Accordion Three-Fer: Triphilia; Nice Guy Trio & Will Holshouser
Will Holshouser Trio + Bernardo Sassetti – Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns (CF 160)
Alan Bern/Michael Rodach/Paul Brody – Triophilia (Jazzwerkstatt)
The Nice Guy Trio – Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio (Porto Franco)
Because it was portable and reflected the many cultures that came to the US in the 20th century, once upon a time in American popular music the accordion was the thing. Then it pretty much disappeared, seen as a kind of corny relic. But it has resurfaced as a vital and expressive instrument giving new and different color. Here are three stunning examples—all in trio format and with trumpet as an essential partner.
Alan Bern positively glows as he helps his comrades on Triophilia—Paul Brody on trumpet and flugelhorn and Michael Brodach on guitar—deliver an almost orchestral approach to tunes that suggest a whole world of influences. Bern and Brody are Americans who have relocated to Berlin, working here with native Berliner Brodach to give new dimension to everything from Jewish and South American music to Bartók to Gil Evans—all in original new compositions. There’s so much in these tunes: blues or the impression of same, in Bern’s “Angel Blue”; a sense of spiritual odyssey in Brody’s “Heschel”; a blend of new jazz and traditional colors in “Bartoki” and an ever-present sense of new worlds opening out of the old.
Rob Reich’s European-flavored accordion is the first thing we hear on Here Comes The Nice Guy Trio. It introduces the lovely, atmospheric “The Balancing Act,” a perfect name for what these San Franciscans accomplish. Reich, trumpeter Darren Johnston and bassist Daniel Fabricant blend improvisational skills, composition that smartly utilizes texture and mood and the best kind of group interplay. There are originals by all three but they take extraordinary, creative approaches to a couple of jazz classics such as Ornette Coleman’s “Folk Tale” and Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus,” featuring David Phillips’ pedal steel. On several songs, the trio is augmented by guest instrumental colors such as clarinet, violin, cello, dumbek and tablas.
Will Holhouser’s trio with Ron Horton (trumpet) and David Phillips (bass) has worked together for ten years to create a sound at once light and playful yet rich and intense. A session with pianist Bernardo Sassetti yielded Palace Ghosts and Drunken Hymns, which, says the leader, reflects something the pianist and this trio have in common—…” calm surfaces and deep waters.” It opens with “Danca Palaciana” by Carlos Paredes, master of the Portuguese 12-string guitar, accordion setting the tone immediately. Throughout the recording Horton uses a great number of his horn’s possibilities, Phillips buoys the proceedings, plucking and bowing with passion, and Sassetti inserts a heady lyricism and a sense of occasion. To hear how much these players enjoy each other, go to Holshouser’s “Dance of the Dead,” a funny, intricate series of movements, and album closer “Drunkard’s Hymn,” which playfully and gloriously finds the link between spirituality and alcohol.