return to rootsworld


Daniel Binelli
Flaco Jimenez
Mini All-Stars
Sharon Shannon
Juan Jose Mosalini
Luiz Gonzaga
Luiz Carlos Borges

Related Articles

An interview with
Sharon Shannon

Will You Subscribe?
Accordions! Marty Lipp's Accordions!
Accordion Festival!

Squeeze Play

Planet Squeezebox
(Ellipsis Arts)

The accordion, seemingly a cross between a pipe organ and a python, has squeezed its way into the hearts of many a culture. These two collections take wide-ranging, but differing, surveys of the accordion landscape.

Squeeze Play focuses on music from the mid-1920s to the 1950s, which accounts for its fascinations and drawbacks. The cuts are literally all over the map -- Italian tarantellas lead into Polish folk music, South African tunes are cheek-by-jowl with klezmer musicians, and Acadian reels dance their way into polkas.

Overall, the cuts are in the folkloric or historic vein, so don't expect state-of-the-art production. However, the recordings also hold some virtuoso playing and many charming tunes. While Squeeze Play brings to light the early champions of the instrument, it does not show the styles that have opened contemporary ears, such as vallenato, zydeco, forro' or the nuevo tango of Astor Piazzolla.

Planet Squeezebox, on the other hand, takes a more contemporary look at accordion-based genres. Culled from an earlier 3-CD set, this disc features cuts that are not commercial, but are recorded well and are short, bright and often pop-y. In fact, the disc has an endearing loopiness that seems quite appropriate to the ungainly, fun-loving accordion.

Again, one can snipe that the disc leaves off something or other. There's zydeco, but no Buckwheat Zydeco; there's a reel, but no Sharon Shannon; there's Colombian cumbia, but no Carlos Vives; and again, no Piazzolla. Planet Squeezebox, though, is so eager to please -- and does it so well -- that nitpicking seems like just so much party-pooping.

Buena Suerte, Senorita

Flaco Jimenez has guest-starred on all kinds of projects, but on his latest he keeps his accordion close to his Tex-Mex heart. Vocals are serviceable and those looking for hybrids will be disappointed, but for those who like the easy-going polka-like beat of this genre, this is a sure bet -- elevated as it is by Jimenez's playful, fleet-fingered accordion fills. -Marty Lipp

Fanatiques Compas

A first cousin to merengue and soukous, the Haitian style of compas has been around since the mid-1950s. Its godfather, Nemours Jean-Baptiste, grew to be its preeminent star, but he fell on hard times even as the music flourished. Two tribute albums in 1980 and 1982 -- recorded by top session players from Mini Records -- revived interest in Jean-Baptiste; it is these two recordings from which this current release is culled.

As played by the Mini All Stars, the music of Jean-Baptiste has an easy, irresistible swing. This is muisc to sway to amid a tropical heat wave. With light percussion and a burbling bass building the rhythmic foundation, a nimble accordion, honeyed tenors and a playful horn section take turns dancing with the beat.

Considering these recordings are 25 years old, the sound quality is remarkably good. And clear, detailed liner notes make this a perfect introduction to the genre.

Almost all the cuts are extended jams, the average being about seven minutes long. Not everyone may want to listen to all 70 minutes at every sitting, but it does go down easy. Hopefully, the music of Jean-Baptiste cna have yet another renaissance beyond the shores of Haiti with the sweet sounds of this CD.

Each Little Thing
(Green Linnet)

Irish accordionist Sharon Shannon can fly through a jig or reel better than just about anybody. But her true genius is creating music that is vibrant and energetic, while keeping a lyrical, sweet feel. On this, her third release, Shannon shows again what Irish traditional music can be by stretching its borders without betraying its spirit.

Almost every cut here has the unmistakeable lilt of Irish music, yet Shannon and her gathered musicians demonstrate their versatility by playing tunes from some Celtic cousins, one by the Chilean group Inti-Illimani, and even a sultry tango. "The Bag of Cats" -- a string of traditional tunes featuring Shannon on fiddle -- even tosses in some beats from a programmed rhythm machine.

The famously shy Shannon is often cited for her nimble playing -- she's even been called the 'Hendrix of the accordion' -- but she also embues her songs with poignancy and beauty. It may be too early to declare that we are living in a golden age of Irish music, but any era with Sharon Shannon playing in it is certainly flecked with gold.

Juan Jose Mosalini
One Man's Tango

Like his mentor, Astor Piazzolla, bandoneon player Juan-Jose Mosalini uses tango as a free-form musical expression, not as a genre restricted to keeping pace for dancers.

In this collection culled from several of his albums with both a quartet and a larger orchestra, Mosalini plays music that is graceful, elegant and always bittersweet. While tango is intrinsically sad and dramatic, Mosalini's work is not dour or bombastic. Perhaps it is his status as an ex-pat Argentine living in Paris, but Mosalini's music seems tinged with the golden ache of nostalgic longing.

Though the disc's liner notes do not list the other players, the music is very much a group effort and Mosalini lets his violinist, pianist and other soloists shine throughout.

While most tango heard today is played by small combos, Mosalini also uses an 11-piece orchestra on several cuts, which adds a broader range of textures to his rich, emotional playing.

Be warned though: despite the disc's bright, whimsical cover, this is a CD that, for the most part, wrings its beauty out of darker emotions.

(Black Sun)

Like fellow Argentine Astor Piazzolla, Binelli incorporates the dark, seductive drama of tango with the sophistication of classical music and the free-form structure of jazz. Binelli, who played bandoneon alongside the late Piazzolla, also incorporates some African rhythms in his state-of-the-art tango. The result is a beautiful album that is alternately playful and moody, but always impeccably played. -Marty Lipp

Luis Gonzaga

The late Luis Gonzaga is the godfather of Northeastern Brazil's partying forro' music. The songs in this collection, performed in various characteristic rhythms, were recorded between 1941-47.

Like most forro' music, the accordion is the dominant instrument here and Gonzaga plays with supple virtuosity as well as infectious joy.

Though the music is over 50 years old, it stands up well. Since this was pop music --not folkloric --there is a directness that still speaks to us today. These short bouncy tunes also have a relatively stripped down sound; the music eschews fancy production flourishes, such as sugary strings, that might not have stood the test of time.

Considering the age of the recordings, the sound quality a little muffled but good: there are virtually no pops and clicks. The liner notes are serviceably, mostly telling Gonzaga's life story, though more on the songs themselves would have been even better.

The heyday of forro' has passed forever, but recordings like this fortunately enable us to continue to enjoy its simple message of fun and happiness.

Luiz Carlos Borges
Gaucho Rider
(Cross Currents)

Is geography destiny? It seems to be for Borges, who comes from Rio Grande Do Sul, the area where Brazil rubs its bunda against Argentina's slightly colder shoulder.

This accordion-driven music has the effervescence of Brazil's northeastern forro, but some cuts also have a smoldering drama reminiscent of tango.

Borges calls this gaucho music (named for the herdsmen of southern Brazil) and is accompanied by the jazz band called Alma. The result is mostly-instrumental music that is charming and easy-going.

return to rootsworld
Accordions! Will You Subscribe?

Copyright 1998 - RootsWorld