KV Express is the charming project of composer and virtuoso accordionist Sophie Cavez, a multi-faceted Belgian musician involved in many contemporary folk music projects. Zafon is a set of beautiful instrumentals (with some wordless vocals) highlighting the accordion. It’s inspired by the folk music of Belgium, Scandinavia, Ireland and Portuguese fado as well as the poetry of acclaimed Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Sophie Cavez is joined by several musicians on various tracks. The lineup on Zafon includes Sophie Cavez on diatonic accordion, bass and vocals; Jo Zanders on percussion; Didier François on nyckelharpa; Julien Padovani on Rhodes electric piano; Karim Baggili on oud; Fabiola Fernandes on vocals; Grégory Jolivet on hurdy gurdy.
John Williams was born in Chicago in 1967. He is a third generation concertina and button accordion player from both sides of the family. His father Brendan and his grandfather Johnny Williams were noted musicians in their native Doolin County Clare where concertina is most often the instrument of choice. There was no shortage of traditional music around the house as he was growing up. He began playing in sessions around Chicago encouraged by such musical residents as the late Johnny McGreevy flutists Seamus Cooley and Kevin Henry and uilleann piper Joe Shannon.
John developed a maturity in his playing rarely heard in one so young. The adjudicators sensed it in 1989 when they awarded him the Senior All-Ireland championship for concertina making him the first American ever to win that honor. His subsequent summers in Doolin served to widen his repertoire and associate him with some of Ireland?s most respected musicians.
As a founding member of the groundbreaking band Solas Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD (later called AFIM) awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble’s 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.
The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note the television series The Pure Drop and the Christmas special Geantrai.
His album Steam features Dean Magraw and Randal Bays former Solas bandmates Seamus Egan and John Doyle fiddler Liz Carroll as well as Chicago jazz greats Larry Gray on bass and Paul Wertico on percussion.
Outside traditional music John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck Doc Severinson Studs Terkel Mavis Staples jazz pianist Bob Sutter bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien director Sam Mendes the London Symphony Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. Audiences nationwide recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol’ Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains Nickel Creek and Riverdance.
On film he appears as a bandleader music consultant and composer in Dreamworks’ classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman Williams’ autumnal Perdition Piano Duet was released on the 22 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.
In August 2003 Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city’s finest instrumentalists. He recorded a collaborative album Raven with composer and guitarist Dean Magra.
Louisiana musician Jimmy Breaux was the longtime accordionist in celebrated Cajun band BeauSoleil. He is in the fourth generation of his family to play Cajun music.
Jimmy Breaux was born in 1967 and grew up in Louisiana. In 1988 at the age of 2 Breaux joined Michael Doucet’s pioneering young Cajun band BeauSoleil not only helping to bring pride to their Cajun heritage but also popularizing their dance music rooted in tradition by playing it around the world over the next 25 years.
In addition to being featured on BeauSoleil recordings Breaux has released solo albums that feature not only Doucet and other bandmates but other leaders of contemporary Louisiana Cajun music such as Steve Riley.
With a combination of Cajun classics and original songs Breaux is carrying on and extending his family tradition.
Among his musical relatives are his father Preston Breaux, grandfather Amé Breaux, brother Pat Breaux, great-grandfather Auguste Breaux and great-aunt Cleoma Breaux. The latter was married to Joe Falcon, one of the great Cajun musicians of the 1930s.
Jeffrey Broussard & The Creole Cowboys hail from Southwest Louisiana. They have a fresh approach to the Creole dance music traditions they are dedicated to preserving. Its leader accordionist fiddler and singer Jeffery Broussard was a mainstay in the famous Zydeco Force a group that took zydeco and Cajun roots and updated them for modern dance crowds without losing the feel of the original Creole zydeco gumbo.
Broussard’s Creole Cowboys take the music into the next generation still linked to the great roots music of such masters as legendary fiddler Canray Fontenot and Jeffery’s well-known accordionist father Delton Broussard. Joining Jeffery in the band’s frontline is fiddler and guitarist D’Jalma Garnier III a one-time student of Canray Fontenot.
With Fontenot’s passing in 1995, Garnier made it his mission to keep alive and spread this unique style of fiddle playing. The band’s debut CD Keeping the Tradition Alive was named top zydeco album of 2007 by Blues and Soul magazine.
Louisiana accordionist and vocalist Belton Richard died on June 21, 2017. He was a well-known Cajun accordionist who recorded various hits.
