La Françounette (Free Reed Liberation Orchestra)

Introducing the second Free Reed Liberation Orchestra tune, La Françounette, a waltz which also happens to be #108 in the Bal Folk Tune Book. This is eleven box players (all from, one clarinetist, one fiddler, and two strummy-strummy players. I said this for the last FRLO recording (which was also the first). this is among the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I am very grateful to everyone playing and listening.

The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra (October 2020, pt. 2) is Anahata, Matthew Bampton, John Barber, Gary Chapin, Benjamin Hemmendinger, JohnAndy, Howard Mitchell, Helena Painting, Gren Penn, Julian Schoenfield, Janneke Slagter, Greg Smith, Steve Gruverman, Margaret Cox, Eric w. Johnson, and Barbara Truex. Performance ©FRLO 202

“Milk Shake” (yeah, that’s really what it’s called.)

This improbably named tune is #30 in the Bal Folk Tune Book, a three-beat bourrée that is very addictive to play. I play with only the low reed on the Mory sounding, which made some of the bits tricky to do, but it’s a sound that I really enjoy, even if it’s usually a seasoning and not a main flavor. If anyone knows the story of this tune name I would love to hear it. (That’s what it’s called in the tune book, not a translation. The only English title in the book.)

It’s going take a long time for me to get through the Bal Folk Tune Book Project if I keeping getting obsessed with tunes like this.

Over on YouTube, brunokev doesn’t have much to say about where the name comes from, but he does do a great job with the tune on his pipes.

Les Grandes Poteries (Orchestre d’accordéon)

Many boxes, one piece. The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra is a notional (and virtual) orchestra to which any accordionist who wants can belong (and friends, like banjo uke and bass clarinet players). This is our debut upon the world. The tune is a bog norme bourrée, a tune that will get you a free drink at any Bal Trad Pub you might come across. This agglomeration of individuals are mostly habitués of — my home parish for diatonic squeeze matters. This tune is also known as La bourrée tourante, and is tune #32 in the Bal Folk Tune Book. This project is on the very short list of coolest things I have ever done. The Free Reed Liberation Orchestra (Oct 2020 edition) is Anahata, Matthew Bampton, Gary Chapin, Steve Gruverman, Benjamin Hemmendinger, Gren Penn, Pete (playandteach), Julian Scholefield, Janneke Slagter, Greg Smith, Barbara Truex. Video by Gary Chapin

The Strudel Set (Cochonchine and Pas d’Été)

I made strudel and played some tunes.

These two tunes — #212 and #214 from the Bal Folk Tune Book — are both from the “others” section. They are their own sort of set dances, i.e., dances linked to a particular locale with a specific dance associated with them. And they seem like two of the “old fashioned” tunes. The kind of tunes that folks call “the good old old ones.” The dance for Pas d’Été can be seen here.

The dancing is always fun til someone loses an eye!

And the dance for Cochonchine can be seen here.

Sweet dance.

Pas d’Été has this fingering sequence on the second half that should be VERY easy, but I find it so challenging to stay in time with it. Essentially, sequences where you have quick (but not VERY quick) notes in the same direction, with a sort of repetitive arpeggio vibe … I have a hard time keeping an even pace. It’s very weird.

Chez la Mère Antoine

Two scottishes from the Bal Folk Tune Book (which you should buy), “Chez la Mère Antoine” (#20) and an unnamed tune (#15). They sound old, to me. Like bog norme, as one friend described it. “Tiny,” my organetto in A flat, has been out of commission for the humid months (sticking keys) and has recently returned to mid-season form. Even though it has two additional buttons, I still play it essentially as a one row. It really is a very fun little thing, and, as I say, it plays in A flat, which not many diatonic things do.

So, you wanna listen to Breton Music?

Over on, someone asked for recommendations on Breton music to listen to. In response, Yannick Laridon, of the band Planchée, posted the following amazing wealth of information. The post was too good to let die in the middle of a thread, so I asked if I could post it here. Truly an embarrassment of riches. Thank you! (I will also mention that I have a Breton playlist over on Spotify, if that’s how you roll.)

Brittany is a very active area regarding traditional music. Here are some personal picks, it’s not by any means a comprehensive list, and the comments are mine and phrased rapidly. I’ll add some bold font where there’s an accordion. Some good references were already mentioned, so here are some more, sorted by a somewhat chronological order.

The “early” recordings date from the Folk revival era, with names as well-known as Alan Stivell or Tri Yann for instance, which are centered on concert music rather than dance music. As often with prolific and long careers, all their production is not really relevant.

Frères Morvan - Wikipedia
The Morvan Bros.

