What’s Been Going On?

Hello, all, I’ve been silent on the blog for some months, and I don’t necessarily apologize for it. We all go through periods like this. I’ve been keeping this blog since 2011 and the depth of my passion has not dwindled a bit, even if my volubility has. Here are some things.

The Button Box

BennyYesterday, I swung by the Button Box because my Concertino organetto had sticking keys. It wasn’t always the same keys, but there were always some keys sticking on that thing. I do some work out in Western Mass, and took the opportunity to visit. While there I tried an amazing beauty of a Castagnari Benny (G/C/Acc), a thing of beauty, a wonder to behold. And so damn light! I played a bunch on it and left it behind, grateful for the chance to touch it. While there I also picked up to Irish music CDs.

Bobby Gardiner and Dave Munnelly

gardinerIt was an unusual move for me! The jigs and reels have plenty of representation in my life, and you may have noticed that this blog is devoted to French-ish music of an accordion sort. And yet … I have developed an obsession with Irish melodeonists, which, in this context, means players of Irish music on the one-row box. I’ve loved this sort of thing since I heard Tom Doherty’s Catch the Bull by the Horns, CD, back in the 90s. Lately, I’ve been stalking Dave Munnelly’s YouTube page, and then saw reference to Bobby Gardiner — the doyen of the D row — and saw each of them with a CD for sale at the Button Box.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

CaptureBecause Maine isn’t cold and wind blasted enough in February, last week I took a trip to Newfoundland, which has an amazing button accordion tradition (you don’t need me to tell you that). I went to the legendary O’Brien’s Music Store. Tried the boxes and talked to the folks. It was a good time! Looking forward to going back. That night — sans box — we went to Erin’s Pub, where a storytelling circle was being held (Newfoundland!! Amirite??). I got up and sang a thing. No accordions involved, but a good story song.

Upcoming Performances!

On March 30, I’ll be playing with my quintet Nouveau Chapeau at the Down East Country Dance Festival, which is mostly contra-dancing but has lots of other stuff going on, like the Bal Folk session that we’re playing for. That’s in Topsham, Maine.

On March 31, my trio, Le Bon Truc will be playing the inaugural concert of the Crockerbox House Concert series in Hallowell, Maine.

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Le Bon Truc Concert videos

I lead a good life. On May 2nd, my trio, Le Bon Truc, played at Blue, in Portland (Maine). We managed to pack the place and then play perhaps our best ever. It was super and felt great. Friend of the band, Sunshine Perlis, took video of eleven of the sets. The lighting is suboptimal, but the sound is great. I’ve put these together into a playlist so you who wish may enjoy our good fortune!

We’re hitting five years of playing together, and our lax variety of ambition has served us well. I love these two, and I love the music we make.

Suite des Aigrettes

A suite of tunes written by myself: The Egret’s Suite. Written in what was intended to be a breton-ish style (but drifted). The first tune is definitely one idea of what Breton folks might write as mazurka, if they wrote mazurkas. The second tune is influenced by my hero, Yann-Fañch PERROCHES. You can hear it in the 7th chords, though it’s a bit of a heavy handed approach compared to le maestro. The third tune is a happy retreat — a release from regrets and aggression.

This was created as a sort of demo for my band. Here are the dots!

Suite des Aigrettes

Two Waltzes (on the Mory)

The first waltz is an original by Le Bon Truc member Barbara Truex. She has a talent for writing extraordinary melodies, and this is only the latest. I imagine my harmonies aren’t exactly right to the composition, since Barb wrote it on a mountain dulcimer, which, because of its drones has all sorts of incidental (if not accidental) harmonies.

This is a fast waltz (that’s what they said it was when I played it in Alsace) that I wrote a good many years ago. I don’t actually write many tunes, but this one had legs. Although one of my goals is to show off the sound of the Mory, I seemed to slightly overdrive the mic for this recording. Maybe time to buy new equipement.