Belton Richard was born on October 5, 1939 in Rayne, Louisiana. He formed the popular band The Musical Aces in 1959.
Belton Richard was inducted into the Cajun French Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2003, he was welcomed into the Acadian museum’s ‘Living Legends’ list. He also received the Cajun French Music Association’s ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ award in 2004.
His discography includes I’m Back! (Swallow Records, 1996), Belton Richard, Vol. 2 (Swallow Records, 2000), Good N’ Cajun (Swallow Records, 2000), Louisiana Cajun Music (Swallow Records, 2000), Older the Wine the Finer the Taste (Swallow Records, 2003), Live at Jazzfest 2016 (Munck Music, 2016).
Buckwheat Zydeco’s powerful live shows were legendary for the fun and abandon they inspired. It was the first Zydeco band to land a major record label deal, the first to perform on a national television show, the first to have its music featured in major motion pictures, TV shows and national TV commercials, the first to record with top rock musicians and the first to introduce Zydeco to the music mainstream.
Leader, Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, a community where many black people express their Creole heritage by speaking French, and by playing and dancing to Zydeco. This hybrid genre blends Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and blues, with soul, rock, country and the French-rooted Cajun music of the Creoles’ white neighbors.
As the son of a Zydeco accordionist, Buckwheat grew up steeped in this culture, and also absorbed Lafayette’s ample outpouring of blues and Gulf Coast “swamp pop.” He began his professional career as an R&B sideman, playing keyboards for Joe Tex, Barbara Lynn and Gatemouth Brown. In 1971, Dural began leading his own R&B band, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, playing the contemporary sounds of such popular bands as Parliament Funkadelic and Earth, Wind &Fire. The group scored a regional hit with “It’s Hard to Get.”
By the mid-1970s, South Louisiana began to experience a grass-roots cultural renaissance as Zydeco and Cajun music, once scorned as overly ethnic, gained appreciation as treasured cultural resources. As the demand grew for Zydeco bands, Dural was offered a gig playing organ for the “King of Zydeco,” the late Clifton Chenier. Buck (as he was also known) worked hard and learned all that he could. After three years of touring, recording and accordion apprenticeship, he left in 1979 to lead his own group, Buckwheat Zydeco and the ils Sont Partis Band. Like Chenier, Buckwheat continued to blend traditional Creole Zydeco with the latest black-contemporary styles, drawing on all of his rich and varied musical experience.
Recording prolifically for various independent labels, Dural attracted the attention of music journalist Ted Fox, who became his manager and co-producer. In 1987, Fox arranged Buckwheat’s signing with Island Records, and he became the first Zydeco artist to appear on a major label. This resulted in the band’s fourth Grammy nomination. During the years of critical acclaim that ensued, Buckwheat Zydeco toured constantly, headlining at major venues as well as sharing stages with the likes of U2 and Eric Clapton, and even The Boston Pops. Clapton also recorded as a special guest with Buckwheat Zydeco – as did Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos – on some of his numerous projects that followed.
The band performed at both of President Clinton’s inaugurals, and Buck was featured on the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta before a worldwide television audience of three billion.
Another first project for Buckwheat Zydeco was the release of the band’s lively children’s album, Choo Choo Boogaloo, on the Music For Little People label which has won numerous awards and rave reviews. It features zydeco originals as well as classics such as “Iko, Iko,”“Cotton Fields,”“Little Red Caboose,” and “Skip To My Lou.” In the spirit of creating a genuine family feeling people of all ages contributed to the music, including a talented young people’s gospel choir from Baton Rouge.
Buckwheat Zydeco celebrated its 20th anniversary by releasing an exciting and joyous retrospective album. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 2-Year Party, a compilation of the band’s best recordings, was released on Buckwheat’s own Tomorrow Recordings label on July 6, 1999. It features 74 minutes of music on one disc as well as comprehensive liner notes in a 16-page booklet in a slipcased package. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 2-Year Party, is the definitive album, and only multi-label retrospective, of the band that has led the campaign to spread the exuberant sounds of Louisiana’s Zydeco music around the world.
The album’s cover features an unforgettable image of Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. in front of the tiny boyhood home he shared with eleven brothers and sisters in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is both a tribute to his roots and a statement of how far he and the Creole music he loves have come. The album’s colorful original art was created by award-winning Jackson, MS artist H.C. Porter whose work is exhibited in shows and museums around the country.
