahler Music in St.Paul, MN, and built in Italy. You can visit him at www.accordionheaven.com. You will be truly amazed at the comfort of this well-balanced, dynamic, and good-looking accordion. Ken has just begin making this line available, and I’m sure once they get on the scene, people will be wanting them, and putting them in high demand. Ken is also a good source for high-quality pick-ups.

Baldoni Combo III – A gem of an accordion, Italian-made, designed by Al Baldoni, who runs a shop in the Milwaukee suburb of Menomonee Falls, WI. This box has 3 treble reeds, and Mr.Baldoni can give you the best musette tuning you can get in the States. It’s pretty, clear, and has great key action. All this, and it only weighs 12 pounds! About $2500.

www.baldoni.com

Guerinni Ramona (with Castiglione insignia)
This is my workhorse. 72 bass, 3 reeds on the treble ( 2 clarinet and 1 bassoon). They can be ordered direct from Guerinni by going to www.guerinni.com. They also make a 4 reed version, with 3 clarinets for a real wet musette sound. Make sure you ask for the hand-made reeds if you are a pro, gigging a lot. The price is really reasonable. A friend got a 4 reed for $1300 in 2000! – www.accordions.com/guerrini/

Titano 48-bass, 50′s model. – I’ve had 2, a black one that got smashed in a car wreck, and a blue one that I still enjoy. The treble has 2 clarinets, and the bass is configured 4X12, so there are no diminished chords. But it’s a sweet sounding, good looking, and classic small accordion. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a Titano 48-bass with 2 clarinets for sale.

Weltmeister Reuben – This is a 60-bass, 2-reed box introduced to the Twin Cities by Castle Accordions. They instantly became a favorite for area accordionists who do strolling jobs, because it has a bright, beautiful sound, good action, comes in an array of glittery colors, can stand a real hard workout, and weighs in at 12 pounds! For around $1000, it’s a great strolling or beginner instrument.

Castle Accordions also have a line of their own design, made by the same company that produces the well-known Zupan Accordion. I have not played one yet, but I understand they are really nice!

Guerinni Oxford – This is a 96 bass instrument with 4 reeds on the right hand. I played one once, and it was the easiest bigger instrument that I ever played.

Well, there you have it. I haven’t played every accordion in the world, but I know what I like, there it is. Please contact me if you have trouble locating these. I’ll see what I can do to help.

Amplification – A microphone is always going to give you the best sound reproduction, but isn’t always the easiest thing to use, especially if you move around, or play with an electric band. So, what I have found works best in the way of a pick-up, is a Sennheiser system that uses 5 small condenser mics, and runs on a battery. It gives you separate volume control for left and right hand, and reproduces the sound with less distortion, more consistency across the keyboard, and less feedback than any other system I have tried. My source is Mahler Music, at www.accordionheaven.com. But most good accordion stores will have them, or something like them. Around $500 installed, and well worth it for the professional.

My Favorite Hot Sauces, Salsas, and Culinary Picks

As a devoted fan of all things piquant and pungent, I thought I would share with you a few of my very favorite condiments. I tend to favor those sauces and salsas that combine good flavor with heat, rather than the ones that simply try to send you to the emergency room with third degree burns on your tongue, or somewhere else too personal to mention here. I will also include (for what it’s worth) a few other favorite food and drink items. If you have a hard time finding these products, contact me at this web site’s guest book, and I will try to help you in your attempt to eat like Daddy Squeeze.