The Button Box and the Mory

Disaster Narrowly Averted

Castagnari Mory.
A thing of beauty. A wonder to behold.
I was working with a school in Western Mass. last week, so I decided to swing by the Button Box. Had a good talk with Doug while playing his stock. I had no money and he knew I had no money. And he showed me this accordion that had just arrived as a trade in. It was a Castagnari Mory (GC). “Here,” says Doug, “Can you try this out for me?” It hadn’t even made it onto the website, yet. I played it and … who knew that such a thing of beauty could exist in the world? It was amazing to both the fingers and the ears. I left feeling the distinctive cracks of a heart breaking. My heart.
As I drove home I started concocting a plan … steeped in the intoxicating memory of the Mory … I could trade in ALL OF MY ACCORDIONS for that one. I could be happy! I could make this work! It’s a crazy old world, but sometimes, things work out! Right?
My daughter, Emma, stopped me. “You can’t do that, Dad. The band. Your band. You love your band. You need all those accordions for the band.”
Yes. Yes. I love my band. Le Bon Truc. The good stuff.
Doug and the Mory*
Sure. He looks unassuming. Mostly harmless.
The fevre dream did not abate, however. And perhaps Doug knew that.
Sure, he looks nice. Innocent. Maybe even charming. But that was some seriously, sinister salesmanship. “Here,” he said, “Could you try this out for me?” As if to say, “I don’t want to be an imposition.” Or, “You’d sure be doing me a favor.” Or, “I know this is a burden for you …” but could you play this unbelievably wonderful accordion and let me know how it feels?
Yeah. Yeah, Doug. I can do that.
The Castagnari Mory has held a totemic power over me for over twenty years. The first tradFrench music I heard was from Ad Vielle Que Pourra, led accordionist/hurdy gurdy-ist Daniel Thonon. Daniel played a Mory and I was completely ensorceled by that sound. And I get it! I swear to God, I get it! The instrument does not make the player. I wasn’t listening to a Mory, I was listening to Daniel Thonon playing a Mory. Later, I would hear other players playing wonderfully on other boxes. But that Mory stuck with me. Then, I found out that Andy Cutting also plays a Mory (he owned three when I asked him) … I’m pretty sure I don’t have to justify the desire for an accordion to you, fair reader. All I’m saying is that the Mory has been a grail-shaped-beacon for me for many years.
Disaster Embraced, Quality of Life Improved
 
Skip to the end, the Castagnari Mory is winging its way to my house, even as I type. How did I get to this state?
Le Bon Truc. We love each other.
Well, it wasn’t that I had to break down and succumb to temptation, so much as getting a clue as to what my priorities ought to be. My friends brought me around. First, my band mates — Le Bon Truc — each said something along the lines of, “Hey, if you wanna do this we will support you!” and “Follow your bliss!” Then I did the math and realized that I wouldn’t really have to trade ALL of my accordions, just two of them. Then, through karma and generosity, that number was reduced to one.
Not only was this possible. It was reasonable. My heart fluttered a bit.
Every accordionist is chasing after THE LAST ACCORDION THEY WILL EVER HAVE TO BUY. It is a mythical creature, and we all recognize that. But this mythical creature haunts us. The Mory had been that creature for me for twenty years — think of that! where were you twenty years ago?
I will report more when it arrives. Thanks, all.
*Disclaimer: I am only joking! I have known Doug for twenty years, now, and he has never been anything other than a great guy, reasonable and kind. A good friend. Still, he knew exactly what he was doing when he brought that box out.

 

Le Bon Truc Rehearsal Recordings!

Look! We smile! We’re happy!

Trio Le Bon Truc has been have a very good year, I have to say. Well … I don’t have to, I want to! There’s been this sense among us three that our four year communion continues to deepen and satisfy. In preparation for a gig in Portland, ME at The Last Church on the Left, we’ve been putting some thought into the “next stage” of our repertoire. We know a lot of tunes, holy cow! Meanwhile, I got the Ab Tiny Box, and that’s been fun for us.

Bourrées Tricotada, Va-ten Va-ten, Grandes Poteries

As I have said in the past, I do take a phenomenological approach to music and think we all should. To that end, I am posting three of our rehearsal recordings. They are NOT polished performances, and, in fact, the Bourrées and Polkas may have been our first time playing those sets ever. In all cases, they start out rougher than they end, but they end in some very sweet spots. They interesting as “rehearsal artifacts,” but they are also … sweet. This is probably not all that swift as marketing, but … if nothing else, you can hear the good time we are having.

Polkas Quartier and de Baugy

Charlie/La Sansonette (Scottishes)

Last Night’s Gig! (Video)

Yesterday, Le Bon Truc played at the Cafe at the Armory in Somerville, MA. It’s a great space and it was a great short set. We shared the evening with a fantastic Afro-Cuban-Brazilian drum and voice ensemble. They were mesmerizing. A friend in the audience shot some video on her phone and it came out damn good! She posted them on Facebook, so I can’t embed. Here are some links:

Enjoy!