This is the THIRD recording by the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra and our first Breton offering. This project has been a blast and something that would never have happened without the pandemic or me being laid off, so that says … something. I’m not sure what!
“War Hent Kerrigouarch” (The Road to Kerrigouarch) is a Breton tune that I first heard on the Kornog album, Premiere. Later, Alisdair Fraser did it with cellist Natalie Haas as part of their Derriére Les Carreaux set. Jamie McMenemy (of Kornog) recorded it on his own first album in 1981. I have no idea if its trad or if McMenemy wrote it. The F.R.L.O (nov 2020) is Anahata, Matthew Bampton, Gary Chapin, Margaret cox, Steve Gruverman, Benjamin Hemmendinger, Eric W. Johnson, Little Eggy, Janneke Slagter, Greg Smith, Barbara Truex.
My son, Max (living in Japan) brought this tune to my attention when he transcribed Alistair Fraser’s set for my band (Le Bon Truc) to play. We may still do that, COVID willing, but in the meantime, I hope this pleases him.
Over on mel.net, 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 mel.net 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.
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 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0EosB3uK8M
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 : * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZeP8N-oo0Y
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) : * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XwGW2IJpJA
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 : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjbn89rrBfsI16Vyh8sDRlJFl1qgCXZPq
This is Florence Glorion a player of the chromatic button accordion, who duets often with diato player Florence Pindivic. They host a site together, Diou Flo, which focuses primarily on Breton music. I love both of the Florences’ music, and will feature Pindivic next week.
The Theme of the Month at mel,net is “Something in Four.” It’s for the odds and sods tunes. The march, polka, or whatever that seems somehow different and out of place. This tune is one that I learned from a fiddler about fifteen years ago. I don’t know if I ever knew what it was called, but I certainly don’t now. I can’t honestly even say what type of tune it is or its provenance. It sounds Breton? Maybe and an dro? If YOU know, please say so in the comments.
P.S., I used my phone for this recording and I’m still figuring out the best way to do that. I’ll do better next time.
Every Monday, I will be posting a new or newly discovered (newly by me, anyway) video of French accordionistics. If you would like to draw my attention to something out there that should be posted, or want to submit one of yourself playing some French tune (including Breton) on accordion, email me here. This one features Patrick Lefebvre on CBA. He’s one of my heroes. I wrote a tribute to him in 2011.
UPDATE: I’ve gotten some push back on this post from folks (great stuff in the comment section), essentially saying that some of these videos are not exemplars of their regional styles, but are just examples of dances done at the Big Bal. I think that’s fair, but still think it’s interesting to see these as documentations of what’s going on at the Big Bal, especially for those of us who would have a hard time ever making it there. Following up from the post of French Dance Field Recordings, here is the second half of Chris Ryall’s amazing collection of videos, or dance as he found it in the wild. Chris writes, “Breton dance is often done in lines, traditionally snaking around the floor intertwining and ‘meeting people.'” Here is the repository: Breton Rond St. Vincent – a very simple village dance that has become a standard An Dro (An Dro = “the turn”) Another An Dro – Wild at the end! Tricot (mixed An Dro and Hanter Dro) Plinn (Simple, very peasant, gets wild improv from musicians) Another Plinn Suite Plinn (Same rhythm. Couples dance with fast and slow parts) “Standard” Gavotte” (Danced as a suite with varying speeds) Gavotte de l’Aven (small valley in the Cornouaille with it’s own “dreamy sway” style – this is just part of a “suite gavotte”
Two North American Breton cultural organizations, Kerlenn New York and Bretons de Quebec, have joined forces to launch the first annual Breton Music Week. A series of events from October 18 to 27 scheduled in a swath reaching from New York City, through Massachusetts, and into Quebec (with, hopefully, one outlier in Maine … which would be me).
“The goal of Breton Music Week is to extend and increase the awareness of Breton Music and culture in North America!” The week culminates with the Fest-noz Vraz! in NYC. And, hey, they have a tee shirt!
The Dino Baffetti Tex-Mex II/34 arrived on Thursday! Very exciting! I had intended to do an internal examination of the box, a laOwen Woods or Daddy Long Les, but I found I couldn’t bear to take a screw driver to it, not even to remove the grill. I’m made of less stern stuff than that, it seems.
Instead, I’ve been playing the heck out of it. Here are some first thoughts:
Big one! Playing a three row is different from playing two or two-and-a-half row or even two-row-plus-accidentals. Possibly this is obvious. The three row quint box can do different things that I don’t yet know how to do. New frontiers!
The two row repertoire works just fine on this one. Even if it is obvious that playing up-and-down the rows is not what it was built to do, everything I’ve been learning for the last 15 years is essentially transferable!
At melodeon.net there is a recurring discussion about stepped keyboards vs. flat keyboards. Playing a flat keyboard for the first time in years has made no difference to me.
Even though this is an F/Bb/Eb box (which is exactly what I was after) I’m choosing to name it as G/C/F and recognize that it’s a transposing instrument. All of the sheet music and tab is for G/C/F, so this seems simplest.
It sounds AMAZING. Essentially, as one colleague mentioned, it’s a clone of a Hohner Corona, done to a absurdly high level of quality. The sound is so very sweet. And the touch is effortless. I do have fond feelings for Hohner accordions, but this is a cut above.
I love it.
It is a little silly that with five rows of box to my name, I still don’t have a D row. What sort of psychological block am I dealing with? Is it PTSD from the Minneapolis Irish sessions?
Here are three videos with the Baffetti. The first is a hanter dro written by Sylvain Piron.
The second is another hanter dro, traditional, that I learned from Steve Gruverman.
The third is a Breton March, traditional, that I learned from the playing of Daniel Thonon.
With much gratitude, I celebrate Yann-Fañch Perroches.
Owen Woods, who writes the fantastic Music and Melodeons, mentioned in passing that he’s playing a gig in support of the great Breton accordéonist, Yann-Fañch Perroches. After the wave of envy passed, it struck me that, even though I have Perroches’ link over there in the “Relevant Links” column, I’ve never actually written about him. This is a travesty.
This is a travesty, not only because his music is that good, but because he’s been a particular inspiration to me for over a decade. The first thing I heard of Perroches’ was An Droug Hirnez, which features Breton tunes in a chamber jazz setting, with piano, bass, cello, and winds accompanying the box. Very beautiful. That was about twelve years ago. Doing some research I found out that Perroches had been a member of the very prominent Breton group Skolvan since 1984. I sought out their work, as well. His work with Cocktail Diatonique was the first time I heard the sort of multi-accordion arrangements that are now redefining tradFrench (and tradBelgian) music. My favorite recording of his is the duo recording of Perroches with violinist Fañch Landreau, Daou Ha Daou. Something everyone should hear. All of this music, and more, can be found at Perroch’s site.
I should also mention that when I was starting out on the accordéon, Perroches very kindly corresponded with me and helped me work through some problems playing the basses. It’s worth noting that his tutorial is outstanding.
Listen to some of the man’s music, and celebrate.
A marvelous solo piece:
Scottish du Regret, perhaps Perroches’ best known composition: