Freddy Rundquist

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This Chicago guitarist has been a faithful sidekick to that rare breed known as jazz accordion players since the years before the Second World War, when old-timers remember his music as being something…
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This Chicago guitarist has been a faithful sidekick to that rare breed known as jazz accordion players since the years before the Second World War, when old-timers remember his music as being something of a balm in troubled times. And in the early years of the new millennium, there he was, still gracefully comping swinging chords between the jazz accordion of Mike Alongi. The latter accordion swinger was simply thrilled to be playing with Rundquist, because to flash back to the past again, the guitarist spent quite a few evenings in company of one of the greatest jazz accordion players of all, Art Van Damme. In 1945, Van Damme formed what would be considered a classic quintet with Charlie Calzaretta on vibes, Lou Skalinder on bass, drummer Max Mariash, and Rundquist. This group played live mostly in the Midwest but achieved fame on a national scale as a result of a series of recordings for Columbia in the '50s and early '60s. Most of those albums established a connection between drinking cocktails and playing jazz that continued to serve Rundquist well into the late '90s when he was booked in the posh resort lounges of Hilton Head. Some critics have called this kind of music "lite jazz," linking it to alcohol of a much lesser strength than found in a cocktail. Liner notes to some of these Van Damme releases actually brag that "there is nothing cerebral in this kind of music," but in reality it is jazz of much complexity, complete with an understanding of harmony, that has driven many aspiring guitarists to study at Rundquist's feet. It has already been well established how many accordion players he has hanging around. In fact, he seems to be treated as practically an honorary accordion player, his every move documented in the publication Accordion News, which is published in something like a dozen languages.

Starting out in the late '30s professionally, Rundquist worked at a variety of historic Chicago jazz clubs including the Review Lounge on Randolph, the Capitol Lounge on State, and the Brass Rail on Dearborn. It was a period when clubs were crowded, as audiences enthusiastically turned up to hear what move was going to be made next in the transformation from swing to bop. By sticking with the lower volume of ensemble dictated by having the accordion as a lead instrument, Rundquist maintained a kind of dignity in his sound and subtlety in his improvisations. In the '60s, he was involved in studio sessions for the great soul singer Esther Phillips.