The 1999 studio recording, Trouble, was released on Tomorrow Recordings on January 12, 1999. Buck felt strongly that this was his best album in a dozen years. Perhaps more aptly titled than Buck even knew, Trouble was originally released in May of 1997 by Mesa/Atlantic just as Mesa was undergoing a shake-up. Unsatisfied with the results of the original release – and unwilling to give up on what they felt was one of the band’s key albums – Dural and Ted Fox, convinced Atlantic to revert the album to them.
On Trouble, Buckwheat decided to concentrate on the skilled players within his band, and revisit the live-on-the-bandstand feel of the Zydeco and R&B dance halls where he first learned his craft.
Zydeco star C. J. Chenier was born on September 28, 1957 in Port Arthur, Texas, right next to the Louisiana state line. He has been called “The Crown Prince of Zydeco” by various music publications. According to Chenier, leader of the famous Red Hot Louisiana band, those titles are fine, but the truth lies in the music. “What we’re playing here are real songs,” he says proudly “Songs that tell stories and make you dance.”
That clarification is important to C.J. It is a lesson he learned from his father, acclaimed zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier. C.J.’s music has always embraced zydeco traditions, but he continues to push the music to new levels. “I won’t limit myself,” says C.J., and it’s clear why.
C.J. was aware of his father’s music but also had other tastes. He liked James Brown and Funkadelic, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. C.J. learned saxophone early on and as a teenager played in black top 40 bands in Port Arthur. He studied music in college and dreamed of making it as a jazz or funk player.
Then, one week before C.J.’s 21st birthday, Clifton asked him to bring his sax along and join the Red Hot Louisiana Band. “I didn’t know any of the songs they played,” he recalls, “but the guys helped me out and brought me along. And then one day the music hit me, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.” In 1985, as the effects of diabetes began to seriuosly affect his father, C.J., at Clifton’s request, picked up the accordion and started opening the shows. “He didn’t push it,” C.J. remembers. “He let me decide for myself. But when he first called me to go out and play with his band, I think it was his idea all along that I would carry on his music.“
After Clifton’s death in 1987, C.J. inherited his father’s accordion as well as the Red Hot Louisiana Band. But he took his father’s music and built upon it, adding elements of jazz and funk he grew up with. When asked about his accordion playing, C.J. is quick to defer to his father, whom “nobody could ever touch,” says C.J.
C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band continued to forge ahead, releasing three solo albums (one on Arhoolie and two on Slash) and playing hundreds of concerts a year. They attracted the attention of fans, critics, and fellow musicians by playing major festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, San Diego’s Street scene, and Milwaukee’s Summerfest. Singer-songwriter Paul Simon noticed C.J., and picked him to play on his Rhythm Of The Saints album and then asked him to join the “Born At The Right Time” tour. But that’s not all. He also shows up as a guest on the Gin Blossoms’ New Miserable Experience album.
C.J.’s next step led him to Alligator Records, the label where his father won a Grammy award for his album, I’m Here (it was also the first Grammy for the then new label).
C.J.’s label debut, Too Much Fun, became a favorite with fans and critics alike. Living Blues magazine, in their 1996 Critics’ Awards, named Too Much Fun Best Zydeco Album of 1995. Features ran in major newspapers and magazines everywhere, including The Chicago Tribune, Billboard, Blues Revue and The Los Angeles Times.
1995 appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and CNN brought C.J.’s music to his widest audience yet. But all this attention didn’t change his philosophy toward his music. “You go to a gig by a jazz band,” he says, “and everybody’s sitting down, sipping drinks. You play zydeco and you see shoes flying off. You can’t come to my show and stay unhappy all night long. You’re going to break a smile and stomp your foot before too long. This is happy music, and it makes you dance.”
C.J. Chenier recorded his 2011 album Can’t Sit Down live, in just one session, at Rock Romano’s Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas. His goal was to capture the freshness of his music. and this is why he decided to produce the album himself.“I figured that nobody knows better what I want than I do,”he says. “Nobody knows better how I want my accordion to sound. Nobody knows better how I want my band to sound. So I decided to stop going with other people’s ears and start going with my own.”
Can’t Sit Down includes pieces by C.J. ‘s father, Clifton Chenier, including the opening track ‘Can’t Sit down’. “I really liked it so I said, OK, let’s try this one,‘and everybody fell right in. It just clicked. That’s a sign that something is a keeper, when everybody can fall in and it feels good.”