HOT SAUCES, SALSAS & BBQ

  • Melinda’s XXXXXReserve ( the standard by which all habanero sauces are judged)
  • Iguana Brand “Red” or “Gold” (Amazon pepper sauces that truely enhance the flavor of any food )
  • Pueblo “Indian Summer Salsa” ( My new fav, sent to me from New Mexico by my pal John Walker. Roasted New Mexico chilis and jalapenos, and summer squash! )
  • Mac’s Hot Barbeque ( From a tiny shack in the tiny town of Skiatook, Oklahoma, comes the smokiest, richest, thickest and HOTTEST BBQ sauce you will ever need! 918-396-4165. I’m ordering two gallons at a time, now.Try it in black eyed peas, or on meatloaf. WOW! )
  • Cholula Hot Sauce (The one in the grocery stores with the wooden ball on the cap. A great, cheap all purpose sauce with a real “Mexican” flavor. Not too hot. )
  • Holy City Heat ( An attractive little flask of hot peppers blended with sweet potato! What a treat! )
  • Mrs. Renfro’s Hot Jalapeno Picante (Who needs any other? Wonderful heat, and flavor )
  • Tiger Sauce ( Find it in any grocery store. Not a bit hot, but really far better than Worcestershire or Soy Sauce. Also good:Pick-a-Peppa sauce.)
  • Inner Beauty “Real Hot Sauce” (Wow! Real hot, and very mustardy. Great for eggs or fish, or sausage, or naything.)
  • Jump Up and Kiss Me (Any of the three versions of this pretty hot condiment are yummy.)
  • Busha Brown’s “Pukka Sauce” ( A real dark, rich, habanero sauce from the Carribean.)
  • Marie Sharpe’s ( Bonnie peppers, and a real fruity, mustardy, calypso taste.)
  • Trappey’s “Chef Magic Garlic Sauce”* (Unfortunately, this is not currently being made. It was so good, that people who don’t like hot sauce even liked this one. It was barely hot, but had such a sweet, roasted garlic flavor, nobody could resist.)
  • Tobasco-NOT ON YOUR LIFE (unless it’s the only thing the cafe has to offer)

BEVERAGES

  • French Roast Columbian and Kenya AA. (Preferably from Dunn Bros Coffee, the Twin City coffee shops that roast beans in each location daily. When it’s that fresh, and roasted real dark, it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, in a cup.)
  • Guinness Extra Stout (The same qualities as the coffee I like. Can’t see through it, and it’s good for you. Actually, it has less calories and alcohol than equal ammounts of most popular “American Style” lager beers.)
  • Sierra Nevada Porter, Stout or Pale Ale. (One of the best and most consistant breweries in the US)
  • Summit I.P.A., Octoberfest, or Winter Ale (This St.Paul brewery does a great job on all their beers, these are just my favorites)
  • Anchor Steam Beer (I don’t drink many things you can see through other than water, but this is one fine, hearty beer, from San Francisco.)
  • Modelo Negro Dark Beer (I can hardly eat Mexican food without it, except at breakfast.)
  • Santa Rita 120 Merlot (A very nice wine for an unbelievable price. From the southern hemisphere.)
  • Septima Malbec-Cabernet blend (wonderful wine for a little bit of dough…worth seeking out)
  • Rex Goliath (47lb Rooster) Cabernet or Merlot (Another bargain, discovered when a friend “re-gifted” a bottle to me at Christmas one year.)
  • Jest Red (ditto)
  • Guignol Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc ( I don’t drink much white wine, but on a warm summer evening, this one really tastes swell.)
  • Water (Not that it’s my 10th favorite drink. I love it , morning, noon and night.)

OTHER FOOD TIPS

  • Roasted Carnival Squash with curry and “Jump Up and Kiss Me” hot sauce.
  • Jiffy brand Corn Muffin Mix (Gotta cook it in a hot cast-iron skillet)
  • Chiapas Mexican Restaurant, Minneapolis.
  • Roasted garlic on French bread. (Let it roast until it’s sweet and mushy. Soooo good!)
  • Yams, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and dirty rice. (Now that’s eatin’!)
  • Smothered Cabbage.(See recipe on this web site. Thanks to Millie Ortego)

Accordion Events – Twin Cities

Lots of cool things go on in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area for accordion lovers. There are, of course, many more accordion events to take in the farther you roam from the metro area. Here is a little sampling of some of the events I would suggest you take in over the summer.

KRAMARCZUK’S DELI: Saturday nights from 6:00 til 8:00 you can hear live accordion music and enjoy terrific old-world food. Dee Langley, Tom Sullivan, and Dan Newton have been the most regular performers. The neat thing about this gig is that audience members and casual players are encouraged to bring their own accordions and sit in. Kramarczuk’s is in Minneapolis, on E. Hennepin and about 2nd St. That’s just across the river from downtown, near Nye’s, Times and Surdyk’s.

NYE’S: Speaking of Nye’s, when you’re finished with your Polish sausage at Kramarczuk’s, you can cross the street in time to hear the Ruth Adams Band warming up in the Polonaise Lounge. This accordion-lead trio has been playing Friday and Saturday nights at Nye’s for about 30 years. The joint has become a real hip venue in the past few years, so don’t expect to get a seat in this tiny bar right away. The dance floor is small, too, but full of happy folks who don’t care if you really know the steps or not.

