Various Artists

The Sound of Paris

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The Sound of Paris Review

by Christina Roden

The sultry-sad strains of an accordion waltz are as much a symbol of Paris, especially to foreigners, as the Eiffel Tower, Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings, and cafe-sitting with a tiny cup of bitter coffee or a pearly, anise-flavored infusion of Pernod. The tunes are seldom heard outside France except in fragments and in passing, mostly to establish a hackneyed sense of time or place in movies and documentaries. But the tradition known as bal-musette (originally named for the musette, a bagpipe found in the Auvergne, which was thankfully replaced by various types of squeezebox fairly early on) is more than a century old and definitely deserves a fair hearing. The style is based primarily upon a dialogue between guitar and accordion, but drums, banjos, double basses, and vocals are also employed in both acoustic and amplified forms. What stands out under closer scrutiny is the degree of sophistication the musicians are capable of. They fearlessly mix Italian, Argentinean, and gypsy themes and the arrangements toss in an occasional daring dissonance or unexpected rhythm. The result is not the expected blandly cheerful background music, but a sensual, jazzy, and even subtly intellectual groove. It is multi-leveled and can also be interpreted as lighthearted and tourist-friendly, but the point is that there is much more to it than that. It is also becoming trendy with younger Parisians who are flocking to modern bal-musettes, where they dance the night away much as their grandparents probably did. The guitar of Didi Duprat, a much-revered old-timer, is heard on ten of the 15 tracks.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Alain Bouchaux / Didi Duprat / Armand Lassagne / Freddy Legendre 02:51 Amazon
2 03:36 Amazon
3 Daniel Colin / Didi Duprat / Jacques Mahieux / Yves Torchinsky 02:14 Amazon
4 Didi Duprat / Jacques Mahieux / André Minvielle / Yves Torchinsky / Francis Varis 02:31 Amazon
5
Didi Duprat / Jacques Mahieux / Yves Torchinsky 02:22 Amazon
6 Didi Duprat / Didier Roussin 03:22 Amazon
7 Daniel Denécheau / Didier Roussin 02:27 Amazon
8 Jo Privat, Jr. / Jo Privat / Didier Roussin 02:48 Amazon
9 Raúl Barboza / Didi Duprat / Frédéric Firmin 03:15 Amazon
10 Marcel Azzola / Didi Duprat / Richard Galliano / Jacques Mahieux / Yves Torchinsky 02:50 Amazon
11 03:33 Amazon
12 Daniel Colin / Didi Duprat / Jacques Mahieux / Yves Torchinsky 01:52 Amazon
13 Didi Duprat / Jacques Mahieux / Joe Rossi / Didier Roussin / Yves Torchinsky 03:02 Amazon
14 Marcel Azzola / Jean-Luc Ceddaha / Didi Duprat / Richard Galliano / Yves Torchinsky 04:36 Amazon
15 Jacques Mahieux / Didier Roussin / Yves Torchinsky / Francis Varis 03:35 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick