Any fans of the Bal-musette/French Jazz accordion music genre?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by melstapler, Sep 12, 2014.

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  1. melstapler

    melstapler Reissue Activist Thread Starter

    I was wondering if anyone else on here is a fan of the bal-musette music genre? Although it's still popular in parts of Europe, this is a somewhat overlooked genre of music, but some world-famous talents emerged from this music scene.

    What comes to mind are the talented accompanists who mastered various instruments and the accordion players who performed, jammed, recorded and mingled with legends such as violinist Stephane Grapelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt. It's interesting when you see how interconnected the scene was, considering that just about everyone played on each other's recording sessions. The Manouche/Gypsy people frequently played banjo and contributed to the music and its culture. This and the rise of swing music during the early 1900s helped to diversify the sounds by including popular instruments such as violin, piano, clarinet and saxophone. All of these instruments and talented players helped to create what was considered the ultimate "dance music" during this period. The people who played, danced and listened to this music were often working class Parisian folks who recognized the importance of music as an art form and enjoyed its social aspects.

    This music also has a rich history relevant to not only Europeans, but everyone in the world. For example, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis feared that this music would promote free thinking. The Nazis devised a plan to infiltrate this culture of music by planting their own spies into the music scene. I'm glad they were not successful, as most music lovers can't survive solely on classical music like Adolf had intended.

    More recently, I read that Bob Dylan is a big fan of accordion music. This is evident on his "Tempest" album, where he collaborated with Los Lobos' David Hidalgo. I don't blame him for including Hidalgo, such a diverse accordion player and of course Los Lobos are great!

    I noticed Dylan included Gus Viseur's "Flambee Montalbannaise (Valse) on the Artist's Choice compilation, which showcases music which is dear to his heart. Gus Viseur is one of the pioneering accordion players of the genre.

    To some, this music will take you back to the 1930s and 1940s, but for others it will take on an entirely new life of its own.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2014
  2. jfire

    jfire Forum Resident

    It's not something I've gotten into, but I could! Big fan of Django, and like the European take on swing and jazz in the 1930s.

    Do you have any recommendations on vintage recordings of this genre?
  3. melstapler

    melstapler Reissue Activist Thread Starter

    Neat! Me too, love Django. You'd be surprised by how many of the other artists in the genre utilized his guitar work. It was more of a comradery, almost a brotherhood of players who loved the music.

    For starters, check out Gus Viseur, (influential accordion player) and Stephane Grappeli (influential violinist). Both of them were members of the Hot Club de France and are considered to be key players of the musette genre. There were different lineups of the Hot Club, which was basically led by Django and often featured his brother Joseph or his son Lousson, who was Django's oldest son.

    Although not a member of the Hot Club, accordion player Tony Murena played many times with Django, Stephane and Gus Viseur. Tony and Gus both had their own unique styles and playing methods which complimented the genre. I believe Tony Murena is of equal importance in comparison to Gus Viseur, the main difference was that Tony was born in Italy and migrated to France. Murena had an impressive international career during the 1950s and 1960s, recording with top producers and releasing music which is highly regarded by fans of instrumental pop music from that creative period when everyone was into science fiction with futuristic homes and cool cars, much like the Lincoln Futura (which they made into the 1966 Batmobile). Basically, Murena thrived during this later period and he reached new audiences around the world, while continuing to play highly melodic songs on the accordion.

    Also, check out guitarist Pierre "Baro" Ferret. His playing ability is said to have rivaled that of Django. Although they were friends, there was bitterness toward Django, because someone had to take first place. The Ferret brothers were excellent musicians, and it's a shame Baro didn't appear on more of Django's recordings.

    Gus Viseur
    Tony Murena
    Baro Ferret
    Stephane Grappeli
  4. jfire

    jfire Forum Resident

  5. snap

    snap Forum Resident

    Athens, GA
    In 1958, Columbia issued two fantastic LPs on its Adventures in Sound world music imprint:
    WL-109 - 'Grand Bal Musette' by Joss Baselli & Ensemble
    WL-129 - 'Vive le Bal Musette' by Joss Baselli & Ensemble

    Both are findable in record stores within bins usually labeled 'International' or 'Foreign'
    melstapler likes this.
  6. melstapler

    melstapler Reissue Activist Thread Starter

    Joss Baselli is great! Not only is the production on those albums top-notch, but the production is also very enjoyable.

    Much like Tony Murena, Baselli had an impressive music career in his later years and at a time when many artists his age would consider retiring. Not unlike Murena, Baselli also died prematurely, while only in his 50s. Baselli's life was cut short in the 1980s and by an unexpected heart attack, while performing onstage.

    During the mid-1960s, Baselli won an award from the American Accordionists Association, for most popular recording. During the 1970s, Baselli worked closely with top designers and manufacturers to develop the earliest models of the electronic accordion. During the last decades of his lfie, Baselli composed music for numerous French films and that work continues to be recognized by younger generations.
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