Brooklyn gets an Accordian Club

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Mayumi Miyaoka performing at the very first Brooklyn Accordion Club.

Hear recordings at the bottom of the post

The accordion has always been a fringe instrument. Embraced by commoners across Europe in the 1800s, associated with ethnic minorities for generations, it’s hard to imagine the instrument ever enjoying a heyday — a time when a modern-day Jimmy Page might plaster the cover of Rolling Stone, hoisting a 40-pound, flame-decaled travel organ over his polka gut. The image isn’t quite front-page material.

But, Mayumi Miyaoka, a librarian and accordion enthusiast living in Brooklyn, is banking on the charms of the squeezebox to bring players and fans together. She recently launched the Brooklyn Accordion Club, a regular meetup where Brooklynites can meet fellow accordionists, share tips, and perform new pieces in front of a casual audience.

With roughly 25 players and fans in attendance, the club’s first meetup gathered in a cosy, carpeted meeting space above 61 Local, a bar in Borum Hill, Brooklyn, on February 10th.

Accordions are like a weird cross between a piano, harmonica, and a stenographer’s typewriter. They weigh as much as a small boulder, are about as comfortable as a backpack strapped to your chest filled with pots and pans, and require double duty from their players. Your right hand typically plays a melody on the accordion’s sideways keyboard, while your left hand feels along rows of black buttons, each producing a single note or full chord depending on the row. Because of the instrument’s boxy shape most players are completely blind to their left hand, playing merely by memorization and touch.

When played badly, the accordion can sound like an orchestra tunning up in three conflicting keys. But when played by a practiced professional, the reed instrument sounds oddly beautiful, like a creaking door tuned to play a sighing melody.

Like you might imagine, such an unwieldy and reluctantly melodious instrument attracts an odd assortment of characters strange enough to brave the beast (myself included).

Attending the meetup was Max Fass, also known as Max The Skiing Accordionist. Sporting an impressive beard and what looked like traditional heardgear from the Hun Empire, Max and his accompanist Jenny Luna serenaded the audience with rousing Macedonian folk tunes.

Phillip Racz, a young Brooklyn musician (and my old accordion teacher), played a twisting tango and swaying port song by Astor Piazzolla, an Argentinian composer from the mid 1900s.

The night’s curator, Mayumi Miyaoka, performed two stunning French-style waltzes, a baroque piece by Bach, and a mind-numbingly challenging composition by Handel called “Corrente.” One of the song’s trickiest sections had Mayumi’s right hand running an ascending scale along the keyboard while her hidden left hand breezed over an accompanying scale in the opposite direction, lightly squeezing buttons as if she were delivering a bari sax solo. This is like trying to scamper up a ladder with the left side of your body while your other half tries to scamper down. It ain’t easy.

Miyaoka plans to hold these meetups once every two months, but I’m hoping the good turnout and pleasant vibe kicks it up to a monthly event. If not in Brooklyn, where else can one hope to court enough accordion nerds eager to celebrate what is, essentially, the worlds only acoustic keytar? Plus if these sessions keep popping up, one of these times, I may work up the courage to play something.

Recordings of every song played at the meet up are posted below. Recorded by me on the Zoom H4n Recorder.

Phillip Racz

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Pic by Tomomi Egawa.

“Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla


“Invierno Porteno” by Astor Piazzolla


Mayumi Miyaoka

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Pic by Tomomi Egawa.

“French Waltz” by Eric Satie


“Bach Invention #6″ by Johann Sebastian Bach


“Under The Paris Sky” by Frank Marocco


“Corrente” by George Frederic Handel. Arranged by Dr. William Schimmel.


Jenny Luna & Max Fass

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Pic by Tomomi Egawa.

Intro



“Barno Oro” – Macedonian Folk Tune



“Ediye” – Macedonian Folk Tune



“Coban Kat” – Albanian Folk Tune


Meet Twin Shadow

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Twin Shadow

When I first heard Twin Shadow, I was struck at not only George Lewis Jr’s baritone melodic voice, but the heavy synth nodes that take hold of the song and don’t let go. My first thought when hearing Twin Shadow ironically was “if I were Batman, I would totally cruise to this around Gotham City in my Batmobile.” However, songs like “When We’re Dancing” hit 80s themes making it feel like you are going to prom with a big puffy dress. In either situation, Twin Shadow has the ability to take you different places with each song. Their 2010 album Forget and their 2012 album Confess are magic carpet rides of nostalgia as well as modern day independent rock.

“When We’re Dancing” - Forget


“Five Seconds” - Confess

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Twin Shadow’s front man and songwriter George Lewis Jr. was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Florida. He started Twin Shadow as a bedroom recording project in Brooklyn. His first album Forget was produced by Grizzly Bear’s bassist Chris Taylor and released on his label Terrible Records in 2010. His latest album Confess was released this month by 4AD

Meet Oberhofer

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Brad Oberhofer

While the first couple of seconds of Oberhofer’s “AWY FRM U” makes you think that you are watching a commercial for cat food, as soon as Brad Oberhofer voice chimes in, the vibe changes instantly. If you are a fan of Electric Tickle Machine or The So So Glo’s then chances are that if they had a love child, Oberhofer would be it. With easy to learn lyrics and a very catchy tune played on the xylophone, Oberhofer makes it almost too easy to listen to them over and over again. Or as my hippie dippy sister might say, “it’s just happy, low fi tribal music man.” To which I replied “couldn’t agree more.”

Oberhofer – “AWY FRM U”

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Oberhofer is a Brooklyn indie band formed in 2008 by front man and songwriter Brad Oberhofer. The band’s first full length Time Capsules II was released in 2012 by Glassnote Records and was recorded with Grammy-winning producer Steve Lillywhite.

Feedback the Podcast! Episode #1 – Pearl & The Beard

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Hi Everyone,

After weeks of tweaks and prods the first installment of Feedback the podcast is now finished!

The podcast features Pearl & The Beard — New York City’s ever-endearing love-folk three piece, live during their CD release show at Joe’s Pub on April 26th, 2009.

To download the Podcast, click on the arrow to the right of the player.

A very special thanks to Pearl and The Beard, Wes Verhove for the Joe’s Pub recording and Jesse Lauter for his triumphant mastering skills.

Thanks for listening!

~ZD

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