MARIO’S KELLAR: Let’s stay in Northeast Minneapolis, and continue the polka theme. Though rock bands dominate the schedule on weeknights, Mario’s Kellar becomes a haven for polkaholics on Friday and Saturday nights. The huge dance space, good sound system, and terrific selection of German beers makes this the prime spot in the Minneapolis city limits for polka.Some of the bands that play regularly are Bill Koncar, the Squires, Dale Dahmen and the Beats, and my personal two favorites, Hank Thunander, and Tubby Esquire. When you hear Thunander and Mario’s, it’s like being at a wedding dance. He plays ALL the hits, from Clarinet Polka, Chicken Dance and Hokey Pokey, to Feelings,Memories, and Great Balls of Fire. The crowd dances and “sings” along like they were one big family. The amazing part is the band consists of just Hank and his midi-accordion, and his drummer. Hank’s been doing this forty years in our neck of the woods, and is truly a local treasure. Tubby Esquire won this year’s MMA Award for best polka band. This is a real departure from past years when the award always went to a traditional style band. But just as the Grammy for polka went to Brave Combo in 2000, our local award went to a band that has blended polka with rock. They aren’t your grandparents’ oom-pah band by a long-shot! Mario’s is in the basement of the Gasthoff zur Gemutlicheit restaurant, on University Ave., about 24th Ave NE.

MAYSLACK’S: One more Northeast Minneapolis spot worth mentioning has been serving garlic roast beef sandwiches and beer to a music-loving crowd as long as we can remember. Mayslack’s, originally known as the Polka Lounge, now features contemporary, blues and swing bands Thursday through Saturday nights, but on Sunday evenings, polka still rules the roost. Starting around 5:00 every Sunday, the Polka Pounders, Mayslack’s house polka band, cranks up Polish old time music that’s real down-home. Every time I’ve seen them, they have two trumpets, drums, and one or two concertinas. Sometimes they have additional guests, including Craig Ebel, host of the “It’s Polka Time” radio show. Mayslack’s is on 4th Street NE, (one block east of University Ave.) and about 15th Ave., Minneapolis.

CASTLE ACCORDION: At last! An accordion store in Minneapolis! Until recently a jewelry shop only, owner Randy McPeck has expanded his business to include accordions. This converted classic White Castle hamburger joint used to stand on Central Avenue in northeast, but now sits on the corners of Lyndale and 33rd in south Minneapolis. Castle carries new and used instruments, including Weltmeister, Italo-American, Excelsior, and soon, Zupan. Visit them on-line at www.castleaccordion.com

POLISH AMERICAN CLUB: The P.A.C. has polka bands most Friday or Saturday nights, and occasional Sundays. The cover charges are very reasonable, and the music usually runs between 7-11p.m.This venue gives you a regular opportunity the hear touring polka bands from Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio, as well as some of the better area groups, like Dr.Kielbasa. The Polish American Club is 1003 Arcade St., in the east side of St.Paul.(651)-774-6748.

MAHLER MUSIC CENTER: Mahler Music has been dealing in accordion sales and repairs in St.Paul as long as anybody in the area. A complete line of accessories, sheet music, electronics and used accordions fill the shop. Ken now has his own line of fully-midi, custom designed accordions, called “Planet Squeezebox”. Ken and Lloyd always welcome players of any level to try out a box or two, and spontaneous jams often happen at Mahler Music. Mahler Music is at 907 Randolph Ave. in St.Paul. (651)-224-6943, or visit them on-line at www.accordionheaven.com.

HALF TIME REC: The Rec is home to American-Irish Barroom music Tuesday thru Saturday nights, but on Sundays from 8-11p.m., social dances take over, dominated by the local Cajun and Zydeco bands. If you like hearing this kind of accordion music, check out the Riverside Ramblers, JJ’s Zydeco Paydirt, ZoloGo!, the Bone Tones, and an occasional out-of-towner from Louisiana. Call the Rec at 651-488-8245, or just drop by and pick up a schedule. The Rec is 2 blocks east of Lexington Pkwy., on Front Ave. (Front picks up where Energy Park Dr. ends) St.Paul. Here is a Citysearch Profile

KIERAN’S IRISH PUB: In the heart of downtown Minneapolis you’ll find the best traditional Irish music offered in the Twin Cities. The Titanic Lounge, the back room of Kieran’s, offers such fare as accordion legends Marty Mchugh, Paddy O’Brien, and accordion-driven pan-Celtic trio the Blackbirds. Kieran’s serves up a nice pint, some delicious pub-fare, and does it in a listener-friendly, mostly smoke-free environment. Kieran’s is in the Towle Bldg., 320 2nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-339-4499. Visit them online at www.kierans.com.