But from the same period, you could not go wrong with the recordings of the Goadec Sisters or the Morvan Brothers, two well-known acappella dance ensembles from the center of Brittany. Two songs among many :

During the 80s, maybe one missing reference is the band Gwerz, although I find it’s a bit aged, its historical importance has to be noted, as it’s synthetizing many influences, such as Irish music. The 80’s are a really important decade for Breton music, despite a relatively moderate number of recordings, as it’s in that period that major figures emerged and defined their styles, that influenced all the musicians afterwards. Perhaps even more so than the artists in the 70s did.
Here is a live recording of Gwerz :

In the late 80s you can also find the same people you find in Gwerz, Barzaz or Kornog in the band Den, that you cannot listen without thinking about some Donal Luny experiments :– (Beware: traces of 80s synthetizer)

In many ways, Den somehow prefigures the later work of Jacky Molard (and the Molard brothers), that you can find later associated with the late guitarist Jacques Pellen, either in Celtic Procession ( ) , Tryptique ( ) or Bal Tribal ( ).

For a dance band regrouping many of the above, there’s Pennou Skoulm (breton for dickheads):

Fred “Gazman” Lambierge

In this album appears Fred “Gazman” Lambierge on the accordion (he recently passed away), a discrete but important player, that did background work to infuse jazz music into Breton accordion music. He notably influenced Janick Martin, but we’ll come to that later.
Beautiful rendition of a tradition song by Fred : *

As an aside, you can also hear Fred in the child music band Les Ours du Scorff, by which many of Breton children were cradled : nice music, funny lyrics, it’s really a bliss for all the family :

In the meantime, the major dance band from the 90’s is perhaps Ar Re Yaouank. They have something like 3 albums, that many Breton musicians are able to hum in full. They’re the first to really embed a truly rock attitude, and their influence still persists today.
My personal favorite is this one :

But you can’t go wrong with the others. One major accomplishment of theirs is to have played in a major festival, that had nothing to do with trad music, Les Francofolies de La Rochelle (which is really an exploit in a country where traditional music is that much segreggated than France) : *

Today, Fred and Jean-Charles Guichen still play together in fest-noz, with a plethoric production. My favorite album is Mémoire Vive, but I fear you can only have excerpts online:
You can find the solo album of Fred Guichen (the accordionist) here : * (it’s bit ‘aged’, but still interesting to listen to).

Other notable 90’s dance bands include Carré Manchot that had many forms, here is one among many:

A duet, Burn’s duo, with Ronan Robert and Christophe Caron :

Ronan is of course a prominent accordion player, but it’s even more so the influence of Christophe Caron on the bombarde (the Breton oboe) that is remarkable : is among the firsts to look for a sound closer to regular oboes, and to push the boundaries of what was deemed possible with the instrument. There’s a distinctive 90s sound to this album, but it’s still good music.
Some people mentioned Yann-Fañch Perroches, I think that perhaps his best album was with violonist and ex co-star of Skolvan Fañch Landreau :

Beginning in the 90s and still playing today, there’s also the band Spontus (one of my favorite Breton dance band)

Moving on to the 00s, there’s many band that went further still than their elders. Startijenn (still active today), which somehow digested the influence of Ar Re Yaouank and made it something different :

Karma, with what I still find today the most stunning Breton album :

Plantec and Hiks, two bands that, in different styles, make room for electronic music

For both these bands, there’s a great work on the bombarde.

And, last but not least, Hamon-Martin (either in duo, quartet or quintet), which is THE major band for the 00’s and 10’s I think. Their masterpiece is, IMO, L’Habit de plume :
But you can’t go wrong with any of their albums ( )
In duet, the album ‘Sous le tilleul’ is inescapable I found only one track here :

And some more recent bands :
Modkozmik :
Fleuves :
Barba Loutig :
Dour-Le Pottier Quartet :
Vincendeau-Pichard :
Le Bour – Bodros
There’s also my band :

And, at last, a few picks of more traditional formulas

Patrick Bardoul (accordion) :
L’Haridon – Nedelec (biniou-bombarde) :
Trimaud – Belliard (biniou-bombarde) :
Foll – Le Dissez (biniou-bombarde) :
Ebrel – Le Buhé (singers) :
Quéré – Le Menn (singers) :
Manglo (singers) :
Le Féon – Léhart (biniou-bombarde) :
Manu Bouthillier (violin) :

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Three Polkas Piquée

In recordings from the 1930s polkas piquée are a type of very short polkas played very fast — really leaning into the strengths of the vielle à roue — and they’re played in groups of many, usually each tune is repeated only twice. There are a bunch of polkas piquée in the Bal Folk Tune Book, and none of them have names; they are just “polka piquée.” So here are #174, 173, 176, and 173 (reprise).

Also, I am debuting my one row Hohner in G — inspired by activity over on The thing is a bear to play but I love the wet broad sound, and one rows have an inexplicable attraction for me.