One of C.J, Chenier’s original compositions is a tribute to his uncle, Cleveland Chenier. “He’s the grandfather of the washboard, “ says C.J. “Nobody has the technique he had. My uncle Cleveland used to call me sometimes on Sundays and he’d say, I’m coming to pick you up. We’re gonna take a ride.’We’d go ride around. He’d always have a half pint of Crown Royale in his top coat pocket. He’d pick me up on Sundays and him and me would hit a club here and hit a club there, and just have a good time.”
Curtis Mayfield’s “We Gotta Have Peace”closes the album. “That song reflects what I’ve been feeling,”C.J. says. “We need peace, we gotta have it. That’s why I have my grandson talking in the beginning, because if we don’t get it together, where is his future?“
Seán Óg Graham is from Portglenone, Co. Antrim, Ireland. He’s one of Ireland’s best button accordion players. Seán Óg Graham has achieved numerous All-Ireland titles and is also a gifted, self-taught guitarist.
Seán Óg Graham has several television appearances to his credit, and has appeared as guest soloist with the Irish Harp Orchestra, the Canadian Youth Orchestra and Alan Kelly’s ‘Celtic Legends’ show. He has recorded with various Irish musicians and recently he has been accompanying Solas members Winifred Horan and Mick McAuley at their ‘Serenade’ concerts in Ireland and Europe.
Seán Óg is also a talented composer. He’s a graduate of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at Limerick University, where he has been guided by oustanding musicians.
Ray Abshire plays traditional Cajun dance music, performing regularly at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Festival International in Lafayette, where he lives. Currently, he leaves home only to play festivals and music camps. Born into a musical family – he is a cousin of Cajun great Nathan Abshire – Ray Abshire grew up during the South Louisiana “Dance Hall” era of the 1950s and 1960s and began playing professionally when he was 14.
He performed with all the well-known Cajun masters whose recordings form the foundation for students of Cajun music today; a highlight of his collaborations is the time he spent as accordion player with the legendary Balfa Brothers Band from 1969 to 1975.
Ray Abshire’s accordion style is traditional and he sings in the classic Cajun tenor high voice. Remaining true to the traditional sound he grew up with, Abshire draws from a large repertoire of songs rarely heard today, as featured on his CD, “For Old Times Sake” with fiddlers Courtney Granger and Kevin Wimmer on Swallow Records, released in 2003.
Mats Edén was born October 30, 1957 in Södertälje, Sweden. has his roots in the rich soil of Värmland. A member of acclaimed Swedish folk ensemble Groupa since its inception in 1980, he also writes the majority of the band’s material.
Having studied composition at Norway’s Musikkskole in Oslo, it comes as no surprise to those familiar with Mats’ playing that he is a nationally recognized master accordionist, having earned the distinguished title of ‘Riksspelman’ (master musician).
His violin work is at once elegant and jagged and distinguishes the band’s sound with his own combination of the sounds of Värmland and of Norway. Mats’ third solo album Milvus (with Jonas Simonson) was released on the ECM label. He has also toured the United States of America and Europe with Ale Moller and Lena Willemark in the ECM project Nordan.
* Unga Värmlandsspelmän (Caprice, 1977)
* Lika många fötter i taket som på golvet, Oktober (1978, Amigo)
* Höppesving (Amigo, 1980)
* Av bara farten, with Groupa (Amigo, 1983)
* Vildhonung, with Groupa (Amigo, 1985)
* Utan Sans, with Groupa (Amigo, 1988)
* Månskratt, with Groupa (Amigo, 1990)
* Struling (Amigo, 1992)
* Imeland, with Groupa (Amigo, 1995)
* Nordan (ECM, 1996)
* Agram, with Nordan (ECM, 1997)
* Läckerbiten (Amigo, 1998)
* Milvus (ECM, 1999)
* Tokpolskan, with Ellika Frisell (Giga, 1999)
* Lavalek, with Groupa (Xource, 1999)
* Avtryck (Amigo, 2001)
* Träd, with Niss Kerstin Mattsson (Amigo, 2001)
* Fjalar, with Groupa (Xource, 2003)
* Vägen In, with Tina Quartey (Amigo, 2004)
* Crane Dance, with Jonas Simonson m.fl. (Nordic Tradition, 2006)
* Milvus (ECM, 2008)
* Frost, with Groupa (Footprint, 2008)
* Apple Blossom (2015)