Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Report of SFAC Music Program, January 17, 2016; by Barbara Bruxvoort

Happy New Year! What a great way to spend the third Sunday of 2016 listening to live music and seeing friends. Alas, as meeting recorder, I have learned it’s better not to combine notetaking with adult beverages, but I noticed that some enjoyed a cocktail from the Yacht Club’s bar (and maybe checked the football scores at the same time?) It was certainly good to see everyone.

Our program was introduced by our president, Lynn Ewing, who urged members to consider all the ways they could come to the aid of the club: Play even one song at a meeting; join the jam band; be a newsletter reporter--if we have several people then the commitment would only be once or twice a year; help by bringing a more substantial snack for the meeting; assist with coffee on occasion; consider joining the leadership of the club; publicize the meetings to your friends and bring someone along! We rely on meeting attendance to fund our rent for the Oyster Point Yacht club.

Our first guest was Jared Eldon Johnson, who taught himself the accordion, inspired by his Grandmother, Mary Alice. He has been performing at various venues as well as honing his crowd-pleasing skills as a street performer.

He started out with “The Merry go Round of Life” by Joe Hisaishi, from the movie Howl’s Moving Castle with a vibrato that suits the wistful song and played beautifully on his vintage accordion. Then he segued into “Guilty” by Russ Columbo. There was some audience humming and after an instrumental verse, Jared sang the lyrics in a vintage style which must have been an homage to the 1931 recording by Al Bowlly and featured in the movie Amélie.

He asked our permission to step out into a song he loves but is still making mistakes on, Swing Valse by Gus Viseur, charmed by this courage, the audience gave encouragement fortunately because it was charming. He transitioned to the traditional Edith Piaf song “Underneath the Paris skies” and showed us his street performers skills of wooing and maintaining an audience, even executing a neat 180 degree spin as a flourish. To finish he shared “I Melt with You” by Modern English --this time I got to be part of the covert audience sing-along so perhaps you can identify my generation now….

The next set was presented by Don Savant who was very happy to also introduce his teacher Mike Zampiceni, both long time members of the club. The accordion club has been very important in Don's musical life and he also mentioned that he acquired his accordion through the club from Paul Cain.

Don began his set with a nice mellow rendition of "Moonglow" and shifted into "These Foolish Things" (I could almost hear Doris Day singing) and then a just right segue into "Serenade in Blue." Continuing in the theme and completing the mid-century modern nightclub atmosphere was a jazzy, smoky rendition of "Misty." Next he gave us a real treat saying "I thought I would do something to wake you up" and introducing "Chewing the Rag" composed by his teacher's father, Joseph Zampiceni. Don was proud to be able to present it to us, and rightly so. It was new for me to hear a ragtime number on the accordion--lively and complex like the best ragtime music. He double-timed the last measures, saying afterwards "that was supposed to make you laugh." How lovely to share music with an educated audience that appreciates musical play. "Thanks for the Memories" goes out to everyone having memory problems, says Don, but also continues the theme of his set relating to the good memories created by the club. Fittingly, he ended with "It's a Wonderful Club" (It's a Wonderful World).

After the break we settled down to listen to Tangonero, which comprises Alex Roitman on bandoneon, Amy Zanrosso on piano, guest artist Sascha Jacobsen on bass and featuring Claudio Ortega on vocals. Their entrance to the stage is workmanlike and unassuming, comfortable, until the music starts with an explosive passion that cannot be captured by a meeting recorder or any type of recorder for that matter, but achieves the paradox of music: the power and memory imprint resides in the fifth dimension of live performance--something that happens in the moment between the performer and the audience which can never be fully captured or exactly repeated.

Alex opened the show with a bandoneon solo playing his arrangement of Amurado. I was fascinated by the percussive accents created by dramatic bellow closures.

I was very happy to hear Claudio Ortega again on the Accordion Club stage. He withholds nothing when he sings. With Como dos Extraños ("I am afraid of dying away from you. My heart begs for you." we could observe an amiable handing off of the lead among the band members. Next Carlos and Tangonero presented "Sur." At this point the phantom tangueros entered the room, recalled by the bandoneon from the wings where they’d been waiting hopefully since Tangonero’s last Accordion Club performance. Claudio even made room for them to perform a solo on the dance floor.

The band clearly enjoys one-another's "Bad Company" so much that they used "Mala Junta" as their title track from their CD released last November. We enjoyed the bad company as well. Continuing down a "bad" road, next we heard "Mal de Amores." Alex gave the bandoneon had a saxophone quality and with Amy Zanrosso achieved an exciting synchronicity between piano and bandoneon moving up and down the octaves.

Claudio returned with "Naranjo en flor."  Bandoneon has a harmonica quantity for a moment to complement the wistful singing of Claudio in this paradoxical song...."‘eterna de vieja juventud...pajaro sin voz" (eternity of old youth...mute songbird...) And can I write about the smoke in the combusted air between Claudio and the band? Moving forward, "Silueta Porteña," (Porteña Silhouette) Claudio and the band pressing forward with the beat, crowding each beat against the next without rushing. Our phantom dancers were very happy and spent at the end.

Alex gave us a little bandoneon info before treating us to a bandoneon solo tango waltz. He pointed out some of the challenges: in/out being different notes; left and right keyboard not mapping to the same notes; no logical organization to the keys. Indeed, during this piece I noticed that he often had to have a large spread between fingers 2-3 and 3-4 demanding a spiderlike hand position to play the instrument.

Alex introduced a new milonga, at which Sascha broke in saying “when you say new, you mean 1960s, right?” Alex laughed, yeah, yeah. and warned us that there were a lot of notes per minute. And indeed it did have a Pink Panther Henry Mancini fun quality. "Milongas are the polkas of Tango and this next one (Los Mareados or the Tipsy Ones) has that feel," was our introduction to a song with the looseness of a drunken proposal--grandiosity provided with Amy's full keyboard use of the piano.
Claudio brought to us "Romance de barrio" (“Neighborhood Romance”), a tango waltz by Homero Manzi full of regret. He said the "message is to let things go, they don’t always go on forever..." and then moving into another lyric by Homero Manzi: "Milonga Sentimental" “.....I sing so as not to cry…..” the bass and the piano move under the melody like an underground river of sorrow.

Tangonero introduced Ausencias by Piazzola, so beautiful with an exquisite transition to the slower movement..a falling off. Here is the quality of almost falling apart recklessness I remember from their previous Accordion Club performance. Like that last moment of lift and fall before the elevator stops. Alex give the bandoneon a clarinet quality in Quejas de bandoneon--a piece played at almost every dance. And to finish Claudio re-joins the group for a happy Milonga 900.

Thank you so much Tangonero for a wonderful afternoon set! The very talented musicians who performed today have CD's and performance dates you might want to purchase or find out more about online: