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A different style of French jazz accordion

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maugein96

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Mention French jazz accordion, and most people will think of the gypsy influenced standards that are still played today by retro bands who make an excellent job of recreating the atmosphere.

However, another jazz style evolved a bit later, but never seemed to gain much appreciation either in France or elsewhere.

Here is a track from an album of similar material, and I actually prefer this style to the manouche type jazz. There is some guitar work on it which gives it a slight gypsy feel, but Ive never been able to work why it never had a very strong following.

Was it maybe just a bit too much like an embellished valse musette, or was it too jazzy? Perhaps only people like myself who look for something different in the musette genre can appreciate it?

I would appreciate any feedback on this. Reason Im asking is that the members Swing of France have posted a teaser of their latest album to be released next year, and it features music in a similar style.

 

Dingo40

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I have several vinyls featuring some of the “greats “ of the late 1940s/50s playing in this style, which I understood to be “swing”.
It’s light, playful and happy, and easy on the ear!
Thanks for the link!
 
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maugein96

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Hi Dingo,

The line between swing and jazz seems to be pretty vague at times. I've been listening to French accordion for well over 50 years, and Gus Viseur used to be called a swing style player. These days he's described as a jazz player. I know there is a difference between the two, but to this day I don't know what it is. Jazz is like a religion. There are so many variants that I cannot tell one from the other.

A lot of musette "stars" dipped their toes in the style of music featured in the clip, but it seems to have been the case that as the music became more elaborate, the listening public became disenchanted with it. They wanted the old tunes that they had been listening and dancing to for a couple of generations, and not swing, jazz or anything else.

It was accordion music for accordion buffs with a penchant for swing and/or jazz, and that style was already in competition with the manouche bands of the day, who seem to have won the game.

Armand Lassagne is a great player and teacher from Paris, but very few people outside of France will have heard of him, or that other French guy whose name appears on Italian menus, Jacques Bolognesi. JB plays that sort of heavy jazz that I can never quite to grips with. Armand Lassagne's music is much lighter, but perhaps also too heavy for some.

French accordion has probably assimilated more outside influences than any other, and when I listen to contemporary players like Ludovic Beier and Galliano, I often wonder how much further "French" accordion music can go. I just cannot listen to a whole track right through.

We seem to have reached the situation, at least in the world of commercial music, where the accordion is played by accordionists for the benefit of other accordionists, and that's about the sum total of the exercise.
 

losthobos

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maugein96 post_id=64207 time=1541839432 user_id=607 said:
We seem to have reached the situation, at least in the world of commercial music, where the accordion is played by accordionists for the benefit of other accordionists, and thats about the sum total of the exercise.

Sad but true...we seem to be in the age where melody has been lost in exchange for the demonstration of technical ability..this guys got a lovely feel...may others be inspired and follow in his path...
 
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maugein96

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Hi Terry,

When accordion music was relatively simple people were queuing up to buy them, even if relatively few went on to become pro players. Popular instruments like the violin and guitar have stood the test of time, but the poor old accordion isn't doing too well at all. Yes, people will point out that there are thousands of up and coming accordionists due to this or that "revival".

The word "revival" should convey the biggest picture there is.

When I was at school I told them I was interested in playing the bassoon. I was politely told that we were in the 20th century and was told to learn the trumpet. When I pointed out that the trumpet was 400 years older than the "modern" bassoon I was shown the door, and was glad of that. At one point I thought the music teacher was going to throw me through the window!

One kid asked about the accordion, and was told "The instrument is so coarse that it is not worthy of a place in the orchestra. It is made for people who cannot afford the pianoforte, and who have no serious interest in music". And that was when the box was still popular in the 60s. What chance did it have?

As it happened it turned out I never had a serious interest in music and was booted out of the trumpet lessons. However, I remembered what the music teacher said so I took up the accordion!
 

donn

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maugein96 said:
Here is a track from an album of similar material, and I actually prefer this style to the manouche type jazz. There is some guitar work on it which gives it a slight gypsy feel, but I've never been able to work why it never had a very strong following.

It's pleasant.  Would be a good choice for sophisticated background music.

I don't particularly listen to jazz accordion and had to do some youtube browsing to get even the slightest clue what this is about - French jazz accordion, that is.  So with that in mind, having exposed my thinner-than-paper credentials ...

Jazz is a vague term.

As a jazz instrument, the accordion most closely resembles the organ.  I wonder if they chat about trends in jazz organ playing.

There are however lots of musical forms that support some syncopation, that are well suited to the accordion, at least with the right accompaniment.  I note that our M. Lasagna has been listening to Brazilian chorinho.  The Ludovic Beier titles I saw were heavy on musette, with some bossa nova, and the "Gypsy jazz" thing - "Minor Swing", "Nuages" etc. - is another of these categories.

I think Dingo40 put his finger on it - "jazz" vs. "swing" captures the difference.  Swing comes in various forms of course, but I think in general it's fair to say it tends to have the corners rounded off quite a bit.  That can be appealing, but in a less distinctive way, there's a big world of relatively tame music.
 
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maugein96

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Hi Donn,

I think the term "jazz" varies in context from country to country, and what confounds the situation even more is they use the term "jazzy" in France to cater for anything that has been spiced up a bit.

Armand Lassagne is one of those lesser known players who seems to have preferred to play in the sort of style that he does on the album the track was from. Is it jazz? Probably not, but I didn't know what else to call it. Gus Viseur played swing but they called it "jazzy".

Perhaps what I was trying to illustrate was that a handful of players like Armand Lassagne preferred to compose their own tunes to suit their playing styles, rather than persist with variations on the better known compositions. Whatever they did, it would appear that it wasn't very popular with the listening public, which IMHO is a pity.

I often forget that French musette sits a bit too far back in the history books to generate much interest in the finer points of it, but I had posted before I had time to consider that (again).
 

OldSqueezer

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For me jazz is an overarching term covering various types of somewhat similar music from the 1920s onwards. Swing is just one of the many subsets of jazz, one that, in America at least, was preceded by New Orleans and Kansas City styles (amongst others) and followed by bebop. Perhaps the essence of any jazz is the combination of rhythm and improvisation. In the big band swing orchestras the latter came from the solo spots taken by various instrumentalists.
 

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